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In every business, too much time is wasted on non-productive activities. Do you know that you get 80% of your results from just 20% of your time and effort? Consequently 80% of your time is virtually wasted on non-productive activities. Once you realize this it is easier to make some changes and either reduce the hours you work or significantly improve your productivity.

The 80-20 rule was first discovered by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto a hundred years ago. Using this knowledge is incredibly powerful in combating the "not enough hours in the day" mentality of today’s society.

The 80-20 rule means that in any area of our lives, literally 80 percent of our fruits are derived from only 20 percent of doing "what matters." In other words, there is only a very small portion of all that we do each day, regardless of the situation, that brings us the "higher return."

How can you benefit from being aware of this principle? Implementing a strategy based on the 80-20 rule can result in greater wealth and greater leisure time. Just imagine how productive you will be if 80% of your time could be spent on productive activities. You have to realize that the things that matter most should never be at the mercy of activities that matter least.

Here are 5 steps to maximize your productivity:

1) Keep a work log for at least a week

Write down all of your activities and the time spent doing them. I appreciate this is time consuming initially but it is essential you get a true picture of your working week. If you would like to discuss how to do a good job of this just let me know.

2) Analyze your activities

Separate your activities into high priority — those that produce a return or where only you have the skills to do the work — and low priority — activities which can be delayed, eliminated or delegated to others. You will almost certainly find that you are spending most of your time on low-priority activities rather than activities directly providing a return. In almost all businesses these non-productive activities tend to absorb time at a far greater rate than they should.

3) Delay, eliminate or delegate non-productive activities

Once you can identify the low priority activities, delay or eliminate those that you can. Alternatively, delegate as many as possible to others, providing training and assistance where required. There may be a number of low priority activities you are tempted to keep. Unless it is absolutely unavoidable, don’t be tempted and don’t get involved in non-productive activities or your productivity will fall.

4) Calculate the time required for any remaining low priority activities

Once you have completed step 3, your next step is to calculate how much time you should be spending on the remaining low priority activities to make maximum use of your productive time. Do not work disproportionately hard at these low priority activities but do set aside specific time each day or week to complete them.

5) Prioritize your remaining activities

Once you have cleared out the activities that do not bring you any return, it is time to turn your attention to the activities in your life that are bringing the most reward. Prioritize your activities and concentrate most of your time on these few high-priority activities.

The objective throughout is to maximize your results from the areas of high return and to delay, eliminate or delegate those activities that have a low return. Having to spend a disproportionate amount of time on non-productive activities is a major source of stress for many people. Minimizing the time spent on these activities will have the added benefit of reducing the stress you are under. It is all about doing less work for greater return.

For more success in life, whether that means more money, more time with your family, or just making time for leisure activities, you should start implementing the 80-20 rule immediately. It will help your career as well as your personal life and following the 80-20 rule day in and day out can make you very successful over the long term.