Prioritise your to-do lists using Pareto principle to start the day with more impact

long to-do list

I am a huge fan of the Pareto Principle, famously known as the 80–20 rule.

The beauty of the 80–20 rule is that it has been applied to a multitude of aspects in business and in personal life.

For ex, you might have heard and/experienced that,

  • 80% of sales come from 20% customers.
  • 80% of global pollution originates from 20% factories.
  • 80% of online product sales come from 20% products.
  • 80% of web traffic comes from 20% keywords.
  • ….

Simply put, the 80/20 rule is ‘the law of the vital few’. It’s a hierarchy of importance — where a few products, tasks, efforts, projects or investments are worth more than the rest.

If we closely observe, we could notice this as our day unfolds. Some tasks take up less time but cause more impact than certain others that are more time consuming.

Depending on whether your to-do list comprises of tasks related to your short or long term goals, results are experienced in shorter or longer time periods.

Here is how to do this:

  1. List a set of tasks that are impactful in the same short term. Tasks T1 through T5
  2. Make a table and record time that you expect it needs in terms of minutes or hours
  3. Record the impact each task is expected to make, on a relative scale of 1 to 5

4. Create a Scatter Chart out of the table

Scatter plot, Time x Impact

Visually inspecting the above chart, we are able to come to a conclusion that tasks T5 and T4, would be the ones to start with given the impact per hour spent.

We could replace the scale of impact with a number of other task criteria like:

  1. Energy Scale (energy giver vs energy taker)
  2. Depth of Work (deep work vs shallow work)

Elaborating on criteria 1, while planning a vacation could be an energy booster or giver for someone, spending time sorting laundry could be an energy taker. In this case we use a scale ranging from a -2 to +2. And this framework helps to prioritise and start wisely with the energy givers so that you start off with a good energy score to get through your list by the end of the day.

Criteria 2 differentiates between whether a task comprises of responding to emails, setting up a meeting, making a phone call, making an online order which are considered shallow work vs if it needs creative brain time like making a presentation, writing an article, planning a project which are best achieved in a state of flow and hence categorised as deep work.

In product management, it could be used to prioritise product improvements and new features applying any different criteria important for the team at any point.

The possibilities are in fact endless….

Writes about techniques and strategies for improvement of productivity and growth at Personal, Professional and Organizational levels

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Writes about techniques and strategies for improvement of productivity and growth at Personal, Professional and Organizational levels

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