“I am the Almighty God. Obey me and always do what is right.”
-- Genesis 17:1
One of the best concepts ever conceived by man is the Pareto Principle. One simple way of stating the Pareto Principle is, “80% of your result comes from only 20% of your activities.” In short, you do not have to do it all.
When I was in first year high school, I realized that I wanted to change the direction of my academic life. I had this revelation right in the middle of an English class, if I remember the subject correctly, that totally change my life as a student (Click here to read the previous article about this transformation). One of the tools I employed to help me reach my new goal back then was prioritizing and scheduling (P&S). I realized that if I want to become an ‘A’ student, I need to do only the essential things.
P&S became even more handy as I reached my college years. Back then I followed one very simple rule: Put a vacant hour after every difficult subject that had a big bearing on my future engineering practice. I used this time to review my teacher’s discussion while it was still very fresh in my mind. Very simple, yet very effective technique. By doing this, I did not know it then, but I was already practicing the Pareto principle.
Now that I am a professional, the challenges have changed dramatically. Before I only worried about a few things like getting good grades, landing a good job, having a few good times, and finding a girlfriend. Now that I am married with three adorable kids, I have to think about a zillion things. At home, I have to think about my relationship with my wife, my children, and my neighbors not to mention the never ending BILLS to cope with. At work, I have to think about my relationship with all the people around me, and to squeeze tasks A, B, C, D, E, etc. into the fix 9.6 hours from Mon. to Fri. Whew! And around my close friends, I also have to think about my relationship with them; I learned years ago that it does not pay to think of myself alone even when around my closest friends. With a mountain of tasks strap on my back, it seems that no amount of principles can help me now. My head is bowed.
However, when I look all around me, I also see lots and lots of people carrying their own mountains. Some are almost crawling under the very heavy weight. Some are in anguish. But curiously there are those a keep a smile on their face.
Then it occurred to me. Those who smile have learned to apply the Pareto Principle in their life. Not everything in my life is worth my limited share of time. I only need to drop inside my limited backpack 3 essential things: My relationship with my God, My relationship with myself, and My relationship with my love ones, friends, and neighbors. The rest are either just means to a greater end or plain distraction.
You don’t have to do it all. I don’t have to do it all. We only need to do the most essential things, the 20% that will matter long after we depart this world. So look inside your backpack now, and check what is inside. Will it bring a smile in your face?
PS: Sprinkle all over your day brief 'vacant' times, and use these to build the essentials of your life. Don't be bog down with your earthly pursuits, and your problems in life. Not everything is essential. Spend more of your limited time on the essentials.