Three Laws You Should Know to Improve Your Personal ProductivityAUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
These laws, which you have probably heard before on more than one occasion, were born in environments as diverse as economics, statistics or physics, but they can be applied in a variety of situations and are especially relevant to personal productivity. If you keep them in mind and are able to manage them when undertaking your tasks, you will be able to achieve better results with less effort. Let’s go over them.
1. Pareto Principle
Also known as the 80/20 rule, it could be stated as follows:
“80% of the outputs come from 20% of the inputs”
It is named after Vilfredo Pareto, a 19th century Italian economist, who first enunciated it in his “Cours d’economie politique”, when he observed that 80% of his country’s wealth was in the hands of 20% of the population.
What’s interesting is that this type of statistical distribution can be found almost everywhere, not only in the economy. Thus, it’s phrased differently depending on the environment in which it’s applied: 80% of the errors come from 20% of possible causes, 80% of the profit is generated by 20% of the customers and products, and so on. This 80/20 ratio is only an approximation; there are cases where the inequality is much more pronounced (90/10, 95/5 and even 99/1).
Regarding your personal productivity you should simply keep in mind that approximately 80% of your results come from 20% of the time and effort you invest. Knowing that, it turns out that you can get very similar results with much less time and effort.
How can you apply this principle to your advantage? It’s not difficult to determine in advance which tasks are going to have a strong impact on what you want to achieve and which tasks will only keep you busy enough. Focus on the important tasks and try to eliminate or reduce most of the rest. This will get you closer to your goals.
2. Parkinson’s Law
Enunciated by British historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson, it reads:
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”
In the mid-20th century, Parkinson realized that, despite the fact that there was less and less bureaucratic work in the British Colonial Office, the number of civil servants was increasing every year by more than 5%, and he decided to investigate the causes. The result of his study was published in his book “Parkinson’s Law” (1957), from which the well-known Parkinson’s Law is extracted.
If you have ever given someone a task, you will know that this law is almost always true. If you have given a five-day deadline, the job will be done in five days even if the job can be done in two.
This also happens to you with the tasks you need to do every day, you unconsciously adjust to the deadlines you have mentally set for yourself. Using this law to your advantage, it is easy to get a performance improvement simply by making tighter time estimates. Set yourself somewhat more optimistic deadlines, and see if you are able to meet them. Limiting time forces you to focus on what’s important, on cutting to the chase.
3. Newton’s First Law of Motion
Also called Law of Inertia, it’s the first of the three laws formulated by Isaac Newton on the physics of motion:
“Every body remains in a state of constant velocity unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force”
Or in other words: “What is at rest, remains at rest; what is in motion, remains in motion”.
What does this physical law have to do with your personal productivity? Quite a lot. It happens that when you’re lazing around, you’re in a state of rest, and since it’s a rather pleasant situation, it’s hard to change. In the same way, it happens that when you start doing things, and you get into a state of motion, it’s equally difficult to stop because, after all, completing tasks and goals is also satisfying.
Keep this in mind, and get to work every day as soon as possible. Learn to take the first step by doing whatever. Tasks in motion tend to get completed. So, when you feel you need to change things, just start.