Breaking Conventions Lesson 3: What’s the critical 20% of your life?

Have you ever thought that:

If you lose your wealth, you can (hypothetically) still survive and regain it — by putting work. But your time on the planet is consistently getting drained from your life jar.

As cliched and dramatic the following sentence might sound, it creates urgency and motivates you to start making changes in your life right away:

“You’re going to die.”

Most people with extraordinary ambitions face one major challenge…

A scarcity of time.

You might be a productivity ninja that attempts to accomplish all the 10 to-do’s on the list every day. But some days, unplanned work commitments pop up. On another day, your car might break down. Or you simply might not be finding the motivation.

You aspire to reach the stage when you consistently nail all the tasks on your list. Every. Single. Day. But there are 3 major issues with the tick-all-the-boxes-on-your-to-do-list philosophy:

  • To do lists consider a day as a static entity,
  • All the items on a HUGE to-do list are equally important.
  • If you’re performing a task for the first time, then it’s difficult to estimate the amount of time it will take in accomplishing the task.

All mega-achievers aren’t special people that have raised their work efficiency and stamina to incredible limits. They also struggle with ticking all the boxes on their to-do lists.

But they don’t try to do it all. Rather, they analyze the value of tasks on their list and find out what matters the most. Once you’ve ticked off the most important, you’ll be motivated to clear off your list further. In his study, author Thomas C. Corley found that 67% of the wealthy people get about 70% of tasks done on their list every day.

Instead of generic “improve your time management” advice, I want to introduce YOU to a gentleman — Mr. Pareto, an Italian economist who devised a principle that has changed the way entrepreneurs take business decisions.

The fascinating aspect of the principle is that it holds true across many areas of life. Its generalized version is: 80% of the outcomes of activities are tied with 20% of inputs.

I know that a percentage isn’t an intuitive way to view life. But let me show how the principle might apply to your life:

  • 80% of the work you get done at office is a result of 20% of your clocked office hours,
  • You wear 20% of your wardrobe 80% of your time,
  • You spend 80% of your total food budget on fast food that brings along health problems,
  • You enjoy yourself in the company of only 20% of your friends.

Sidenote: Don’t go bonkers trying to find an exact 80% and 20% split. An approximate 4:1 ratio will do.

For me, the Pareto principle was an eye-opener. I got the hang of ‘working smartly.’ I realized how successful people leverage their focus and time to create massive impact.

It’s not merely about ticking all the boxes on a list and squeezing every ounce of your energy till you fall asleep in front of your laptop every night. Rather, you’ve to identify the essential tasks that get 80% of the results.

I’ve used the principle to expand my writing business rapidly. I only served fewer high-value clients instead of spreading my efforts and earned as much as 1438$ per article.

Besides your career, you can apply the principle to the social, spiritual, monetary and health aspects of your life. You can even use Pareto as a super skill for speeding the development of other skills.

But there’s a problem…

For applying the Pareto principle to your life, you need an estimate of how you spend your time and money.

Pen and paper out for analyzing?

Stop with all the guesstimates….YOU HUMAN.

If you don’t already know, we’re bad at guessing. Our memories are shaped by the availability of relevant examples. And we’re likely to favor memories over data.


I know, I know.

The precise way to know how you’re spending your time and money is….

Wait for it!!!

By tracking them.

With the help of tools, you can automatically collect data about your everyday activities. I recommend these applications to log your activities (I use both of them) —

RescueTime – For tracking where you spend your time on your laptop,

Forceipt (iOS App) – For tracking your expenses.

If you have an Android Smartphone, then you can use Daily Expense Manager (I’ve used it for 1.5 years in the past and it proved quite useful).

Generally, the larger your data sample, the richer will be your insights. A month’s data is good for a start.

But even with one week’s logs, you’ll see patterns emerge in your work hours and your spending. You can figure out high impact work hours and expenditures that serve your health. Then, it’s your responsibility to channelise your energy and time to take informed action.

What about the qualitative aspects of your life like relationships, happiness and spirituality? For these, you’ll need to reflect deeply and rely on your intuition.

Maybe your bad communication skills lead to a majority of problems with your partners. Maybe the majority of your happiness is derived from 20% of the activities you pursue on a typical day.

After your analysis, please complete your assignment below.

Worksheet for Lesson 3: Implementing the Pareto principle.

I recommend you to phase out time-sucking and low result yielding activities out from your life. If not possible, then at least try to front load your day with productive and effective activities that uplift you.

The bonus resource for today’s lesson is on building a cornerstone habit — it’s proven to have a domino effect and improve all other aspects of your life. Meet you tomorrow with the material.

Also if you’ve other suggestions for tracking personal expenditure and time, then tell me about them by replying to this mail.

Hope you’ve started to break your usual behavior patterns. In the next lesson, I’ll tell you how to break your life patterns in an organized manner. Stay tuned.