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20% effort, 80% results

20% of the effort for 80% of the results is where it’s at when it comes to making a long-term sustainable lifestyle.

I’m not talking about being “good” 80% of the time and doing “whatever” 20% of the time. That’s the incorrect application of the Pareto Principle. Instead, I want you to look at the 20% of your lifestyle that delivers 80% of the results. Harness this “law of the vital few” and life becomes so much easier!

People are very quick to narrow their focus on minuscule details, crafting elaborate theories about how x-food will affect their body like this, and how y-exercise will affect their body like that. In the grand scheme of things that little teaspoon of honey in your tea once a day, or that extra second hold on a biceps curl means very little if your absolute basics aren’t being covered consistently.

When you overcomplicate things it becomes too easy to downplay failures or find an excuse for a lack of results. The problem is it doesn’t allow you to learn and progress.

Some examples of common mistakes include:

  • Training to run marathons when you can’t even stand up straight for a decent period of time without needing to sit down or slouch.
  • Trying to diet down to sub-10% body fat when you still suffer from severe gastrointestinal distress, blatant micronutrient deficiency, or have unhealthy psychological relationships with food.
  • Unable to sleep because your mind is constantly racing and restless at night, but then each day you look for new problems in life to solve or ways to make an excessive amount of money, rather than slowing down and dealing with current issues.
  • Even spending hours and hours, day and night, burning yourself out on a single college essay or work project in order to do it perfectly, thinking it will make up for the lack of studying or effort that you have put into your other tasks that actually count.

There is a saying: “Can’t see the forest for the trees“, meaning sometimes we can’t see the whole situation clearly because we are looking too closely at the small details. Think about looking through binoculars or a microscope, or even just through the lens on your camera. Sure you can see great detail in that which you are looking at, but it’s tiring and you can’t keep it up all day without missing so much else. And yet we often find ourselves doing just that when it comes to making healthy decisions…

Take a step back, breath, and assess the situation. I’m not going to tell you to stop running marathons or trying to make a livelihood, but just be smart about it. Consider that perhaps an overall trend of long-term consistency in your approach is more effective than a short-term perfect score.

The best thing to do is to have a plan that you can follow which covers all the basics. It doesn’t have to be the best plan in the world, but it needs to be developed logically so that it can keep you grounded. Naturally we do find ourselves specializing in what we do to some degree, because we can’t be good at everything, but a plan will still be something that you can keep coming back to whenever you stray a little too far off-path.

The 80/20 approach can also work for cutting out the crap from your life .

If one tiny aspect of your strategy is causing you an abnormal amount of stress and unrest, or drastically increasing your chance to see yourself as a “failure” and “fall of the wagon” then it’s doing you more harm than good. This is especially true for those who see themselves as perfectionists and want to keep restarting or give up as soon as the smallest thing goes wrong.

Even someone like Mark Sisson (Mark’s Daily Apple Blog and author of The Primal Blueprint), who is a huge advocate of clean eating, doing the extraordinary, and going the extra mile has a teaspoon of sugar in his coffee every once in a while! Why? Because it’s no big deal for him. He has found other more effective and less stressful ways to contribute towards a healthy lifestyle than laying awake at night worrying about that 5 grams of morning pleasure, debating whether he should get up and do some burpees to try burn it off.

Get creative.

You can apply this concept to so many aspects of your life:

  • Build your workouts around the 20% of exercises that give you 80% of the results (deadlifts, squats, bench press, overhead press, pullups, sprints, etc).
  • Give special consideration to the 20% of your clients that contribute to 80% of your success and profits (maybe an exception in policy can be made for that loyal long-term client).
  • Prioritize the 20% of life experiences that provide you with 80% of your overall enjoyment and fun (do less of what you don’t need or want to do).
  • Show extra appreciation to the 20% of your friends and family who provide you with 80% of your support and happiness (never take them for granted).

Things don’t need to be complicated or exhausting to stick to.

Always keep an eye out for what takes only 20% effort to deliver 80% of the results.

Eat, move, sleep, breath, think, and have lots of fun.

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