Improving My Productivity By Using Tim Ferriss’ 80/20 Test

“If it can be measured. It can be managed.”– Tim Ferriss

 

In my quest for continuous improvement, I latch onto ideas, frameworks, and techniques that can help me optimize my life. I avidly follow Tim Ferriss and in one of his articles, he mentions performing an 80 20 analysis to identify the top contributors to your joy and suffering and either eliminate or keep them.

As we jump into 2018 I decided to perform this analysis myself and see if I could identify what contributors I should keep or discard. Rather than come up with arbitrary goals I decided to take the conclusion of my 80 20 analysis and use the results as the first set of goals for the new year. This would ensure 2018 starts on the path towards bringing more joy into my life, rather than keeping the things that brought suffering.

I was blown away by the results. I was able to dig deep and identify activities, people and things in my life taking away valuable hours of my life or hindering my productivity and finances.

I have taken the analysis a step further to allow for drawing out actionable steps to mitigate or automate rather than just eliminate. I did this because we all have things or people in our live we cannot just remove. However, we can be smarter about this and make adjustments to limit the impacts or exposure to these things or people. Please perform this analysis when you have 15-30 minutes and let me know what you find. Enjoy!

Purpose

The main goals of this exercise should be to:

  1. Identify the top contributors to your joy
  2. Identify the top contributors to your pain, loss of time and hardship
  3. Keep and improve the top contributors to bring more joy
  4. Eliminate or modify the top contributors that bring you suffering so they have less of an impact on you
  5. Convert the time saved from elimination or modification of the top bad contributors into good contributors

The purpose of exercises like this is to take an honest, introspective analysis of your life. Identify the good things and celebrate them. And also have the courage to eliminate the bad things that are taking away from your happiness. Time is the most precious resource we have and we should only spend it doing those things that give us the biggest return on investment for happiness. We should not (if we can) do things or surround ourselves with people that make us feel bad.

Follow the three easy steps below to create your own 80 20 analysis.

Step One: The Pareto Analysis

Ask yourself the following questions to create two lists of contributors to your happiness and sadness. Each of these lists will serve as the basis for your analysis on what to keep and what to remove.

Good List

  • What are all of the contributors: people, places, events, behaviors, and habits that bring you joy and happiness?
  • Circle/Highlight the top contributors. Ones that seem to bring out the most joy and happiness
  • For only those top contributors, identify the impact. How does this bring joy and happiness into your life
    • For example: Playing guitar has an impact on allowing me to channel my creativity or powerlifting has an impact on building my self-confidence and improving my body image.

Bad List

  • What are all of the contributors: people, places, events, behaviors, and habits that bring you pain, suffering, hardship and unnecessarily waste your times?
  • Circle/Highlight the top contributors. Ones that seem to bring out the most pain, suffering, hardship, and consume the most amount of your time.
  • For only those top contributors, identify the impact. How does this bring pain, suffering, hardship or unnecessarily waste your time
    • For example: Waking up tired has an impact of curbing my productivity in the morning. Hanging out with old college friends has an impact on losing valuable time and not learning anything new.

Step Two: Areas to Optimize

The next set of questions are designed to convert these lists into areas where you can optimize, eliminate, or modify. This is where you have to really be honest with yourself and start to objectively critique the items on your list.

Good List

  • For each of the top contributors that you have identified the impacts, create three columns: Automate, Mitigate, Eliminate. Mark an X on only one of the three columns
    • Automate: Actions you can take to operate automatically or execute with little to no interaction with you
    • Mitigate: Actions that you take to do something different to increase the joy or happiness
    • Eliminate: Actions that you can take to remove or reduce this contributor from your life
      • This is important to perform on the Good list as well because we all do activities that bring us joy but we need to eliminate or reduce. For example: playing video games brings me joy but I need to reduce the amount I play.

Bad List

  • For each of the top contributors that you have identified the impacts, create three columns: Automate, Mitigate, Eliminate. Mark an X on only one of the three columns
    • Automate: You can take actions to operate automatically or execute with little to no interaction with you
    • Mitigate: You can take actions to do something different to increase the joy or happiness
      Eliminate: You can take actions that you can take to remove or reduce this contributor from your life

      • This is especially important to perform on the Bad list because we all do activities or have people that bring us nothing but pain, hardship or waste our time. It is crucial to identify those and eliminate. For example: I hang out with an old friend of mine who just complains about life everytime we meet. We usually go to the same restaurant and talk about the same things. I keep doing it because I feel an obligation. This just wastes valuable hours of my week and it would serve me best to just eliminate this activity.

Step Three: Bad Habits To Be Avoided

The final step is designed to identify specific and actionable tasks to achieve the mitigation, eliminate or automate. These actions will act as your goals and steps.

Good List

  • For each of the top contributors you have identified as Automate, Mitigate, Eliminate. Create a set of 3-5 actionable steps you can take to achieve the desired outcome.
    • Be as specific as possible
    • For each step identify a rough time estimate for how long it would like to complete the step
    • For example: I get enjoyment from listening to Tim Ferriss podcast. I would like to automate. The steps to do this are: 1.  Download audiobook apps on all of my devices. 2. Create reminders to listen to audiobooks during different parts of your day (gym, drives, walks…etc)
  • These steps will become your goals. You can create an action plan out of them and set time goals based on your estimates.

Bad List

  • For each of the top contributors you have identified as Automate, Mitigate, Eliminate. Create a set of 3-5 actionable steps you can take to achieve the desired outcome.
    • Be as specific as possible
    • For each step identify a rough time estimate for how long it would like to complete the step
    • For example: Waking up early takes away valuable hours of productivity. I would like to mitigate. The steps to do this are: 1.  Set annoying alarms 2. Keep the phone away from my bed so I have to get up to get it. 3. Go to bed 7.5 hours from the time I want to wake up. 4. Use sleep cycle alarms to wake up at the end of a sleep cycle.
  • These steps will become your goals. You can create an action plan out of them and set time goals based on your estimates.

 

The original article which gave me the inspiration to perform my own analysis can be found here: http://www.mattbodnar.com/2013/08/11/how-to-perform-an-8020-analysis/

How Do You Analyze Your Strengths And Weaknesses?

What I’ve shared above is how I implement the 80/20 however, there are many different self-reflection templates and programs out there. I would love to hear what programs or methods that have worked well for you. Feel free to comment below with an example or link to them. Please share so we can all learn and possibly incorporate ourselves.

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