The Pareto Principle

You may have heard about this principle, also known as the 80-20 rule: 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.  In other words, 80% of your production comes from 20% of your activities.

In a world of so many distractions and additional job duties, this principle is more important than ever.  If you find yourself constantly overwhelmed and overworked, take some time to evaluate your current workload.  Ask yourself, "What is the 20% of my job duties that nets 80% of the positive outcomes?"  Once you have that answer, begin to focus more time in these areas. 

Also, ask yourself, "What are the 20% of my work issues that seem to take up 80% of my time?"  By asking yourself these questions, it will help you start the process of focusing on the tasks that are important, and removing the tasks that waste time and provide you no positive outcome. 

In many counseling settings (including schools, agencies, and private practice), there is a ton of time wasted in irrelevant activities.  Many of these are "required" as part of the job, but that doesn't mean you have to allow these activities to take up 80% of your time.

For example, if you are in private practice and receive income through billing insurance companies, ask yourself it if would be better to hire someone to do your billing so you can spend more time focusing on the thing that makes you money (seeing clients).  This principle can also help with minimizing the pointless paperwork encountered in most jobs.  Since you can't ignore the paperwork that is required as part of your job, create a system that allows you to complete it quickly and efficiently so you can get back to the things that actually add value. 

If you work for a company (and have a boss), document the time spent (or wasted) in the minutiae of your job.  After doing this for a few weeks, present your information to your boss.  Show them the proof that 80% of your day is being spent on 20% of your job requirements.  Have a plan to submit to your boss that would allow you to flip this equation so you can spend 80% of your time on the 20% that actually matters.  How could your boss argue with a plan that increases your productivity? 

If you work for yourself, here's a simple exercise to do.  Analyze the top 80% of your income.  Where is it coming from?  Pursue more work in this area.  Conversely, look at the lowest paying area of your job (bottom 20%) and get rid of it.  It's probably taking up 80% of your time and not worth it.  For an example in private practice, you may consider getting rid of your lowest paying insurance companies.  The cheaper reimbursement rates typically pays around $50-60 per session, but many times, the client doesn't even show up causing you to lose that money.  Also, it's been my experience that the extra phone calls, and "issues" come from the lowest paying clients.  Want to solve that problem and get rid of the stress?  Simple answer: no longer see those clients.  Let someone else deal with it.  You are now busy making more money and feeling less stress.