Less is better, way better.
Pareto was a smart guy who lived in Italy in the 19th century. He remained a historical figure due to his 80/20 principle which was built upon his observations that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people. This principle is vastly applied in business, math, criminology and other fields. And why not, it is applied in our lives as well!
Let’s talk in terms of time and money. I have observed that a merely 20% of the time I spend working gets me more than 80% of the total amount of money I generate.
I used to work at least 8-10 hours a day (two years ago) helping students with their projects and building my own website. There were days when I worked for more than 12 hours. It wasn’t a burden because I enjoyed every moment of it.
You can imagine what your life is if you work 10 hours a day, sleep for 8 hours and then what?
You are left with 6 hours to eat, socialize, be fit, have an emotional life, get other stuff completed and have some fun. That’s too little time for so many important things.
That’s why after building some frustration and learning about the minimalist lifestyle advocated by the Zen master Leo Babauta, I decided to take a closer look at my schedule.
The 80/20 Rule
If Pareto’s Principle could be applied back then, it meant that 20% of my 10 hours of work time (which is 2 hours) was generating 80% of my income.
Could that be true?
It actually was because out of those 10 hours, I was working 2 to 3 hours at most, while the rest of the time I was being distracted, either by entertainment (Youtube videos, games, Facebook), by talking at the phone, or by being unable to focus on only 1 task at a time. I can call that “severe time wasting” disease. And I know that a lot of us suffer from it.
Here’s a typical distraction which often occurred to me while working:
As I was in the middle of writing something, a thought came to my mind about a song I heard last night.
Hey, wait a minute! Let me search that song on Youtube.
After listening to that one song, I usually found another interesting song or video in the “Related Videos” section.
And that small distraction often cost me 30-40 minutes of my work time. Imagine if several distractions occurred during a work day. That’s total chaos.
Deciding to remove all unnecessary distractions, I was able to drastically reduce the time spent at the computer by doing only the effective work.
And what did I get?
I basically got the same amount of money for as little time spent in front of the screen as possible.
Since I got an extra 8 hours added to my schedule, I was asking myself what to do with it.
Why not work 2 more efficient hours and get extra money? That’s what I did.
It may be easier said than done.
Do you think you can be limited to doing only one thing and only one thing at a time? Try it and see for yourself.
In my case, you would think I had to completely remove all those distractions, right?
Actually, no. I postponed by scheduling to view them all at once at a later time.
What does this mean?
It means that I was bookmarking all the links that tended to get me distracted when searching for work related stuff. Then I dedicated half an hour to an hour per day to view them.
That’s totally guilt free youtube video watching or scrolling down on Facebook. I’m really sure you can do it too, if you become aware and you discipline yourself a little.
What should you do
1. Be aware and recognize when a distraction occurs. How? Well, if it doesn’t help you on what you are doing, then it’s a distraction.
2. Save it or delay it for later usage. This way you feel better because you’re not forcing yourself not to get distracted. You are just postponing the distractions.
What happens if you are employed or working in an office
1. I’m pretty sure that you are not fully dedicated to work 8 hours each day. That’s why you should see what effective work means to you and how much time you actually work each day.
2. Can you do your job all by yourself or is it dependent on others. Is it teamwork?
If you work alone, then you should be able to reduce the working time with at least 50%, if you stop getting distracted. If it is teamwork, then it may be a bit tricky but not impossible for you to get focused, disciplined, and efficient.
Are your co-workers distracting you? Do not allow that. Do not be antisocial either. You can allow yourself to spend a little time with them after finishing work. Remember, just postpone.
3. Say that you can finish your job in 2-3 hours. What can you do the rest of the time?
You probably have a hobby, something that you really love doing, besides your job :). Focus on building skill for that hobby; focus on trying to get a business up and running.
You can gather information and even start putting some efforts into your entrepreneurial dream. All that while being at work.
4. If the 8 hours (assuming your work 8 hours each day) have not passed yet, you can spend some quality time with your colleagues building good professional and personal relationships. You can also find a little time for entertainment (you name it), but do not exaggerate.
What’s the point of so much fun so often (ex: going out to party every evening)?
It looses its intensity and pleasure if it’s too often.
But what if you get out once a week, or every two weeks, or once a month? You’ll definitely have much more fun. The lesser, the better, the most enjoying.
My Schedule 2.0
Well, from working from 9 A.M. until 6-7 P.M., I am now able to work from 7 A.M. until 10 A.M. (thanks Tim Ferriss) and have the rest of the time dedicated to the other areas of my life.
I go to the gym 2 to 3 days per week, usually from 11 A.M. to 1 P.M. It’s best going to the gym at these hours (if you can) because most of the gyms are empty since people are at work during that time, unlike the evenings when the gyms are overcrowded. More on gym and the 80/20 rule in a future article.
From 1 P.M. to 5 P.M. I spend my time building this blog. It includes: article topic researching, article writing, building connections with others who have the same interests, marketing, and other related stuff.
Then I have some reading time on the subjects I’m most interested.
I also spend some time every day with my closest ones (friends, family, acquaintances, etc).
After getting back home, I continue reading and gathering knowledge on the subjects I’m interested in. Before going to bed, I usually plan ahead for the next day (or week on Sundays).
Food hasn’t been included on this schedule as I will dedicate a full future article to the subject.
What happens if you don’t hit F(acebook) in the address bar of the browser so often?
What do you lose if you don’t do it? A status update? A new check-in?
Think about it. It’s your life and your time at stake. You should learn to appreciate them the way they deserve.
There are lots of things you can do everyday if you are able to move away from the distractions. You can learn to work much less and achieve much more by determining the amount of time you work effectively. You can find time to exercise, meet and spend time with your friends and family. You can and should find time for self-growth, the “YOU” time.
The key is for you to become aware, be able to spot the distractions as they come along and eliminate them or postpone them for a later time.
I know there are many who would come and argue that this is not possible in their case; that they can’t do it because of their job. Nevertheless, I challenge you. Tell me about your situation, and I’ll try to help you. For real.
What’s the most time consuming distraction of your life? What prevents you from staying focused? Let me know in either of the comment sections below and I’ll do my best to help you.
1. Tim Ferriss – The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
2. Leo Babauta – The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential
3. Digital Nomad Academy – Live the Internet Lifestyle