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How to Develop Laser Sharp Focus using the Rule of 80/20/5

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.  — Mark Twain

Everything  in your life is influenced by the rule of 80/20.

Enter the world of hacks and anti-hacks alike — with due respect to the arguments from either side of the fence — I’ve stumbled upon an axiom that can help you not only to de-clutter your thoughts,  but also to develop laser sharp focus for what matters most in your life.

We focus 80% of our time on 20% of meager matters in our lives that — if happens — will only have 5% influence on our happiness and success.

Have you heard someone say, “I’d love to do that but ____”? We all have.  It’s a sign of a mind cluttered with tasks that are least important to our end goal  — our happiness.

The simplest path to happiness is to put your thoughts into proper perspective. We tend to focus on things that scare us most. In reality,  those things are least important for our happiness and success. Think about it!

Time is infinitely more precious than money, and there is nothing common between them. You cannot accumulate time, you cannot borrow time; you can never tell how much time you have left in the Bank of Life. Time is Life…
– Israel Davidson

On Worries

We worry about things that are not in our control. By focusing on worries that may never see daylight, we tend to exhaust our time, energy and obviously focus on what lies ahead. Years ago, I flew from Atlanta to San Francisco.

I noticed a woman sitting beside me with a pale face. Shortly after the take off, the captain announced that weather may get rough, and there is a chance of turbulence in our way. All of a sudden, this quiet woman started screaming. I was bemused since I’d never been through such a horrible situation before. I tried to ask her what has happened to her. She kept screaming harder.

After a long and frightening ordeal, crew members found out that she was simply worried about the plane crashing as a result of the word turbulence being mentioned by the captain.

She was worried about — if any –20 percent chance of a bad weather causing remote 5 percent chance of a turbulence. As you can imagine, it never happened.

On Business

Your business or job can pose challenges that are meager yet — if you zoom in on them — they can take all the wind out of your brain.

Several years ago, I had to replace the roof at one of my hotels. For about a week, I battled in my mind over whether I should go with 30 years architectural shingles or 50 years architectural shingles. What if I own this hotel after 30 years ? Wouldn’t it be wise to go for the 50 years shingles ?

Looking back, now I realize how fool I was to even fret over a subject that has 20 percent or less chance of me owning this hotel after 30 years. Even if that happens, there is less than 5 percent chance of the same roof to survive on that hotel after 30 years.

I sold that hotel in less than a year after replacing the roof. I suppose you get the cue. I’d lost focus and precious time as well.

On goals

While focusing on goals, it is important to visualize and write them on the paper. If you do not visualize the expected outcome and deadline, you may squabble over actions that are meager at best in terms of achieving your goal.

For example, years ago, during the dot-com boom, I developed an auction site with sleepless nights and days of programming. I, along with two other friends, was excited to have a piece of history that eBay was destined to reign. However, during the development, I started spending excessive time on the look and feel of the site than on  marketing the site.

Soon, we lost focus as a team over look and feel that had — at best — 20 percent chance of providing any competitive advantage and even if so, the same look and feel would have 5 percent or less influence on the fate of our business model.

Needless to say, our auction site never hosted any auctions ever.

On Clutter 

It’s essential to get organized to cleanse our surroundings and our mind to gain sharp focus. I’ve had bad habit to harbor thoughts of  “I may need it in the future,” or “Keep this magazine for the cool article that I may read in the future”. This vice habit was largely responsible for the clutter that I used to surround with.

After a while, I knew that if I have not taken time in past few weeks to glance over these magazines or that newspaper article, they have 20 percent or less chance to get my attention ever and even if that happens, that information may have less than 5 percent intrinsic value to make my life better.

I now use 60 day rule to either donate or throw away things that I don’t use.  This has saved time that is infinitely more precious than going through daunting task of keeping clutter that needs my attention every time I gather courage to get organized.

For tribal man space was the uncontrollable mystery. For technological man it is time that occupies the same role.
 Marshall Mcluhan (1911-1980) Canadian communications theorist and educator.

Readers:  Are you doing anything to de-clutter your thoughts to deposit more time in the Bank of your Life for your happiness?  

(Photo courtesy: thejeffereywscott)

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Comments (13)

I need to work on decluttering my surroundings. I’ve gotten pretty focused mentally, but the physical surroundings would certainly help.

I’m also a big worrier, though. I’ve tried to put it in perspective, like that saying: Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but doesn’t actually get you anywhere.

I like your thoughts — “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but doesn’t actually get you anywhere.”; sadly enough, we focus more on things that scare us most.

thanks Shilpan….

this resonates on many levels.

Worry. I watched my mother bring misery to her life worrying about things that never happened. I’ve struggle agains this tendency in myself all my life. The thing is, what we worry about is never the bad thing that happens when one does.

Goals. Many years ago I read a book called “Nothing Down” by Robert Allen. It was about buying real estate with no down payment. Hard to do in those days. I thought that sounded cool and set it as a goal. A few months later I owned a 2-flat bought with, you guessed it, nothing down. thing is, there were more advantageous ways to have bought this property I never considered. wrong goal. Right goal? buying it as advantageously as possible.

Clutter. I love magazines and I’m always subscribing to them. Starting with those about motorcycles, I started passing them on to a riding pal of mine. Now I drop all my mags in his mail box as I finish with them. It is a bit of a game for me to see how fast I can get through them and pass them on. enjoyment had, clutter gone, friend gifted.

You are right on the money with your thoughts, Jim. I like your idea about sharing magazine with a friend. A good way to share knowledge to gain friendship.

I do stay focused on my goals and I cannot stand clutter. If I don’t use it or need it then I don’t keep it.

However I am a worrier. I try not to worry so much and I think to a certain point I have improved. I used to worry about everything, mostly things that in reality never happened or had a chance of happening.

You can leverage your strength on clutter control to control thought clutter as well. Try it. Tell yourself that you can’t stand clutter of thoughts. Your subconscious will start ignoring those thoughts.

That’s a great idea. I am going to try to do that for the rest of the week and see how it goes!

I’d love to know how it turns out Katie!

I am a person who would be considered not a worrier. I apply the necessary amount of effort and then move on. On the other hand my wife worry’s continually about everything and has a low quality of life because of it. It causes a lot of problems.
Fruitless wastes of energy on things you can’t do anything about is a waste.

So true. Why worry about things you can’t control? Well said.

Great thoughts, Shilpan. So much energy can be wasted, and so much time can be spent thinking about events and decisions that don’t matter all that much in the end.

Agreed. We can multiply our happiness simply by letting go thoughts of worries that we can’t control.

I’ve always loved that Mark Twain quote. Thanks!