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You Do Not Need to be Super Productive All the Time

Updated: Jul 12



In 1895, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto noticed that 80% of Italy’s land belonged to 20% of the country’s population. This became known as the Pareto principle and soon found an application in almost every aspect of life.


The great thing about Pareto’s principle is that he removes a shitload of pressure from our daily lives. The essence of Pareto is this:

80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts!


Look at the numbers. There are 24 hours in the day. I like to dedicate 8 hours to sleep, 8 hours to leisure and domestic issues (eating, cooking, cleaning, doing exercise, watching TV, reading). That leaves 8 hours for work. I am a type-A person, and like a total idiot, I always aim to be super-efficient for every minute of those 8 hours. That is both stupid and unrealistic. According to Vilfredo, I only need to be super productive for 1hr 36minutes (20% of 8 hours) to bank 80% of the results.


Another cool thing about Vilfredo is that time can be rolled over to the next day. For me, Mondays are often a write-off. After 2 days of relative leisure, my business brain is not as razor-sharp as it was on Friday, so I downgrade my productivity expectations. I try to avoid making important business decisions on Monday and instead focus more on administrative shit that does not require any brilliance. That puts a bit of pressure on Tuesday but struth, all I need to do is own it for 3 hours on Tuesday and I have evened out the Pareto game for the week. The trick is not to roll too many days. If you goof off Monday to Thursday, you then need to punish a full 8 hours of super productivity on a day that many people start to take their foot off the gas and plan their weekends by midday.


In conclusion, let me share a little wisdom from 50 years on this planet. You will have three kinds of days – great, mediocre, and shit. On the shit days, you need to get through the day and not be paralyzed by fear and self-doubt. On mediocre days, you will enjoy a few minor highlights. On the great days, you will shoot the fucking lights out. You will close that deal, nail that presentation, get 500 likes on that blog, have a deep, meaningful, and life-changing conversation with your partner.


Applying Pareto, 6 days of the month will be great, and the rest will be mediocre or shit. You want to embrace the shit days. You don’t want to fight them – let them pass, be kind to yourself, and do not fall into the trap of thinking you are a useless piece of shit. I use my shit days to do things that require little or no talent on my part – wash my car, clean my house, file papers, reply to boring mails, go to the supermarket, phone my mother. You get the idea!


For your edification, here are some other practical applications of the Pareto Principle

Internet: 20% of websites attract 80% of the traffic

Business: 80% of your income is generated from 20% of your clients

Sport: top 20% of players account for 80% of the team’s success

Online dating: top 80% of women (in attractiveness) are competing for the top 20% of men (in attractiveness)

Wardrobe: you wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time


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