Friday, May 22, 2009

The Laws of Pareto & Parkinson

Here's part 2 of my review on Tim Ferriss' The 4-Hour Workweek.  Pareto's Law, named for an economist named Vilfredo Pareto and often referred to as the "80/20" Principle, states that 80% of the wealth is possessed by 20% of the population.  You've also no doubt heard this principle when dealing with volunteers (it's used in the church world quite often).  Here we say that 80% of the work is performed by 20% of the volunteers.  

Ferriss applies this principle to our outputs and inputs.  In other words, he says that 80% of our results (outputs) come from 20% of our effort and time (inputs).  If this is the case, then we need to figure out how to not only guard that 20%, but to purge as much of the wasted time so that we can do more that truly produces results, as well as do more of the things that bring joy and fulfillment to our lives.  This speaks into the myth that business = productivity. 
The second law he mentions is Parkinson's Law.  This law speaks to the need to shorten deadlines so that focus and quality are the result.  If you have two days to finish a project because you are going on vacation, you finish the project in two days, even when the project normally takes a week to accomplish.  If we have 8 hours to fill, we will fill it, but it doesn't guarantee that we will accomplish anything.  He refers to this as the "9-5 Illusion."    

In bringing these two laws together, Ferriss states:
If you haven't identified the mission-critical tasks and set aggressive start and end times for their completion, the unimportant becomes the important. Even if you know what's critical, without deadlines that create focus, the minor tasks forced upon you (or invented, in the case of the entrepreneur) will swell to consume time until another bit of minutiae jumps in to replace it, leaving you at the end of the day with nothing accomplished.

No comments: