whole-life leadership

The Pareto Principle

IMG_6210.jpg

I ordered my green smoothie, minus the chia seeds.

“Just so you know,” he said, “after Friday we’ll no longer be serving smoothies. They generate the smallest amount of our revenue and cause all of our headaches.”

“Have you heard of the Pareto Principle?”

“Yes, I love the Pareto Principle!”

We proceeded to geek out on the Pareto Principle for the next 10 or so minutes, after which I walked out with one of the last remaining green smoothies on the menu.

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. It is credited to Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto, who was born in Italy in 1848. In his case, he noticed that 80% of his pea plants generated 80% of the healthy pea pods, and then went on to discover that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

In the case of the restaurant I visited, 80% of their stress, irritation, and time investment tied back to 20% of their menu items (in this case, smoothies and smoothie bowls). And this 80% stress, irritation, and time investment produced under 20% of their revenue.

We can apply this same principle to nearly any type of business, to how we structure our work day, to the way we prioritize our work, and even how we approach our health and fitness.

Like Essentialism, this is one of those things that (for me) feels like common sense, yet takes constant attention and intentionality to apply in everyday life.

Here are a few ways that I like to practice the Pareto Principle.

  • Looking across all the projects I’m currently involved with, which fall in the 20% that create 80% of the positive impact and also feel the most joyful?

  • On the flip side, which projects fall in the 20% that create 80% of the stress and headaches?

  • Looking at the flow of my workday, where can I invest 20% of my time and effort for 80% of the returns? (For me, when doing independent work, the answer always falls in the early hours of the morning.)

  • Looking across my life at the things that aren’t working as well as they could be, where are the 20% of small irritations that are causing 80% of the lack of daily ease? (often, for me, this ties back to some sort of misalignment with my calendar.)

  • Which 20% of clothing items do I wear 80% of the time? (I’ve been working on continuously donating that other 80%, as for me there is a very clear 20%. I tend to wear the exact same few outfits on rotation.)

  • In which 20% of our house do we spend 80% of our time, and how can we maximize that 20% for the way we live?

  • Looking at my list of monthly, weekly, and daily to-dos, which 20% will yield 80% of the results?

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule, can help us to focus our time and energy on the things that yield the highest results.

Do you use the Pareto Principle? If so, in what ways has it been helpful for you?

Leaders: If You're Focusing Only on Loyalty, You Might Be Focusing on the Wrong Thing

 

I was recently at a conference, sharing “session nuggets” with the women at my lunch table. One of the women was telling me about the session she attended - which was about focusing on loyalty versus strictly on metrics.

Not focusing only on metrics - of course. No matter which leadership philosophies we follow, focusing only on numbers without any focus on people is a thing of the (almost distant) past.

But replacing it with a strict focus on loyalty? This also misses the mark.

The definition of loyalty is “faithful adherence to a sovereign, government, leader, cause, etc.”

The problem with this as a leadership philosophy is that it’s about you - the leader. It’s not about your team or your vision or the people you’re trying to serve. It’s not about making sure that your ship is pointed in the right direction. It’s about making sure people like the captain...regardless of where he or she is headed.

For these reasons, if your leadership philosophy is strictly about creating loyalty to you, the leader, it’s short sighted.

And eventually it will fail.

Looking back throughout history, some of of our most devastating moments have been the result of loyalty: loyalty to leaders with wildly misaligned visions. In our current political environment, we see plenty of candidates gaining loyalty. But we must ask, “are they truly demonstrating leadership?”

In the workplace, people want to feel connected to the mission and purpose behind what they’re doing. They want to be part of something greater than themselves. They want to grow and develop and feel as though they are using their strengths each day in their jobs.

By creating companies and cultures that focus on these things, we create loyalty.

Tweet: Loyalty might be the outcome, but it should not be the primary focus.

Loyalty might be the outcome, but it should not be the primary focus.

Because at the end of the day, it’s not about us, the leaders - it’s about the work we do, it’s about why we do it, and it’s about the people we serve.

The 5 Essentials of a Great Morning Routine (or, how to have an awesome morning, every morning)

 

If you’ve been following along for awhile, you know that I’m a big fan of morning routines. I find that starting the morning in an intentional, reflective, and mindful way leads to a better day - with almost 100% correlation. Similarly, I find that skipping my morning routine leads to more chaos, more running around, and a less productive, less easeful day - again, with almost 100% correlation.

Lots of people have written about morning routines. Hal Elrod talks about the 6-Minute Miracle Morning. Alex and Mimi Ikonn have this so-cute-it-might-make-you-throw-up version on YouTube, and it’s one of their most-viewed videos of all time. I recently found this website - which brings us a new morning routine every Wednesday. And, many of us have heard about incredibly successful and famous people who swear by their morning routines.

Different people swear by different types of morning routines. Based on personal experience, client feedback, and research, I’ve found that these are the essential elements of a great morning routine.

Creation over Intake.

This might mean drawing, writing, journaling, or planning for the day. The most important thing is that the first part of the day is free of intake - meaning no emails, no Facebook, no Twitter, and I even say, no news (online or otherwise) first thing. This allows us time to connect with ourselves, our thoughts, and our deepest desires - rather than starting the day with requests, updates, and information coming at us from various directions. For me, this involves journaling and writing. For one of my clients, her new morning routine was as simple as “not checking email on my phone until after I get ready” and picking out her outfits the night before. While these things sound small, they were large shifts for her (she was used to checking email on her phone while still in bed each morning and a very chaotic morning, every morning), and they were transformational in reducing the chaos and putting her back in the driver’s seat for the start of her day.

Reflection.

Reflection can look however you want it to. For some people, this means meditating for 10 minutes each day. For others, it means a peaceful walk around the neighborhood before others are awake.  For one of my friends, it’s quietly sipping a cup of coffee. For me, it’s quiet sitting, journaling, and writing. The important thing is that you have at least a few minutes to be alone with your thoughts, before the chaos of the day takes over. We spend a lot of time throughout each day getting in touch with other people’s thoughts and requests - the morning provides a chance to connect with our own.

Solitude (at least for part of it).

Some of us are lucky enough to share parts of our morning routine with another person. When we’re organized enough, Jake and I like to share our Five Minute Journal entries with each other. Several friends of mine have morning workout buddies. And, well, you saw Alex and Mimi. Sharing parts of your morning routine with another person can be a great way to make it enjoyable and to hold yourself accountable. And, I strongly recommend that at least part of your morning is spent alone - even if for just a couple minutes. Most of us spend a lot of time each day on the phone, in conversation, and surrounded by others. Thoreau said, “I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” While we may not agree entirely with Thoreau, we start to uncover the magic within us by slowing down, tuning in, and listening.

Movement.

This doesn’t mean you have to run 6 miles or do an hour-long yoga class each morning. It can, however, be helpful to get your body moving and your blood flowing first thing in the morning, even just for a few minutes. This can be as simple as some gentle stretching, a bit of breathing, or perhaps a walk around the block. It can also be fun; a couple years ago, my friend Vicky took early morning daily walks to the lake near her house, and snapped a photo each day. Through her morning walks we were able to view the freezing lake, the falling snow, the spring thaw, and the different colors emerging. I’m a firm believer that movement of any kind should be fun - so find something that works for you and that you find enjoyable.

Simplicity.

This is, I’ll argue, perhaps the most important component of a great morning routine. It must be simple and easy to do first thing in the morning, every morning. I highly recommend that it’s also portable, so that your morning routine can go with you wherever you are. When I’m traveling, my morning routine helps to ground me even during the busiest weeks onsite with clients. I also enjoy the challenge of making time for my morning routine during jam-packed days - this might mean waking up extra early or taking my morning routine “supplies” with me while grabbing breakfast. Inspired by my friend Lisa’s blog post, I recently created a morning “basket” to house all my favorite items for the start of the day. In addition to keeping things organized, this basket brings me joy, because it contains some of the things I love most for the beginning and end of the day.

This is my list of essentials for a great morning (and therefore a more productive and easeful day), formulated based on personal experience, feedback from my clients, and ongoing research on this topic that I love dearly.

I’d love to hear your thoughts - what is your favorite way to start your day?

Key Questions to Ask in the New Year

 

Each year, between December 1st and February 1st, I spend a good chunk of hours with giant post-its, markers, planners, notebooks, and pens. Tools in hand, I reflect on the previous year, vision and plan for the year ahead, and attempt to increase my odds of achieving the things that are most important by getting really clear on what they are, what they look like, and how to get there.

Here are the key questions I'm asking and answering as we begin 2016. 


Reflecting: Looking Back

What am I most grateful for in 2015?

What worked well? What do I want to continue?

What was the single biggest game changer of 2015?

What didn't work? What do I want to let go of?

Visioning: Looking Ahead

How do I want to feel in 2016?

What's possible in the year ahead?

Action: Making It Real

What's the single most important thing I can do to turn these possibilities into realities?

What other specific actions do I want to take in the year ahead to feel the way I want to feel, and create the things I want to create?

What is one thing I can do this month?


What do you think? Any favorites of yours that are missing from the list? 

Wishing you a joyful and powerful start to the new year.