How to Create a 80/20 Work Life

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Have you ever found yourself working long hours, skipping lunch and swapping personal time for late-night rendezvous with clients? Many of us make the mistake of believing we can achieve more by doubling our work efforts, so we take on multiple projects and sacrifice personal time to get ahead.  While we accomplish everything on our list, we may have very little to show for it in terms of life satisfaction and personal fulfillment.

Although I was first introduced to the 80/20 rule more than five years ago, it wasn’t until recently that I started applying it to my business and personal life. Also known as the Pareto principle, this concept suggests that 80 percent of our results come from 20 percent of our efforts. While you may be familiar with this philosophy in relation to time management and productivity, there’s a much more important question that you should take into account.

What activities account for 80 percent of happiness in your work life?

Numerous studies have shown that we’re more effective in business when we limit our projects to things we’re passionate about and that are in alignment with our core competencies. In my own life, I’ve noticed that I’d often procrastinate in doing things that weren’t my strong suit such as bookkeeping or web design. Now I leave those tasks to the experts. In the short term, I may spend more money in hiring a bookkeeper or web designer. However, over time it would cost me more in energy and efficiency to perform tasks I’m not good at or that I dread doing.

Finding your sweet spot
Take a moment to assess your business activities. What are the things that bring you the most pleasure? What duties do you seem to lose track of time doing? For me, I love teaching and empowering others, so I devote a significant amount of my time to writing articles, consulting and conducting workshops. Not only are these the activities that I most enjoy, but these are also the things that have helped to generate the most income and created the most business opportunities.

Focusing on where your heart is
When I first started my business, I thought if I did everything myself I could keep costs to a minimum (huge mistake). I later found myself working 16-hour days with little to show for it.  To avoid energy or productivity drainers, ask yourself: What activities can I delegate to others, so I can focus on tasks that relate to my natural gifts and passion? You can achieve this by outsourcing administrative tasks to dedicate more time to creating new products or packages, or by limiting yourself to projects that feed your soul and reflect personal interests.

Working with Ideal Clients
For most service providers, the majority of frustration in business stems from dealing with difficult clients.  Sometimes there’s a personality conflict, while other times there’s a disagreement regarding terms of payment.  Consider your client base and determine what customers are most enjoyable to work with. Is she high-energy and upbeat or more reserved? Does she have a positive attitude or is she a “Debbie Downer?” You might then decide to let go of the clients that aren’t productive or miserable to work with.  Your work life will be more rewarding when you surround yourself with people who complement your personality and work style.

How will you produce more happiness in your work life over the next week? Share in comments.


  1. This is such a hard thing, but I know it is so important. I think producing more happiness in your work can also be achieved by taking on assignments we enjoy. Sometimes, when I take an editing client that I dread the subject matter, it is terrible to work on. Currently, I am editing books I would want to read–these are the types of clients I need to pursue more of! 🙂

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