Where 80% is good enough

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”, said Stephen Covey. While this sounds obvious, it is quite hard to practice.

Time is our most precious, non-renewable resource. We need time to pursue the main things in our lives. The Pareto principle or the 80:20 rule can lend us a helping hand. It states how 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes. Stated another way, 80% of our outcomes result from 20% of our actions. The big question, then, is where is an 80% outcome enough?

We could cook a quick, healthy dinner and save that 6 course meal for special occasions. We probably do not need that 6th pair of jeans we plan on buying this weekend. While it’s great to be able to exercise for an hour everyday, you could get 80% of the benefits with a 20 min cardio workout. Those appendix slides with the terms and conditions probably do not need immaculate design.

We talk about Steve Jobs habit of dressing in black polo necks and jeans everyday. Jobs realized that this getup was good enough – he could focus on more important decisions than what to wear each day. But we would not be discussing Jobs’s dressing habits if not for Apple. Jobs didn’t lose sight of the main thing.

When the main thing is clear, it is also clear where 80% is good enough.

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