Watch the video here, or read the full article below.

video-superachieverOne of the greatest challenges for busy, successful and creative people juggling several projects, talents and ideas is to live a well-balanced life. If only we could do all that is on our personal and professional ‘to do’ lists while simultaneously attending to our health, nurturing our important relationships and taking good care of our responsibilities.

Everyone knows someone who works full time, volunteers, runs a successful blog, and somehow still finds time to go grocery shopping, cook organic Instagram-worthy meals, foster a loving relationship, walk his or her adorable Boston terrier, and, oh — train for a half marathon. These kinds of “super-achievers” have the same number of hours in the day as the rest of us, but somehow, they always seem to get more done. How do they do it? Here are 5 tips to help you maximize your precious 24 hours daily.

Tip #1: Stop Trying to Win the Crazy-Busy Badge of Honor
crazy_busyStaying busy, but not productive, is the curse of our times. These days we are so busy that we can’t stop talking about it. And busyness has become a cultural symbol of status. Even though people say they’re complaining, they’re secretly bragging. Here are some typical phrases that I often hear from my private clients and audience members:

“I am so tired, I can’t remember the last time I got a good night’s sleep!”
“I’m drowning over here!”
“Oh my God, I’m crazy-busy!”

We have to stop the glorification of busy, and realize that no one is really “busy”… it’s all about priorities. We have to stop using this phrase, and take back control so we feel empowered, not depleted.

Tip #2: Use Time Management Tools that Work for You & Stick to Them
One of the key components to time management is to find time management tools that work well for you and then stick to them. Consistency is key! Use one calendar, one master project list or project management tool, and one task management system. It doesn’t matter if they are paper or digital, old fashioned or a fancy new app. The key is to create a system around your habits, needs, work and lifestyle, learn it well, and use it consistently.

Tip #3: Stop Multi-Tasking & Engage in Uni-Tasking Instead
Multi-tasking is generally less efficient than focusing on one thing at a time. Studies show it impairs productivity. It is impossible to do 2 tasks at the same time without compromising each. Research shows that it takes your brain 4 times longer to process than if you focused on each task separately. David Meyer, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has spent the past few decades studying multi-tasking. His research shows that not only is multi-tasking inefficient, but also can cause problems at work, at school, and even, in some cases, be dangerous. Meyer explains, “It takes time to warm up to a new task, especially if both require the same skills.” So focus on one task at a time, give it your full attention, and then move onto the next task.

Tip #4: Use the Power of the Pareto Principle (a/k/a the 80-20 Rule)
The Pareto Principle takes its name from a 19th century Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto. In the late 1940s, business management guru Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Pareto, who observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Pareto’s Principle (or the 80/20 Rule as it is often called) means that in any grouping of items or events, a few (20%) are vital and many (80%) are trivial. 80% of our results come from 20% of our activity. That means that of all of the daily activities you do, and choices that you make, only 20% really matter (or at least produce meaningful results).

What is the takeaway that we can learn from the Pareto Principle? Identify and focus on the 20% that matters! When life sets in and you start to become reactive instead of proactive, remind yourself of the 20% you need to focus on. If something in your schedule needs to be deleted or not completed with your fullest attention, try your best to make sure it’s not part of that 20%. Use the Pareto Principle as a litmus test to constantly check in and ask yourself: “Is doing this task or activity right now the highest and best use of my time? Is this truly part of the 20% that matters?” Let the Pareto Principle serve as a powerful daily reminder to focus 80% of your time and energy on the 20% of your work and life that is really important and delivers positive results.

Tip #5: Honor Appointments with Yourself
facialCalendar in your personal to-do’s, along with your professional appointments. Our work calendars fill up quickly with tasks, projects, and events. When was the last time you scheduled something fun for yourself and/or your family? A date night with your significant other? A yoga class, time to read, take a bubble bath, etc.? Give structure to unstructured activities and tasks. Try to reverse your calendar and begin with the premise that you need (and deserve) time for play and relaxation. You schedule those first, as well as previously committed time — like when you sleep, eat, exercise, commute to work, and other blocks of time you must expend each day.

Start practicing proactive, positive productivity using the 5 tips above. And remember, be consistent!

When I am conducting an organizing, time management or business related workshop, I often ask if anyone has heard of the Pareto Principle. I usually get a room full of blank stares. However, if I ask if anyone has heard of the 80/20 Rule, many people nod their heads yes, and have a better idea what I am talking about. The Pareto Principle takes its name from a 19th century Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto. In the late 1940s, business management guru Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Pareto studied the unequal distribution of wealth in his country in order to offer suggestions as how to improve its disparity.

Pareto’s Principle (or the 80/20 Rule as it is often called) has expanded over the years to include many examples of unequal distribution. Essentially, the 80-20 Rule now stands for the proposition that in any grouping of items or events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Or stated in the reverse, 20% of the items or events is always responsible for 80% of the results.

The 80/20 Rule has become a common business principle, resulting in the oft-repeated phrase, “80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.” Conversely, 80% of your complaints come from 20% of your clients, and 80% of the profits made in your industry come from 20% of the businesses.

The Pareto Principle also applies to a variety of other items and events: we only wear 20% of our clothing, we spend 80% of the time with 20% of our acquaintances, 80% of our interruptions come from the same 20% of people, 20% of the work we do consumes 80% of our time and resources, etc. You can apply the 80/20 Rule to almost anything, from business and time management principles, to clutter and physical possessions. The exact percentages may vary, but the overall gist of the principle remains the same.

The Pareto principle was also featured in the book, The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Ferriss recommends focusing one’s business activities on the 20% that contributes to 80% of the income. Boldly, he also recommends firing the 20% of clients that take up the majority of your time and energy, and cause the most trouble, often referred to as ‘toxic clients.’

I personally love the way Joseph Juran described the phenomenon in the 1940s – the “vital few and trivial many.” The 80/20 Rule means that in any grouping of items or events, a few (20%) are vital and many (80%) are trivial. 80% of our results come from 20% of our activity. That means that of all of the daily activities you do, and choices that you make, only 20% really matter (or at least produce meaningful results).

What is the takeaway that we can learn from the Pareto Principle?

Identify and focus on the 20% that matters! When life sets in and you start to become reactive instead of proactive, remind yourself of the 20% you need to focus on. If something in your schedule needs to be deleted or not completed with your fullest attention, try your best to make sure it’s not part of that 20%.

Use the Pareto Principle as a litmus test to constantly check in and ask yourself: “Is this truly part of the 20% that matters?” Let the Pareto Principle serve as a powerful daily reminder to focus 80% of your time and energy on the 20% of your work and life that is really important and delivers positive results.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

The 80/20 Rule

The Secret to a Successful Relationship?

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Pareto Principle, aka the 80/20 Rule. Little did I know at that time that the 80/20 Rule would surface in the most unlikely of places a few days later – during a wedding ceremony.

My brother’s wedding was this past Friday evening. Friends and family were all gathered in a lovely setting for the ceremony. The minister started talking about what makes a good marriage. He then proceeded to introduce the 80/20 Rule, and described how it applies to marriage.

He said that when we fall in love, we fall in love with 80% of our partner’s personality, and that the other 20% makes up the flaws and personality quirks that we would like to change. He then advised that the most successful relationships are ones in which the partners focus on the 80% they love about each other, and consciously try to ignore, or at least tolerate, the 20% they don’t.

As the minister was giving his sermon, I couldn’t help thinking how this is just another way that the 80/20 Rule manifests itself in our daily lives. It truly pops up in the most interesting ways and situations. I also started to realize that if the 80/20 Rule can be applied to marriage in this way — focus on the positive and ignore the negative — then, by extension, it applies to relationships of all kinds.

Think about it. In every relationship – romantic couples, family, friends, co-workers, business associates, etc. — there exists some form of the 80/20 ratio. There are always going to be aspects of the relationship that are better than others. In good relationships, the positive aspects clearly outweigh the negative ones. And, perhaps, the best relationships are the ones in which the parties make a conscious effort to try to avoid focusing on the 20% that is negative.  It’s sort of like applying the ”glass is half full” attitude to relationships.

So, whether in marriage or any other relationship, think 80/20 and chances are, it will be a more fulfilling partnership!

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

Imagine you are on a roll, engrossed in a project, in the “flow.” All of a sudden, the phone rings, an e-mail alarm goes off, a colleague is standing in your doorway, a fax is coming over the machine, etc. Ah, interruptions. If you didn’t define all of those as an interruption, think again.

Experts estimate that the average American is interrupted 73 times per day. Some people find this number to be high, others find it extremely low. It depends on what your definition of an interruption is. My definition is anything that you didn’t want to, or expect to, happen at that time. I equate an interruption to a weed in my garden – if it doesn’t belong there, or if I don’t want it there,  it is a weed. Same with an interruption.

So how do you avoid getting sidetracked? Own your interruptions if you can. It is not always easy, and it depends on what your job is, and who is interrupting you, but try it!

Own your interruptions. Start to think of an interruption as an offer, and your decision as to whether you will take the interruption as a counter-offer. It is okay to say “Thanks for your call/visit. I do want to speak with you, but now is not a good time. Can we talk/meet at 2:00 p.m. instead?” There. You just counter-offered. See if it works. It is certainly worth a try.

Grade your interruptions. Let’s face it – some interruptions are more important than others. You probably need to take interruptions from certain people, like your boss, a sick child, etc. But not everyone. So be selective and if an interruption comes in that does not make the grade, don’t take it!

Create do-not-disturb time. Screen calls, or set up times of the day when you answer and return calls and let that be known to friends, family and work colleagues. Utilize a “do not disturb” sign at the office when working on a tight deadline, close your office door, set “office hours” for visitors and colleagues, or go work in a conference room, library or coffee shop where you can hide. When I was practicing law, I often escaped to another location when writing an important court brief, or closed my door and left a sign-up sheet for people that stopped by that explained that I was on deadline and when I would surface for air.

Use a post-it note wisely. Before you take an interruption, write down the very next action you were planning to take, how long you thought it would take, and whether you can delegate it to someone else. Often, the interruption itself is not as bad as playing catch-up after it. Taking the time to write down where you are and what you need to get back to can help you save precious time.

Plan for interruptions. If you work in an interruption-rich culture, you can only plan out 50% of your time to allow for 50% interruptions. For example, if your job is to put out “fires” all day, you can’t avoid interruptions as they are exactly what you should be handling. An example of this would be a sales manager in a car dealership whose job is to support the sales team on the floor, and to control and manage issues as they arise. This individual will be less able to avoid interruptions and should plan for them in his or her schedule, by blocking out time before or after “floor” time to get his or her project-related work done.

Stop the interrupter. It is worth noting that supposedly 80% of our interruptions come from 20% of the people we come into contact with. Try to identify the frequent interrupters and start coming up with ways to cut them off before they occur. If you know someone always calls you to confirm a meeting, send a quick text/e-mail to let him or her know you are still on as scheduled. Or better yet, explain that it is your policy not to miss meetings and you do not need a reminder (you have your Blackberry for that!), and that you will call in the rare event you need to cancel. Start taking control of the interruptions before they occur and stopping them at their source. Then, you won’t need to “own” as many interruptions in the first place.

Now, go forth and”own” those interruptions so you can get some work done!

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Pareto Principle, aka the 80/20 Rule. Little did I know at that time that the 80/20 Rule would surface in the most unlikely of places a few days later – during a wedding ceremony.

My brother’s wedding was this past Friday evening. Friends and family were all gathered in a lovely setting for the ceremony. The minister started talking about what makes a good marriage. He then proceeded to introduce the 80/20 Rule, and described how it applies to marriage.

He said that when we fall in love, we fall in love with 80% of our partner’s personality, and that the other 20% makes up the flaws and personality quirks that we would like to change. He then advised that the most successful relationships are ones in which the partners focus on the 80% they love about each other, and consciously try to ignore, or at least tolerate, the 20% they don’t.

As the minister was giving his sermon, I couldn’t help thinking how this is just another way that the 80/20 Rule manifests itself in our daily lives. It truly pops up in the most interesting ways and situations. I also started to realize that if the 80/20 Rule can be applied to marriage in this way — focus on the positive and ignore the negative — then, by extension, it applies to relationships of all kinds.

Think about it. In every relationship — romantic couples, family, friends, co-workers, business associates, etc. — there exists some form of the 80/20 ratio. There are always going to be aspects of the relationship that are better than others. In good relationships, the positive aspects clearly outweigh the negative ones. And, perhaps, the best relationships are the ones in which the parties make a conscious effort to try to avoid focusing on the 20% that is negative.  It’s sort of like applying the “glass is half full” attitude to relationships. 

So, whether in marriage or any other relationship, think 80/20 and chances are, it will be a more fulfilling partnership!

“Our life is frittered away by detail … simplify, simplify.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

When I am conducting an organizing, time management or business related workshop, I often ask if anyone has heard of the Pareto Principle. I usually get a room full of blank stares. However, if I ask if anyone has heard of the 80/20 Rule, many people nod their heads yes, and have a better idea what I am talking about.

The Pareto Principle takes its name from a 19thcentury Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto. In the late 1940s, business management guru Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Pareto studied the unequal distribution of wealth in his country in order to offer suggestions as how to improve its disparity.

Pareto’s Principle (or the 80/20 Rule as it is often called) has expanded over the years to include many examples of unequal distribution. Essentially, the 80-20 Rule now stands for the proposition that in any grouping of items or events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Or stated in the reverse, 20% of the items or events is always responsible for 80% of the results.

The 80/20 Rule has become a common business principle, resulting in the oft-repeated phrase, “80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.” Conversely, 80% of your complaints come from 20% of your clients, and 80% of the profits made in your industry come from 20% of the businesses.

The Pareto Principle also applies to a variety of other items and events: we only wear 20% of our clothing, we spend 80% of the time with 20% of our acquaintances, 80% of our interruptions come from the same 20% of people, 20% of the work we do consumes 80% of our time and resources, etc. You can apply the 80/20 Rule to almost anything, from business and time management principles, to clutter and physical possessions. The exact percentages may vary, but the overall gist of the principle remains the same.

The Pareto principle was also featured in the book, The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Ferriss recommends focusing one’s business activities on the 20% that contributes to 80% of the income. Boldly, he also recommends firing the 20% of clients that take up the majority of your time and energy, and cause the most trouble, often referred to as ‘toxic clients.’

I personally love the way Joseph Juran described the phenomenon in the 1940s — the “vital few and trivial many.” The 80/20 Rule means that in any grouping of items or events, a few (20%) are vital and many (80%) are trivial. 80% of our results come from 20% of our activity. That means that of all of the daily activities you do, and choices that you make, only 20% really matter (or at least produce meaningful results).

What is the takeaway that we can learn from the Pareto Principle?

Identify and focus on the 20% that matters! When life sets in and you start to become reactive instead of proactive, remind yourself of the 20% you need to focus on. If something in your schedule needs to be deleted or not completed with your fullest attention, try your best to make sure it’s not part of that 20%.

Use the Pareto Principle as a litmus test to constantly check in and ask yourself: “Is this truly part of the 20% that matters?” Let the Pareto Principle serve as a powerful daily reminder to focus 80% of your time and energy on the 20% of your work and life that is really important and delivers positive results.