From A Workaholic: How to 80/20 Your Life

January 8, 2024

The Law of Reversed Effort was first coined by the author Aldous Huxley, who wrote: 

“The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed. 

Proficiency and the results of proficiency come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of doing and not doing, or combining relaxation with activity, of letting go as a person in order that the immanent and transcendent unknown quantity may take hold.”  

We are bombarded daily with a core message that boils down to: heroes never give up or back down. It’s meant to be inspirational, and don’t get us wrong, to a point it is. But it also comes at a cost. 

Drive is incredibly important as a small business owner. It is what can make or break you. There is no question that there will be many times when pushing the limits is what you have to do to succeed. But there is also wisdom in knowing what is eventually going to break you, and there is nothing noble about martyring yourself for your work. Not even when it is your own business. 

What does this mean for your average workaholic business owner? Simply put: You are not in a zero-sum game with your business. The idea that more you give all of yourself over to it, the more it will succeed just isn’t true.  

You can’t just ‘force it’ for everything. Though we know you’ve tried. We certainly have. And when it didn’t work, and in fact sometimes failed spectacularly, we learned a few things. 

From one workaholic to another: Don’t just aim to find balance. Use your passion and drive to go 180 degrees in the opposite direction. If the 80/20 principle says that roughly 80% of effects come from 20% of causes, then all of those extra hours you’re putting in have some explaining to do. 

Get ruthless about determining what 80% of the things you currently spend all that extra time on are, and remove it. Don’t just walk away from it entirely of course, but step away from being the one responsible for it. That said, there will be definitely some things you should stop completely. The rest you can tackle by working smarter.  

  • Delegate and optimise the stuff that doesn’t take your personal expertise to do – your hourly rate is worth more than the admin tasks! This allows you to concentrate on the 20% of work that only you can do best. 
  • Optimise your offerings. It's likely that 20% of your products or services account for 80% of your sales. Concentrate on these high-performing products or services and consider discontinuing those that do not perform well or drain resources. 
  • Optimise your own time. Not all hours of the day are created equally. You know when you are most productive – do your most important work then. 
  • Figure out how much of it you can automate. That will take a bit of time and effort initially to get set out, but once it’s up and running, the time you will gain back will surprise you. 
  • Say NO to the tasks (and even clients) that aren’t going to serve your business goals best. Not every potential client will be the right fit for you, so stop wasting time on them. Likewise, not every task actually needs to be done. Once you take a step back and evaluate the merits of each task, you may very well decide it wasn’t that important anyway. 

It takes some practice for sure. But we both know you have the drive to go the distance. 

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