Pareto’s principle, or the idea that 80% of results are derived from 20% of our actions, gets a lot of attention. While it’s a good reminder to zero in on the most powerful parts of your work, this principle can be poorly applied.

There are definitely situations that require perfection, like an engineer designing a bridge. She operates in 100% outputs/100% inputs territory, doing everything (sometimes in triplicate) to ensure perfect results. After all, safety is paramount, and there’s no room for error.

If that same engineer brings 100%/100% thinking to other aspects of life, that’s going to be frustrating for her and others – and unnecessary waste of time, money and energy. Sometimes it’s actually enough to do 10% in order to receive 50% of the results. Some things that fit into this “ballpark” category include rough drafts, initial brainstorms and financial estimates.

The next time you describe a project’s results, take the time to gauge them; do they need to be perfect, great, okay or ballpark? Then, determine the best percentage and quality/quantity of action that yields those results.

“Success is dependent on effort,” said Sophocles. That doesn’t mean that everything on your plate requires 100%. It’s up to you to quantify both the degree of the results needed and the effort necessary to achieve them.

Need help finding the sweet spot of results? We can help.

Photo from iStockphoto.