Bullet 26

The #1 Strategy for Exploding
Your Productivity This Year

Dear Marketing Top Gun:Do you often feel that there is not enough time in the day?

Does your ever-growing list of things to dofires to put out, crises to manage, people to help, chores to do, commitments to honor, and deadlines to meetleave you feeling like a bone-weary fox, panting for breath but forced to keep fleeing from a relentless pack of baying hounds?

Do you wish you could crawl through a hollow log and escape into a serene new dimension where the mongrels of hot pursuit can’t follow, a world of calm, relaxed, unhurried, and massively increased productivity that makes you so much happier?

Would you love someone to write you a gift certificate worth at least two hours of extra free time every dayat least an extra 14 new hours a week of heavenly “white space” in your scheduleto spend on whatever makes you more successful and fulfilled?

If your answer is yes to any of these questions, I urge you to start applying, every day of your life, the simple yet astonishingly powerful strategy I describe here.

The Greatest Secret of Higher Productivity

I refer to the Pareto Principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule, or the law of the vital few and the trivial many. If you apply it to your daily schedule as I will show, you will free up hundreds of extra hours this year, generally about two hours per day, but many more if you apply it to everything.

You will not only be much more productive, but also earn a lot more money and be much happier because you’ll have much more time to devote to what really matters in your life, what truly produces the biggest results, both personally and professionally.

Top Gun, this is one of the most important secrets you will ever read, a rare Silver Bullet that I hope you will heed.

A Momentous Discovery
for Achieving Higher Productivity

When you look back a year from today and relish your enormous gains in productivity, whisper a prayer of gratitude to the obscure Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who lived from 1848 to 1923.

Although he is long gone, Pareto’s greatest discovery is just now being fully understood. Let me tell you about what he discovered and how you can apply it to leverage your productivity, income, and success to the max.

Today we hear politicians denounce how the rich are getting richer at the expense of everyone else. As liberal comedian Bill Maher recently put it on The Tonight Show, “The problem in America is that rich people are holding on to too much of the money!”

He is not alone in believing this. Legions of people decry that our economic system in America must be broken because too few people have gotten rich while the vast majority makes little or no economic progress.

They have not read Pareto. If they had, they’d know that regardless of the party in power or current tax policy, regardless of whatever country we call home, regardless even of whether our government is capitalist or socialist, this lopsided inequality in wealth has always been and almost certainly will always be.

Pareto studied the economies of many different nations in many different periods in history, and under many different types of governments.

To his amazement, he found a universal principle. In every economy, in every country, in every time period, somehowremarkably!the result was the same: About 20 percent of the people invariably control about 80 percent of the wealth.

Detecting this inexplicably universal pattern would have been momentous enough, but when Pareto and later economists dug even deeper, they found a much larger, utterly staggering universalitythat in virtually all human activities, a small percentage of factors (the “vital few”) controls the vast majority of results.

For example, if you were to chart your every waking moment, you would soon discover, similar to Pareto’s observations, that…

  • You wear the same 20 percent of your wardrobe 80 percent of the time.
  • You think the same 20 percent of your thoughts 80 percent of your waking moments.
  • You eat the same 20 percent of your favorite foods at 80 percent of your meals…and so on.
  • This mysterious law applies to all of us and is the factor behind such remarkably consistent phenomena as these:
  • Just 20 percent of the salespeople generate 80 percent of the sales.
  • Just 20 percent of the authors sell 80 percent of the books.
  • Just 20 percent of the criminals commit 80 percent of the crime.
  • Just 20 percent of the movies make 80 percent of the money.
  • Just 20 percent of the music groups sell out 80 percent of the concert seats.
  • Just 20 percent of your customers generate 80 percent of your revenue.
  • Just 20 percent of your products produce 80 percent of your profits…and so on.
  • By the same token…

Just 20 Percent of Your Daily Activities
Are Responsible for 80 Percent of Your Success,
Income, and Personal Happiness

Now before we go on, please understand that it doesn’t always work out to be exactly 80/20. Sometimes the pattern is 90/10, sometimes 70/30. Sometimes it’s even 99/1, where just 1 percent of the factors will give you 99 percent of the benefits. And the identifiable factors don’t always add up to a neat 100 percent.

But all that doesn’t matter.

What is all-important is the underlying principlethat in virtually every field of human activity, this pattern of lopsided results, triggered by just a few critically influential factors, rules with an iron fist.

And the opportunity this presents is enormous in whatever activity you happen to engage in. If you master the “vital few” factors, you can generally reap 80 percent of the gains and far outproducein much less time—almost everyone else who is busy squandering their attention on the irrelevant 80 percent!

I have been using this principle to great advantage in my own productivity and personal happiness for many years. But my understanding of its universality achieved an enormous boost from the work of the brilliant consultant and investor Richard Koch, who gives the best explanation of Pareto’s work I have ever found.

Here is how Koch describes the Pareto Principle in his book, The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less:

“The 80/20 Principle asserts that a minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually leads to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards. Taken literally, this means that, for example, 80 percent of what you achieve in your job comes from 20 percent of the time spent. Thus for all practical purposes, four-fifths of the effort ― a dominant part of it ― is largely irrelevant.”

I Begged Them, “Please Let Me Write!”

Let’s see how to apply this amazing secret in your own life for gigantic gains in productivity and success. I’ll give you an example from my own life.

If you’re already successful at something, you know what it is. For my entire professional life, it has always been copywriting. It’s what I love to do and what has been responsible for my biggest rewards, both mental and monetary.

It took me a while to realize the importance of this.

When you work as a professional copywriter in an ad agency, believe it or not, it can be hard to find time to write! There are so many meetings, strategy sessions, conference calls, new client presentations, plus all the usual office distractions. If you work in close quarters, as I did at first, the ringing phones and incessant chatter of fellow workers can make it near impossible to concentrate. To my dismay, I would often find my only time to write after hours.

Then I realized, “No one ever praises me or gives me a raise for all the time I’m spending in pointless meetings, rambling conference calls, long lunches with colleagues, or water cooler conversations.

“The only glory I get is when it’s announced that a client loves my ad or that the ad proves to be a winner. Yet I am finding it ridiculously hard to get the time I need to write! This is insane!”

That was my first inkling of what I later learned to be the Pareto Principle. Just one of my numerous daily activities (copywriting) was responsible for virtually 100 percent of my rewards. Yet here I was giving that one all-important activity only 10 to 20 percent of my time! All the other tasks—the meetings, the socializing, the long department lunches—were a waste of precious time!

After I realized this, I became a fanatic about preserving and expanding my writing time.

I begged off meetings, citing looming deadlines.

I asked for a quiet office on another floor where nobody knew me or engaged me in conversation.

When I was summoned to come up for air and meet with others, I avoided all forms of water-cooler socializing and fled when co-workers gossiped about office politics.

If they didn’t directly involve me, I gave office memos short shrift.

I skipped lunches and after-hours carousing with colleagues.

I cajoled my way out of wheel-spinning assignments on minor accounts.

I resigned from office charity drives.

I sidestepped go-nowhere “team projects” where I wouldn’t be recognized as the star no matter how much I contributed.

I pleaded not to have to train new people, a truly thankless job where I worked. If the trainees were any good, they’d get the credit. If they needed many months of training, it would be my drudgery to provide it. And no matter what, in six months the only important question on the minds of the agency’s top brass would always be, “What winners has Gary written for us lately?”

Pushing the envelope further, I closed my door and hung a “Please Do Not Disturb” sign on the doorknob, as if I were living in a hotel. If I was about to leave my hermit’s cave but heard voices approaching in the hall, I’d hide in my office like a fugitive until the danger passed.

I did these and a dozen other things to free up more time to write.

At first I was regarded as a rather antisocial eccentric, a copywriting recluse. But that’s OK. In ad agencies, “creatives” are allowed much leeway. You could arrive at the office each day wearing nothing but a barrel and suspenders and sing opera at the top of your lungs on the elevator, but if you produced winning ads, you’d be tolerated; kept far away from clients, but tolerated. I also came to realize that in eccentricity lies great power to break with useless social convention, and this can be a priceless asset!

Can You Guess What Happened?

Within a few months, I came from out of nowhere to be the golden boy of the copy department because I was cranking out so many ads that our clients loved. A fair number of my ads started winning in the marketplace, and I was a made man.

In the next few years, applying this same principle won me promotion after promotion which, ironically, wound up giving me lots more employees to train, severely cutting my writing time once again.

Eventually I came to realize that there was no escaping this cycle of being promoted out of what I did best, copywriting. I saw that I could achieve much more—have a lot more writing time and be paid a lot more money for it—by going out on my own. So I went freelance, eventually negotiated royalty agreements, and then in short order became financially independent. All from recognizing—and then giving maximum time to—what generates my biggest rewards!

I urge you to harness the same 80/20 strategy. Know what you do best, what will produce your highest financial and psychic rewards, then do what you must to get more time to do it! Find the 20 percent of your life that yields 80 percent of your results and happiness, and then pour into that 20 percent the most time you can! You’ll be so much happier and more productive! And you can do this on the personal side of your life as well as in your career.

3 Breakthrough Insights

Here’s how Richard Koch puts it in another of his books, 16x—Real Simple Innovation for 16 Times Better Results:

“If you think about this, you’ll discover three breakthrough insights for how to run your life or organization:

  1. Knowing the best uses of your energy is much more important than trying harder or working longer. To get 16 times better results, you don’t have to do anything essentially different from what you’re already doing at the moment. You just have to do more of what you’re already doing that works fantastically well.
  2. Most of what you do is a waste of time. Compared to the few things that work fantastically well, it’s dust in the scales. You might as well stop most of what you do!
  3. You can put less energy in, yet get far better results, if you just concentrate on the things that produce fantastic results.”

Your “Not-To-Do” List Is Even
More Important Than Your “To Do” List!

Just as I did, you can safely and immediately start changing your life—and gain a calendar-full of new time—by dropping, delegating, and by any means necessary avoiding the 80 percent of the pesky, time-consuming tasks that, when you analyze their impact, are virtually irrelevant to your long-term success.

Delightfully, you will suffer no loss to your effectiveness!

It’s just the opposite. As you will discover, less is more! When you drop or delegate anything outside your critical 20 percent of super-productive activities, people, clients, products, etc., you can then transfer much more time and resources into your core 20 percent and trigger an explosion in your productivity and profitability. (It has always amazed me how often clients will pour so much of their time, effort, worry, and money into saving a drowning product, while letting their biggest money-makers go unattended for long stretches!)

“Lack of time is actually a lack of priorities”
Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss is the author of a wonderful bestseller called, “The 4-Hour Workweek.” It’s become a fast favorite of entrepreneurs everywhere.

As with Koch and me, Ferriss says the discovery of the Pareto Principle changed his life forever, freeing up vast portions of his time for whatever he loves to do. Says Ferriss,

“Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing, and is far more unpleasant. Being selective—doing less—is the path of the productive. Focus on the important few and ignore the rest…
“It’s easy to get caught in a flood of minutiae, and the key to not feeling rushed is remembering that lack of time is actually lack of priorities.”

How to Radically Reset Your Priorities
By Harnessing the Pareto Principle
My 22 Favorite Tips to Multiply Your Productivity

Now that you understand the main principle, what are the best ways to apply this #1 productivity-boosting secret in your life?

This Bullet is already running long, and I promised to keep them reasonably short. So I have summarized my 22 favorite recommendations from Koch, Ferriss, myself, and a host of other Pareto disciples and will present these, free of charge as always, in your next Bullet.

I feel great about this upcoming Bullet because it shows you exactly how to add lots of pesky, time-consuming tasks to your all-important “Not-To-Do” list and free up small oceans of time for whatever you want.

For example, you’ll discover the most important question to ask of every activity you face each day…how you can shed scores of time-consuming tasks without hurting anyone’s feelings…how to easily make “no” your default answer when asked to do things you’d rather not…how to get rid of most of the biggest headaches in your life by hitting the “delete” button on the 20 percent of your employees, customers, products, and countless other annoyances and time-wasters that cause 80 percent of your grief.

You’ll also read about the new scientific research proving that multitasking is fool’s goldit actually makes you dumber and less productive! Worst of all, it cheats you out of one of life’s greatest pleasuresthe ultimate luxury of focusing on just one thing at a time, a source of sublime bliss and much higher productivity. As Confucius said, “Man who chases two rabbits catches neither.” I’ll show you the best way to accomplish the habit of single-minded focus.

And you’ll read about the widespread “FLIT” virus that has already leaped from your computer’s brain into yours, altering your brain’s behavior and devastating your daily productivity.

Finally, to whittle your email and information overload way down to a size you’ll love, you’ll see why you must start downgrading information but upgrading wisdom.

Indeed, wisdom is perhaps the greatest time saver of all, as just a few pearls, held dear and applied daily, will save you from countless misadventures, poor time investments, misguided partnerships, unproductive affiliations, and most devastating of all, campaigns and products that bomb and waste many months of effort.

This is why these Bullets always focus on timeless wisdom of those few proven factors that invariably work best to boost your response and success in copywriting and marketingthe core 20 percent of critical factors that catapult your success in marketing and life.

So stay tuned for my 22 favorite tips to trigger huge gains in your productivity and success.

Sincere wishes for a good life
and (always!) higher response,


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