Going the distance

Use the 80/20 rule to manage time and reduce stress

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. May 22, 2014

Need more help?

If the stress in your life is more than you can cope with, get help right away.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Go to the nearest hospital or emergency room
  • Call your physician, health provider or clergy
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
    1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

There are certain laws and rules that everyone knows and has to follow. When you see a red light, you know to stop. You may dread it but you know you have to pay taxes. I would like to draw your attention to two other laws that you really need to understand as you strive to survive the stress of the 21st century.

  • Parkinson's law. Mr. Parkinson, many years ago, made the observation that work will expand to fill the allotted time. Let me explain. Let's suppose that you have two hours to make a cake, build a birdhouse or update some financial data. Without doubt, you will fill those entire two hours doing that task. So, the lesson is to put "bookends" on activities. This means setting a clock or a timer, for let's say 60 or 90 minutes, to get something done. No distractions, just nose to the grindstone to get it done. And guess what? Chances are real good that you'll get the job done.
  • Pareto principle. Mr. Pareto was an economist and is credited with what's commonly called the 80/20 rule. So what does this mean? Let's look at a business situation. There are overwhelming data that 80 percent of the profits of a company are generated by 20 percent of the accounts. Now what does this have to do with you? If you're in the process of preparing a presentation and you've allocated 100 minutes to do it, the majority of the project will be ready for prime time within the first 20 minutes. Of course you can spend more time to fine-tune or tweak the presentation, but the heart of the project will come together in those first 20 minutes.

So I ask you to consider putting time limits on your activities. During that time, allow no interruptions. Stop when the time runs out. See if it doesn't help you conserve energy and time, those precious commodities that shouldn't be treated lightly.


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Join the discussion at #Stress.

May 22, 2014