I sat there finishing my application form when I noticed something. The first page was written with a different shade of black ink from the rest. I started worrying and then imagined this inane scenario that the person evaluating my application would throw it away exclaiming, “What a careless lady using two different shades of black ink! Can’t she see one’s darker than the other?”
Meanwhile the Chinese courier guy was impatiently waiting for me to put my papers into the envelope. He lifted his pinkie with its long shiny nail and proceeded to pick his nose.
I scrambled looking for the pen on my desk with the right shade of black ink.
Dial, dial, dial.
He flicked his finger. The booger landed on the envelope. It was like a play doh marble with the sheen and pallor of a 100 year old egg complete with mushy egg yolk stickiness.
A million things raced through my head. Moist towelletes. Rubbing alcohol. cotton swabs. Perfume for that smell.
Just mail that goddamned application!, the booger seemed to be screaming.
I’m sure you’re not as crazy anal as I am but we’ve been in situations where we make mountains out of mole hills. 80% of the value of that task was simply to mail my papers but I was spending most of my time searching for the right shade of ink that’s not even part of the 20% of the value of the task.
I used to follow this ABC method of prioritization.
A- important but not urgent
B- urgent but not important
C- not important nor urgent
It resulted to years about bitching and moaning that I spent most of my time marking papers and lesson plans and not doing the things that I enjoyed. The previous posts of this blog reflected that. It actually got to the point I got tired of listening to me. Hell, I’m not a complainer, honey. Snap!
But then I discovered the 80/20 rule- Pareto’s principle. 80% of the value comes from 20% of the tasks. 80% of the value of my teaching job comes from student evaluations and grade assessment which is 20% of what I do. The bulk of my time (80%) comes from creating supplementary materials and marking which contribute to 20% of the value. It means at the end of the day, my admin will only look at those score and evaluation sheets. Many PD (Personal Development) gurus espouse on the 80/20 rule like it’s the holy grail – Tim Ferriss, Brian Tracy, Steve Pavlina – because it forces you to look at the few critical few, the Big Picture and get rid of the useless stuff. It is a lifestyle changer.
So like Tim Ferriss in his book The Four Hour Work Week, I decided to 80/20 my life.
80% of what I’m doing that yields only 20% output of getting me closer to my goals:
- creating lesson plans and materials
20% of what I’m doing that give me 80% happiness and output to my goals:
- preparing my application to perhaps migrate to New Zealand
- wake up at 7am
So I reversed it and my new 80/20 weekly goals look like this. I added a C column for those non-essential very low priority chores:
|1. Post 3 blog entries this week||1. Mark paraphrasing papers||1. Pay rent|
|2. Notarize copies of my diploma||2. Mark summary papers||2. Organize papers in office|
|3. Plan 90 Day and Monthly||3. Organize class folder|
|4. Wake up at 7am 5x this week|
But what if you get behind your day job because you give it less priority? For me by focusing on the 80% first, I’m more motivated to doing the 20% later because I have that good flow that comes from what makes me happy first. You can also distribute your work plan in your week so you make sure you’re on top of your game. A Time Map can help you do that. I can’t tell you how much good vibes I have to doing what I love at the end of the week and knowing I’ve accomplished something meaningful.
Tip: If you get stuck on a task ask yourself, “Would this make a difference a year from now? 5 years?” If not, cross it out. I also set a timer for doing the 20% tasks so I don’t spend more time on it than necessary. However, you are also free to do the tasks you hate to do first. Brian Tracy once said to eat a live frog first thing in the morning just so you can get it out of the way. I tried that but procrastinated instead and ended up sprawled on the couch watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. Different people have different ways to be productive. Find what works for you but make sure to focus 80% on the 80%.
So back to that Chinese courier guy with decent etiquette. In the end, I gave my papers to him because I just couldn’t do it without making sure everything was perfect. He slid the application package into envelope and sealed it. As he walked out the door, I saw the booger was still stuck on the envelope.