The LeaderONE Course

80/20 Is an Action You Take

You’re checking your email and social media right now because you don’t know what to do. You haven’t figured out what the highest top 1% or 5% activity is that you could possibly be doing.

Perry Marshall, The Future of the Workplace

A closer look at 80/20

What many people don’t realize is that 80/20 is also fractal, not just a phenomenon of nature that can be observed. 

The fractal nature of 80/20 was a stunning discovery made by Perry Marshall and communicated to me when I interviewed him for Forward Thinking Workplaces.

If Perry Marshall is unknown to you, he is regarded by many as one of the world’s top consultants. He is also the author of 80/20 Sales and Marketing and several other highly recognized books not only in sales and marketing but also in engineering and philosophy.

One of Perry’s early discoveries that he used to grow and build his business was when he discovered the true nature of 80/20. Perry says, “It’s not just something you observe. It’s most potent when it’s an action you take.”

Most people are familiar with 80/20 or what is sometimes called The Pareto Principle, but few people are aware of its fractal nature.

You are probably already familiar with the idea that the 80/20 principle states that roughly 80% of the results we see come from 20% of the causes.

For example, a common observation of 80/20 in business is that 80% of its sales come from 20% of its customers. 80% of sales are made by 20% of the salespeople.

It’s an interesting observation, and that’s as far as most of us take it. But there’s a lot more to 80/20.

What’s not recognized by most is there’s an 80/20 inside of every 80/20. That means that inside the 20%, there’s another 80/20, and so on. Mathematically that means 64% of the company’s sales come from just 4% of its customers.

It looks like this when we run out the numbers on a few examples:

80/201 = 16:1 (A top 20% salesperson is 16 times more effective.)

80/202 = 64:1 (A top 4% salesperson is 64 times more effective.)

80/203 = 250:1 (A top 1% salesperson is 250 times more effective.)

From observation to action

When I asked Perry what the number one thing he wanted people to know about 80/20 was, he had this to say:

“I want them to suddenly see that 80/20 is not just a business rule of thumb. It’s a fundamental law of cause and effect like gravity and is absolutely everywhere.”

One of the most practical and powerful ways you can bring the power of 80/20 to your world is to recognize that 80% of your productivity comes from 20 percent of the tasks on your to-do list.

If you’d like to bring 80/20 to your to-do list, here’s how to start. Perry recommends dividing everything you do into $10-, $100-, and $1,000-per-hour tasks.

The $10 per hour tasks are immediate candidates for delegation, and the $1,000 per hour tasks are things you should consider investing more of your time doing.

What are some examples?

$10 per hour tasks might be things like running errands, filling out expense reports, or doing social media as most people do it.

$100 per hour tasks might be writing an email to a customer, solving a problem for your business or a customer, or doing effective social media.

The $1,000 and greater per hour tasks might include planning and prioritizing your day, public speaking, and executing new brilliant ideas.

What are your top 1% or 5% activities?

Perry highly recommends identifying your top 1% or 5% activities and spending at least an hour each day working on one or more of these activities.

I created my list of top activities three years ago and regularly review and updated it.

Here are a few of my top activities:

  • Start each day with a blank sheet of paper and an empty mind
  • Initiate forward-thinking conversations with pioneering leaders eager to create forward-thinking minds, leaders, and workplaces
  • Reflect on the big ideas and people that have influenced my inner leader journey and create thought-provoking articles, books, designs, and learning products
  • Sharpening, refining, and rethinking my branding and marketing

What would the top activities be on your list?

What do you think of my list?

One of the most valuable questions you could ever ask is, What do we need to subtract?

Perry Marshall, The Future of the Workplace