The Truth About Getting More Out Of Less

July 23, 2018

by Ravi Raman

What does it take to achieve more? For most of my life, I’ve lived with an underlying assumption that to produce more, I must do more. If I wish to make more money, I must work more. If I want to be better at a sport, I must practice more. If I want to improve the quality of my life, I must try more new things.

Turns out, I was wrong.

The confusing thing is that doing more of something does often produce more significant results. If I’m looking for a new job and speak with ten people I know, and learn about one new opportunity, I might get more opportunities by talking with another 10 or more people. If I lose a few pounds each month by walking 10,000 steps a day, I will probably increase my weight loss by walking 20,000 steps a day…for a while at least.

This fact, that effort tends to yield results – so more effort will lead to even more results – kept me from seeing an even more powerful way to get better results from less. We can take this notion further, and make a bolder claim – that doing less can yield even more results than doing more ever could.

Let me emphasize this again. You can not only achieve the same results with less effort, but you can also produce dramatically more than usual from less output. This seems to be the way the world works, not only in business but in all aspects of life – relationships, finances, health, careers and more.

It’s counter-intuitive but true. Nature agrees. Try micro-managing a potted plant and see how it dies right before your eyes. I’m speaking from experience! Little bits of a few key ingredients are all nature needs to thrive.

Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian polymath, did the groundbreaking research that led to what is now called, the Pareto Principle, and further popularized by the series of best-selling “80 / 20” books by Richard Koch – management consultant turned champion of the “getting more from less” movement.

The 80 / 20 principle states that 80% of the results are a function of 20% of the causes. Conversely, 20% of the results are a function of 80% of the causes. In other words, the highest value causes are 400% as effective as all the other stuff being done. This principle (or more extreme versions of it, like 90 / 10 or 99 /1) show up in almost every part of our world. A vast majority of outputs are a result of a few inputs.

If all you (or your team, your business, your family, etc.) did were focus on the 20% (or less) of high-value causes, you would have the lions share of the results with 80% (or more) of effort and time freed up. Further, if you decided to only “halve” the amount of time and effort spent in total, but focused on the high-value activities, you would more than double your results – with plenty of free time and energy to do other things….or just relax!

It gets even better – the free time and energy aren’t lost opportunities. We all know that creative thinking and problem-solving improve when we aren’t pushing our nose-to-the-grindstone. Insights are inevitable when you have more space and calm time in your days.

Where will those fresh insights and ideas lead you? It’s worth finding out.

1. Which areas of focus – your work, business or lifestyle – would you love to get more results from less effort?
2. For a specific area of focus in your life, what few causes are creating the majority of your results?
3. What are you willing to do less of, for the sake of allowing more space for high-value activities to flourish?

Further reading 📚

Who’s the star of your Hero’s Journey?

"A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that's unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push." ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein Justin Alexander Shetler lived the dream. For many years he crisscrossed the globe, documenting...

How to improve when you are out of time and short on energy

To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, subtract things every day. ​~ Lao Tzu If you are like my friends, colleagues and clients; you aspire for self-improvement but struggle to balance the demands of your life, work, and personal...

Berkshire 2022 Annual Meeting Notes

Some people get excited when an actor they like stars in a new feature film, standing in line on opening day with a bucket of popcorn. Or perhaps you stay up hitting refresh on your browser to snag tickets for your favorite band when they are coming to town. I am...

The role of free-play in a high-performance work culture

One of the interesting things about having a toddler is the sheer amount of unstructured play involved. Toddlers have rules, but they are absolutely not your rules. For example, the other week I had plans to set up an elaborate game involving a bushel of...

Your ducks are not in a row and that’s OK

The snow has finally melted here in Minnesota. More than that, the first fresh green shoots of new growth are visible, though you need to strain a bit to see them. The hostas in our backyard look bleak, a drooping pile of dead leaves, but deep green new growth is...

%d bloggers like this: