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Why Pundits Advocating the 80/20 Approach to Managing Tasks Couldn’t Be More Wrong


Why Pundits Advocating the 8020 Approach to Managing Tasks Couldn't Be More Wrong

Most time management pundits advocate using an 80/20 approach to managing tasks and time. Here is why – sometimes – they couldn’t be more wrong.

Earlier this week, I made a mistake. In my haste to get an e-mail out the door, I misspelled someone’s name. Have you ever done that? Come on – you know you have. Or maybe you haven’t misspelled it, but you called someone by the wrong name in a conversation. Or put Mr. instead of Mrs.

So I spent an hour carefully crafting a single e-mail to send out to a few people. Agonizing over which words to use, what particular messages I wanted to get across, what tone of voice would be most suitable.

And then I got one of their names wrong. Ouch. 

The whole incident reminded me of an important lesson – sometimes, it pays to strive for  perfection.  See, what happened was very telling. In spite of the fact that I had agonized over the content of this particular e-mail, and something like 97% of it was spot on, I failed to get the final 3% right. Which made the other 97% absolutely, totally irrelevant. A big waste of time.

So here are five reasons why – sometimes – you really, really need to go the extra mile.

It lets you stand out from the “me too” crowd.

I am sure you heard the joke about the two guys and the bear. In case you haven’t, here it is: two guys are walking in the woods and spot a bear. One guy starts running, the other one stops to put on running shoes. Guy one yells “What are you doing ? You can’t outrun a bear ?” Guy two answers “I don’t have to. I just have to outrun you”.

Moral of the story ? You don’t have to be perfect either, you just have to be a little better than everyone else. By getting even a slight advantage over others, you will stand out in ways you never imagined.

It valorizes all your hard work.

As I illustrated in my example, failure to get a crucial part of your message (or project, paper, proposal) right can mean everything else has been in vain. Meaning all that time/money/energy you invested just went to waste.

Think of it like leverage in options trading – a small investment properly leveraged can yield HUGE positive returns.

It gives you a sense of satisfaction/completion.

Let’s face it, most of us really want to do a good job. We want to be known for delivering quality work – even if no one is watching.

Steve Jobs once said “When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

Going the extra mile and getting that last bit just right is the equivalent to using a nice piece of wood on the back of the cupboard. Not only does it let you sleep well at night, but somehow, somewhere, someone down the line will notice.

It actually delivers results.

You don’t get paid for working hard or putting in a lot of time or effort. The industrial revolution is over, and nobody gets paid for their time anymore. You get paid for delivering results. Focusing on getting the last 5% absolutely right dramatically increases your chances (by perhaps as much as 30% or more) of accomplishing what you set out to do.

It accumulates over time.

I love compounding. Making sure you go the extra mile where it matters means you’ll quickly end up compounding results – whether it means making extra sales or getting promoted.

People tend to notice others who go the extra mile. Because they are so unique. Because it happens so rarely. And when opportunity comes knocking, who do you think will be first in line ?

Sometimes, we are amazed at what we can do. All it takes is just a little extra.

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