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MTF

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I started a blog where I post my brief (300 words or less) thoughts on the 80/20 principle in various aspects of life:


Hope it's fine to post it here. There's nothing to sell. It's just a side project to improve my writing craft and pretend I know what I'm talking about.

Took a page from @Andy Black's book and just decided to do it, hoping it will interest and help people.
 
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It's been on my mind recently all the time:


View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sD0IzQhxH_0
 
D

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It's been on my mind recently all the time:


View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sD0IzQhxH_0
That's an interesting perspective. One of the things he leaves out, though, is that in order to be knowledgeable enough to make the high-leverage decisions, you have to work just as hard. The work just looks different, i.e. self-education vs. execution.
 
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MTF

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That's an interesting perspective. One of the things he leaves out, though, is that in order to be knowledgeable enough to make the high-leverage decisions, you have to work just as hard. The work just looks different, i.e. self-education vs. execution.

That's covered here:

Particularly this part:

Nobody really works 80 hours a week

This is where the mythology gets a little crazy. People who say they work 80-hour weeks, or even 120-hour weeks, often are just status signaling. It’s showing off. Nobody really works 80 to 120 hours a week at high output, with mental clarity. Your brain breaks down. You won’t have good ideas.

The way people tend to work most effectively, especially in knowledge work, is to sprint as hard as they can while they feel inspired to work, and then rest. They take long breaks.

It’s more like a lion hunting and less like a marathoner running. You sprint and then you rest. You reassess and then you try again. You end up building a marathon of sprints.
 

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Finding the 80/20 is so essential.

I used to spend all day online to hit my growth targets, and it was depressing.

I have now figured out the best times to post to get the most engagement and follows on social media.

Now I spend 3 hours a day on social media, and my growth is only slightly down.

Just freed up 5 hours of time!
 

Andy Black

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The way people tend to work most effectively, especially in knowledge work, is to sprint as hard as they can while they feel inspired to work, and then rest. They take long breaks.

It’s more like a lion hunting and less like a marathoner running. You sprint and then you rest. You reassess and then you try again. You end up building a marathon of sprints.

Yep. I’ve even got a post for that!
 
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100%. If you're always listening to “informative” podcasts then you can't hear yourself think. Often the answer is already within you.

I've started going on hour-long morning bike rides over the past 6 months, around 3-4 days a week. I'm guilty of sticking in the earbuds before setting off and consuming more podcasts, only to forget everything I heard later in the day. Recently, I've found myself occasionally taking out the earbuds just to be in the moment, and I've had more insight and clarity coming to me in those moments.

We live in an age of unlimited media, books, gurus, etc. IMO, it is better to pick just 1% and implement that fully, rather than gathering "knowledge" from anywhere while implementing nothing.

So here's a question: How do we balance between thinking, overthinking, and doing? In some ways, the 80/20 principle is on the other end of the spectrum of the "take massive action" refrain which is often espoused for entrepreneurial ventures.

I've got one project that's promising and interesting, but it's in the beginning stages, and requires a lot of hours to test, iterate, sell, get feedback, etc. How else would you bring something to market without actually putting in the hours?

I can understand that once things are up and running, you can optimize, subtract, simplify, through thinking and slow work, but wouldn't the guy taking 80 hours of action beat the guy that's thinking for 60 hours on any new venture? Even if the action person wastes the majority of that time, he will more likely stumble upon success by brute force.

I agree it's not sustainable to do that long term, but what is everyone's opinion on for the beginning stages of a venture?
 

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I've got one project that's promising and interesting, but it's in the beginning stages, and requires a lot of hours to test, iterate, sell, get feedback, etc. How else would you bring something to market without actually putting in the hours?
Does this not beg the question:
  1. How early can you get feedback?
  2. How would you bring it to market without actually putting in the hours?
 

MTF

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So here's a question: How do we balance between thinking, overthinking, and doing? In some ways, the 80/20 principle is on the other end of the spectrum of the "take massive action" refrain which is often espoused for entrepreneurial ventures.

Imagine it like this. For simplicity, let's take 10 tasks:

A - makes you $3/hour
B - makes you $3/hour
C - makes you $7/hour
D - makes you $10/hour
E - makes you $12/hour
F - makes you $15/hour
G -makes you $20/hour
H -makes you $25/hour
I - makes you $100/hour
J -makes you $300/hour

Non 80/20 "massive action": 10 hours a day on each task equally, so one hour per task. You make $495 that day. Your average hourly rate ends up being $49.5.

80/20 smart action: you analyze very carefully every task and its output. Yes, this takes time and it's often not that obvious and easy. But once you figure out that tasks I and J together (20%) generate 80.8% of results, here's what happens:

1. You figure out a way to eliminate or delegate other tasks.
2. You focus on tasks I and J for 5 hours a day
3. You make $990 a day. That's double the amount in half the time. Your average hourly rate is $198. You make much more and work much less.

Of course, it's nice in theory but in practice you need to spend a lot of time identifying what works best. But nobody said that cultivating the 80/20 mindset is easy, particularly in the beginning when you have to go against your basic instincts.

I've got one project that's promising and interesting, but it's in the beginning stages, and requires a lot of hours to test, iterate, sell, get feedback, etc. How else would you bring something to market without actually putting in the hours?

As above, you put in the hours but you're very judicious with how you invest time. I believe it comes down to better research and really thinking through what you plan to do instead of doing whatever and seeing what sticks. Also, 80/20 is about dedicating yourself to creative tasks and thinking instead of menial jobs that usually don't give much leverage and big results.

What's the best way to test? How often to iterate? What's the best way to sell? Where can you get the best feedback quickly? If you're burned out because you just work, work, work and don't think, you won't find the answers to these questions easily.

Makes me think of “give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

The 80/20 guy spends 4 hours sharpening the axe and then two hours chopping down the tree (the actual physical effort). Because he was smart and didn't expend energy needlessly, he'll be able to chop another tree the next day. The other guy spends 6 hours chopping down the tree and can't lift his arm the next day.

Or to give another example: take two climbers wanting to climb a mountain. For the sake of this example, none of them is looking for a challenge and difficulty as climbers often do. They simply want to get to the top using their own legs.

The regular one packs her gear and heads to the mountain. Why waste time studying possible ascent routes? Better to take action now, figure things out along the way and be done as soon as possible. This is how an entrepreneur following the "take action" crowd would behave.

The 80/20 climber studies maps, topography, and reaches out to other climbers who've already scaled the mountain. While the regular climber is already taking action, the 80/20 is still planning.

At this point, using the often preached on this forum message of taking action instead of thinking, you can say: the first climber gets it! Action all the way! Meanwhile, the second one is a wannabe climber. Just talking and no action.

But then the 80/20 climber is done planning and heads to the mountain armed with all the knowledge to scale the mountain in the easiest, safest way possible (that's the difference between a wannabe 80/20 thinker and a real 80/20 thinker: the latter takes action on their plans).

In the end, the regular climber not only struggles a lot to get to the top, but exposes herself to unnecessary danger. "Massive action" business gurus would commend the regular climber for taking massive action. Motivational gurus would commend her for going hard. But there was an easier, more efficient way to save your resources and achieve the same goal! Isn't it silly?

I can understand that once things are up and running, you can optimize, subtract, simplify, through thinking and slow work, but wouldn't the guy taking 80 hours of action beat the guy that's thinking for 60 hours on any new venture? Even if the action person wastes the majority of that time, he will more likely stumble upon success by brute force.

The problem is that if you take 80 hours of action, you don't have time to think. And we don't come up with the greatest ideas when we work. It happens when we're relaxed, when our brains are free to go in random directions and make connections that are impossible to spot in a tense mental state.

Makes me think of yet another quote:

Henry Ford’s reaction to a consultant who questioned why he paid $50,000 a year to someone who spent most of his time with his feet on his desk. “Because a few years ago that man came up with something that saved me $2,000,000,” he replied. “And when he had that idea his feet were exactly where they are now.”

I agree it's not sustainable to do that long term, but what is everyone's opinion on for the beginning stages of a venture?

I believe that the way we start something is often the way we'll approach it over the long term. If you decide to to use brute force in the beginning instead of making strategic decisions, when is the moment you transition to the latter? And most importantly, why not think smart from the beginning?
 
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Andy Black

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Love that Henry Ford quote.
 

Ronak

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Imagine it like this. For simplicity, let's take 10 tasks:

A - makes you $3/hour
B - makes you $3/hour
C - makes you $7/hour
D - makes you $10/hour
E - makes you $12/hour
F - makes you $15/hour
G -makes you $20/hour
H -makes you $25/hour
I - makes you $100/hour
J -makes you $300/hour

Non 80/20 "massive action": 10 hours a day on each task equally, so one hour per task. You make $495 that day. Your average hourly rate ends up being $49.5.

80/20 smart action: you analyze very carefully every task and its output. Yes, this takes time and it's often not that obvious and easy. But once you figure out that tasks I and J together (20%) generate 80.8% of results, here's what happens:

1. You figure out a way to eliminate or delegate other tasks.
2. You focus on tasks I and J for 5 hours a day
3. You make $990 a day. That's double the amount in half the time. Your average hourly rate is $198. You make much more and work much less.

Of course, it's nice in theory but in practice you need to spend a lot of time identifying what works best. But nobody said that cultivating the 80/20 mindset is easy, particularly in the beginning when you have to go against your basic instincts.



As above, you put in the hours but you're very judicious with how you invest time. I believe it comes down to better research and really thinking through what you plan to do instead of doing whatever and seeing what sticks. Also, 80/20 is about dedicating yourself to creative tasks and thinking instead of menial jobs that usually don't give much leverage and big results.

What's the best way to test? How often to iterate? What's the best way to sell? Where can you get the best feedback quickly? If you're burned out because you just work, work, work and don't think, you won't find the answers to these questions easily.

Makes me think of “give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

The 80/20 guy spends 4 hours sharpening the axe and then two hours chopping down the tree (the actual physical effort). Because he was smart and didn't expend energy needlessly, he'll be able to chop another tree the next day. The other guy spends 6 hours chopping down the tree and can't lift his arm the next day.

Or to give another example: take two climbers wanting to climb a mountain. For the sake of this example, none of them is looking for a challenge and difficulty as climbers often do. They simply want to get to the top using their own legs.

The regular one packs her gear and heads to the mountain. Why waste time studying possible ascent routes? Better to take action now, figure things out along the way and be done as soon as possible. This is how an entrepreneur following the "take action" crowd would behave.

The 80/20 climber studies maps, topography, and reaches out to other climbers who've already scaled the mountain. While the regular climber is already taking action, the 80/20 is still planning.

At this point, using the often preached on this forum message of taking action instead of thinking, you can say: the first climber gets it! Action all the way! Meanwhile, the second one is a wannabe climber. Just talking and no action.

But then the 80/20 climber is done planning and heads to the mountain armed with all the knowledge to scale the mountain in the easiest, safest way possible (that's the difference between a wannabe 80/20 thinker and a real 80/20 thinker: the latter takes action on their plans).

In the end, the regular climber not only struggles a lot to get to the top, but exposes herself to unnecessary danger. "Massive action" business gurus would commend the regular climber for taking massive action. Motivational gurus would commend her for going hard. But there was an easier, more efficient way to save your resources and achieve the same goal! Isn't it silly?



The problem is that if you take 80 hours of action, you don't have time to think. And we don't come up with the greatest ideas when we work. It happens when we're relaxed, when our brains are free to go in random directions and make connections that are impossible to spot in a tense mental state.

Makes me think of yet another quote:

Henry Ford’s reaction to a consultant who questioned why he paid $50,000 a year to someone who spent most of his time with his feet on his desk. “Because a few years ago that man came up with something that saved me $2,000,000,” he replied. “And when he had that idea his feet were exactly where they are now.”



I believe that the way we start something is often the way we'll approach it over the long term. If you decide to to use brute force in the beginning instead of making strategic decisions, when is the moment you transition to the latter? And most importantly, why not think smart from the beginning?

Good stuff.

I think the danger is in the fact that 80/20 thinking and action faking look remarkably similar up until the point that actual action is taken. I have often found myself in the "thinking things to death" scenario of endless planning.

Maybe the difference lies in the fear of execution uncertainty. Focusing on the possible negative results leads to overthinking and inaction. Focusing on the high level inputs required to bring results and then acting on it is 80/20 .

Your point about how you start something is how you end up is pertinent, as I've always struggled with the switch, wanting to wait for the next product, revenue milestone, or some other arbitraty guideline to do so. It is difficult, and you have to be willing to take 5 steps backwards in order to leap 20 steps forward. Meanwhile, the next product, client, etc, brings an immediate increase, but its linear, not geometric.
 

Andy Black

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My preference is to have a bias towards action, and adjust as I go. I learn best by doing.

My most productive periods are when I also go for long strolls every evening without listening to podcasts or anything. Just a stroll to appreciate the now and let my mind figure stuff out in the background.
 
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Ing

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I love the 20/80 principal.
Why? It brought a big part of freedom into my life.
At the time I began to overthink that, I didn’t know, that it is called that way. I figured out myself.

I have a job, where I am not owning the business, but organisating all of my time and customers.
I call it having the best of the two worlds ( being entrepreneur and being employe)

So it started:
A long time I worked hard, doing every extra mile and earning a quite good 6 figured money. At a time I decided to work less, sure earn less and enjoy life.

I listed the
-customer,
-the weekly spent time for each,
- the earned money at each and
-( and thats the most important point of my overth) the psychological invested energy, which I spent at each customer.

For me that was changing so much:

Surprisingly I had customers on the end of the list I thought to be precious for me.
And I had customers near the top, who I thought I must get rid of.



Now every time, when a colleague came up and requested to get a customer of mine, I didn’t fight that any longer( as I am quite successful in my job, there are many envious) but I gave him a customer from the bottom of my list.

Every new customer was fit into that list and treated that way.
The result was amazing: I don’t have a 50 hour week any more but resulted into a chilled 20-30 hour week.
My salary rose nearly to the 1,5 .





well, I now could enjoy my life, go bike riding 3 half days monday to friday.
Spending the weekend with friends and family.

And what do I idiot do?
I try to start a business.
But thats another thing and doesn’t belong onto that thread.
 

MTF

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@Ing, awesome post. An excellent example of achieving more through doing less. I love how you turned a 50-hour workweek into a 20-30-hour one while increasing your salary.
 

MTF

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Imagine it like this. For simplicity, let's take 10 tasks:

A - makes you $3/hour
B - makes you $3/hour
C - makes you $7/hour
D - makes you $10/hour
E - makes you $12/hour
F - makes you $15/hour
G -makes you $20/hour
H -makes you $25/hour
I - makes you $100/hour
J -makes you $300/hour

Non 80/20 "massive action": 10 hours a day on each task equally, so one hour per task. You make $495 that day. Your average hourly rate ends up being $49.5.

80/20 smart action: you analyze very carefully every task and its output. Yes, this takes time and it's often not that obvious and easy. But once you figure out that tasks I and J together (20%) generate 80.8% of results, here's what happens:

1. You figure out a way to eliminate or delegate other tasks.
2. You focus on tasks I and J for 5 hours a day
3. You make $990 a day. That's double the amount in half the time. Your average hourly rate is $198. You make much more and work much less.

Of course, it's nice in theory but in practice you need to spend a lot of time identifying what works best. But nobody said that cultivating the 80/20 mindset is easy, particularly in the beginning when you have to go against your basic instincts.



As above, you put in the hours but you're very judicious with how you invest time. I believe it comes down to better research and really thinking through what you plan to do instead of doing whatever and seeing what sticks. Also, 80/20 is about dedicating yourself to creative tasks and thinking instead of menial jobs that usually don't give much leverage and big results.

What's the best way to test? How often to iterate? What's the best way to sell? Where can you get the best feedback quickly? If you're burned out because you just work, work, work and don't think, you won't find the answers to these questions easily.

Makes me think of “give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

The 80/20 guy spends 4 hours sharpening the axe and then two hours chopping down the tree (the actual physical effort). Because he was smart and didn't expend energy needlessly, he'll be able to chop another tree the next day. The other guy spends 6 hours chopping down the tree and can't lift his arm the next day.

Or to give another example: take two climbers wanting to climb a mountain. For the sake of this example, none of them is looking for a challenge and difficulty as climbers often do. They simply want to get to the top using their own legs.

The regular one packs her gear and heads to the mountain. Why waste time studying possible ascent routes? Better to take action now, figure things out along the way and be done as soon as possible. This is how an entrepreneur following the "take action" crowd would behave.

The 80/20 climber studies maps, topography, and reaches out to other climbers who've already scaled the mountain. While the regular climber is already taking action, the 80/20 is still planning.

At this point, using the often preached on this forum message of taking action instead of thinking, you can say: the first climber gets it! Action all the way! Meanwhile, the second one is a wannabe climber. Just talking and no action.

But then the 80/20 climber is done planning and heads to the mountain armed with all the knowledge to scale the mountain in the easiest, safest way possible (that's the difference between a wannabe 80/20 thinker and a real 80/20 thinker: the latter takes action on their plans).

In the end, the regular climber not only struggles a lot to get to the top, but exposes herself to unnecessary danger. "Massive action" business gurus would commend the regular climber for taking massive action. Motivational gurus would commend her for going hard. But there was an easier, more efficient way to save your resources and achieve the same goal! Isn't it silly?



The problem is that if you take 80 hours of action, you don't have time to think. And we don't come up with the greatest ideas when we work. It happens when we're relaxed, when our brains are free to go in random directions and make connections that are impossible to spot in a tense mental state.

Makes me think of yet another quote:

Henry Ford’s reaction to a consultant who questioned why he paid $50,000 a year to someone who spent most of his time with his feet on his desk. “Because a few years ago that man came up with something that saved me $2,000,000,” he replied. “And when he had that idea his feet were exactly where they are now.”



I believe that the way we start something is often the way we'll approach it over the long term. If you decide to to use brute force in the beginning instead of making strategic decisions, when is the moment you transition to the latter? And most importantly, why not think smart from the beginning?
I'm currently on self-quarantine at home. This makes so much sense. THANK YOU VERY MUCH @MTF
 
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ADL84

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Wow! I've not found this much value in a two page forum thread ever. Thanks for the insights! After reading Richard Koch's 80/20 Principle I've been eager to learn more and to discuss with other equally inspired individuals. As has been pointed out several times, the hard part is to put the principle to practice. I'll study this thread closer and implement some of the insight you have shared. Thanks again!

One thing that really resonate with me is post about the guilt you feel if you dont "act" during the day. I would appreciate tips on how to overcome this feeling. Even if I manage to free up hours I end up feeling bad if those hours were not put to use. This causes me to be constantly "not present" especially at home when I really should focus on family. Any advice would be welcome!
 

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The 80/20 principle, also known as the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule, states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. The rule applies to many aspects of life, including economics, business, sports, etc. For a quick overview, read Wikipedia's page on it: Pareto principle - Wikipedia

I started this thread to share useful resources about this principle to help you accomplish your goals more easily - or just enjoy your life more - thanks to simplifying it via the 80/20 rule.

This isn't just a little stupid rule stating the obvious fact - there are countless, sometimes weird, applications of it that can help achieve better results in less time and with less energy.

1. Books

By far the best author on the topic is British multimillionaire Richard Koch. He has written several books on the topic. The best ones are:

The 80/20 Principle - the original book, with the first part going deep into how to apply it in business and then other parts addressing personal life and other things. Ignore the negative reviews - there's a lot of thought-provoking, and for some probably controversial, stuff in there.

Living the 80/20 Way - offers additional insights on how to apply the principle to live better.

After Richard Koch, the best books are:

80/20 Sales and Marketing by Perry Marshall - some very powerful 80/20 concepts applied to sales and marketing. A must-read.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown - I consider Richard's books better because they're written in a less philosophical and more practical style. Greg's book is still pretty good, but IMO it's better to start with Koch.

The One Thing by Gary Keller - extremely solid concept of The One Thing, but with some unnecessary chapters which are related to the main topic, but not really talk about simplicity.

2. Articles

Richard Koch's blog is really good, though sometimes he gets too philosophical there: Blog

Some of his best articles:
HOW TO WORK LESS AND MAKE MORE
ARE YOU A HAMSTER?
HOW TO STOP BEING A HAMSTER
TIME REVOLUTION
http://richardkoch.net/2013/01/how-much-is-an-hour-of-your-time-worth/
http://richardkoch.net/2014/09/how-to-do-nothing-achieve-everything/
http://richardkoch.net/2018/11/liberate-yourself-from-the-protestant-work-ethic/

A good interview with Richard:
Don’t waste your time on the trivial

3. Quotes

Here are some various thought-provoking quotes:

“We should act less. Action drives out thought. It is because we have so much time that we squander it.” – Richard Koch

“Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” – Tim Ferriss

“Most people who become rich through business do so by using other people’s ideas, not their own.” – Richard Koch

“Identify the times you are most happy, and expand them as much as possible. Identify the times you are least happy, and reduce them as much as possible.” – Richard Koch

“Generally, the most profitable customers have been customers for a long time. Gaining new customers is very expensive.” – Richard Koch

“Make the most of those few ‘lucky streaks’ in our life where we are at our creative peak and the stars line up to guarantee success.” – Richard Koch

“Time is like that: cussed when we try to speed up, a dear friend when we slow down.” – Richard Koch

4. Exercises

Some exercises I regularly do, particularly when I find myself losing focus and no longer religiously following the 80/20 principle in my life. It's important to emphasize that 80/20 is a mindset that needs to be cultivated, just like you need to go to the gym regularly if you want to stay in shape.
  • 80/20 analysis - analyze what produces best results and what the biggest waste of resources is. How can you double down on what works best and eliminate the unessential stuff?
  • The One Thing question - ask yourself the main question from Gary Keller's book: What's the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
  • Eliminate something from your life - it sounds stupid, but even throwing away an article of clothing you no longer wear is a good way to remind yourself to focus on what's most important.
  • Fast for a full day - it's good for your health, and it gives you some additional clarity and a lot of time to think how to simplify your life.
  • Stop taking action - if possible, take a few days off and occupy your mind with something else. Sometimes we're too close to the challenges we're facing and we fail to see an obvious, simple solution. Your subconscious will still work on the problem in the background while you do something else, ideally something enjoyable so you can recharge.
  • Let go of control and ego - the number one obstacle preventing you from achieving more while doing less is yourself. If you want to control everything, you'll never be able to delegate effectively. If you think that you're the only person who can do something well, you'll never delegate at all - so you'll be stuck doing everything yourself. Even if you're a solopreneur and nobody can do your job, at least simplify other aspects of your life (for example, hire a maid).
  • Think of long-term profitability - focus on projects and business models that are repeatable and produce consistent, long-term income over projects that produce a one-off result. The latter makes you a hamster, stuck on the wheel of work and unable to slow down because you always need to seek a new source of income. Always have in mind your hourly rate and resist the temptation to think short-term. For example, you can spend 100 hours on a project that generates $10,000 once (your hourly rate is $100), or you can spend 100 hours on a project that generates $1000 a month forever (your hourly rate is just $10 the first month, but after 10 months reaches $100 and then still continues growing without any additional work).
  • Destroy and rebuild everything from the ground up (in your mind) - if you lost everything you have now, how would you rebuild it? This is an useful exercise to review the most important fundamentals as well as open yourself to new ideas or maybe even discover that what you're doing now is just no longer working anymore and you're stuck in the past. It's often hard to see these obvious things due to the status quo bias (in which any change from the baseline is considered a loss).
Oh how much I love this. Pure gold.
Thanks for the reminder. I’m taking this all in.
 

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