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Tim Ferriss 80-20 Optimization

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In “The 4-Hour Workweek” book, Tim Ferriss talks about the Pareto law of 80-20 and how it can save you time and help you make tons of money. The Pareto law state that 20% of your time each day is producing 80% of your revenues and the remaining time is just lost doing pointless daily grind things or doing tasks that you are not uberly efficient at. This applies to time, work, cooking, etc. For example, 5% of the tasks I did in the last 10 years while building websites really produced 99% of my revenues. The rest of it was an inefficient mashup of new tasks & having to learn every time I did a new project instead of hiring a qualified professional for particular item. For all those years, I should have focused only on what I already knew and had many customers that needed help on and delegated everything else. I would have made a lot more money and worked a whole lot less.

Although the concept is very simple, I had a very hard time turning around my “work for work” normal behaviour and switching over to that philosophy despite many attempts and posters on my refrigerator reminding me to trim the fat and focus on the essential when it came to tasks and work.

One of the reason I think I always went back into my work for work mindset is simply the overwhelming daily grind of life and the natural tendency of the human to settle into comfort and avoid the unknown at all cost. It is so easy to fall into the trap of giving the client all he ask for and the working on projects and tasks that you are not the best at and love. One of the other reason seems to be that somehow, somewhere during my development and early life, I tricked my brain into thinking time was ever expansible and you could fit multiple complexe tasks

So after 4 years of trying to convince my brain of working less, making more money and focusing ONLY on the essential, I FINALLY found a way to visualize it so that it made SENSE in my brain and convinced it to adopt it every day. Here is how I see this:


The Pareto's Law - 80-20 Analysis according to Tim Ferriss. www.joelalain.com

So here’s the deal, the top graph is how most people and businesses time is spent vs the money it generated. 

  • The small vertical green band represents miscellaneous tasks (small and large) that you do or that are requested by your clients. The size of the band also represents how little money you make when you do that.
  • The large blue vertical band represent the time spent on a set task(s). As you can see, all those small/large tasks that I do that are very complicated and don’t bring meaningful revenues also happen to be the ones that eat up most of my time. And yes, this is a faire representation of my time before  I started optimizing my work.
  • Below, you see what happens when you delegate those tasks and get rid of all the noise. The goal is to focus on only what you are really good at and the items, services and tasks that produce the highest return on investment for both you and your client.

At first, when I read that in Tim Ferriss’ book, I though to myself that this was a very selfish and unethical proposition for my clients since I it implied selling expensive services that were easy for me to do. It made me feel bad because I was so used to just giving away my life “working hard”.

But after thinking a bit more about this, I had a Eureka moment. First, I had to understand that if the clients see value in what I did at the price I was selling it, then it meant that the client was also happy about it and getting a great return on investment. Then I realized that in order for me to be really good and really quick at giving a service, I needed to learn a lot, experiment, practice, analyze and so on and put a lot of time in my learning process and experimentation. Otherwise, I was doing something that the client never would have the time or the specific knowledge of the specific skills to do in the first place. In other words, you were specializing in a specific skill that was in high demand and delegating everything else.

So there you go, this is my own representation of the fact that time is linear and that you must optimize it all the time with the 80-20 law. Questions? Comments? Epiphanies? Have a better idea to make my graphic easier to understand? Drop a line and thank you for reading!



Joel Alain is on a quest to the 4 Hour Workweek Lifestyle, Accelerated Growth & Meta Learning. He rejects status quo and the so called "common sense" and creates his own vision of reality. The goal being to live the life you've imagined, no matter how crazy that is. Hop in.
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4 comments on “Tim Ferriss 80-20 Optimization
  1. Hey Joel, great article! It explains what 20/80 is about real quick and I especially like the graphics – so I linked it on my blog. I hope to find more valuable content on your site to refer to in the future! If you’ve got something that relates to living a minimalist lifestyle, let me know 🙂

    • Thanks! For the minimalist living, I’m not too much into that…. But I’m into delegating everything but the things you want to do, which is in a way a form of minimalist (reduce time wasting to focus on what you love). I have a few challenges coming for that type of thing, so stay tuned 😉

  2. Pingback: How to Become a Hard Worker While Loving What You Do, Part 2 | Let's Reach Success

  3. Pingback: How to Become a Hard Worker While Loving What You Do, Part 2