Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: The Pareto Principle

Okay, time managers, I have another wonky time bit for you, another one of those activities the more productive among us supposedly practice. It's known as the Pareto Principle. I love it when a skill or activity has a name. I also love it when a named skill or activity can be explained in a nutshell.

In a nutshell, the Pareto Principle states that 80 percent of  workers' results come from 20 percent of their effort. We just have to determine what that 20 percent is and concentrate on that. "...the numbers here aren’t that important," according to The Top 4 Misapplications of the 80/20 Rule at Life Hack . "The actual applications are less mathematical. When you have a limited amount of time, you won’t be able to perform every task possible. The 80/20 Rule suggests you look through all the tasks you normally could perform. Pick the top 20% that create the most results and focus on them."

So what you're doing is using results to determine how you're going to manage your time.

Can Writers Apply The Pareto Principle To Their Work?


I'm not sure. Consider the following:

  • Experience.  In order to be able to "look through all the tasks you normally could perform," you have to have completed tasks. You have to be an experienced writer. I don't see how this can be helpful to someone just starting out.
  • Freelance Writers. It may be easier for freelance writers who do work for hire to use the Pareto Principle. They can determine what kinds of work/clients provide most of their income and focus on them.
  • Marketing. Because return on investment is a factor in marketing, it might seem that it would be fairly simple for writers to apply the Pareto Principle to it. However, the marketing plan for a book rarely involves just one or two elements. It's difficult to tell whether sales were impacted by a blog tour, a store tour, a book trailer, a dedicated website, a mailing to bookstores or anything else you can think of doing. Unless something extreme happens--something going viral (in a good way) or an interview on the Today Show--followed by an immediate spike in sales, writers are rarely going to know what they did that made the difference. Marketing may not be the best place to use the Pareto Principle, after all.
  • Where Are The Sales? On the other hand, if you're an experienced writer with a number of books out, especially if they're different types of books, you can probably tell what kind of writing is getting the best result and focus your attention there. For instance, perhaps you should continue to concentrate on your relatively popular series for younger readers because no one seems to have noticed that you published a YA zombie problem novel. Pareto Principle may help here.
  • Social Media Marketing. As with marketing, in general, it's difficult to tell if a particular social media is having any impact on sales. You can tell, though, if you're getting much engagement with readers at various platforms. For instance, a couple of years ago I took down my Facebook professional page (profile or whatever they were calling it at the time), because I could tell the number of people seeing my posts was often in the single digits. I beefed up my presence on Goodreads, where I get a little more attention, and started on Twitter, both of which I at least enjoy. While I also enjoy creating Pinterest boards, I'm already limiting the amount of time I spend on them, due to the lack of activity there. Keeping the Pareto Principle in mind here could be helpful.
  • Generating New Work. By which I mean, actually writing. I don't know how we can use the Pareto Principle on this one. Maybe something will come to me in the coming months.

So the answer to my question Can Writers Apply The Pareto Principle To Their Work? may be Yes and No. Perhaps you will hear from me again some day on this subject.

Oh, and any readers who use the Pareto Principle are welcome to comment and let us know how it's working for them.

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