I am a fan of personal development books. I am currently reading the 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More With Less by Richard Koch. While enjoying some spring sun on my balcony in Amsterdam, I came across an exercise that Koch explained, and that really inspired me to share it on my Medium account as well. I hope you will find it as insightful as I did.
“A good exercise is to work out the most unconventional or eccentric ways in which you spend your time: how far you could deviate from the norm without being thrown out of your world” — Richard Koch.
1. Identify your Happiness Islands
These are the 20 percent of your activities responsible for 80 percent of your happiness and achievements.
Take a sheet of paper or your note app on your phone, whatever you prefer, and start by identifying your Happiness Islands. These islands represent the small quantity of time or the few years that you spent and which offered you an almost unreasonable amount of happiness. Try to make a list of all these moments you experienced in your life, as far back as you can remember.
Once the list is made, look at it and try to find the common point(s) between some or all these happy moments.
2. Repeat the method for your Unhappiness Islands.
Even if these activities do not take 80% of your time, it is essential to bring awareness so that you can work on them later and ideally eliminate them. Before moving to the third point, ask yourself what these Unhappiness Islands have in common.
3. Apply the same methods for your Achievements Islands.
These islands refer to the short periods when you have achieved an important proportion of personal or professional high-quality projects than during the rest of your day/week/month/year. Just like the two other aspects, try to list as many of them as you can and ask yourself what the common points between these different situations are.
4. Make a list of your Achievement Desert Islands.
Same as the three other points — make a list based on the elements that cost you a lot of time and energy while providing you a small amount of quality and results. If you’re stuck, Koch offers the following list as an example of things that:
- Are predictable
- Are related to collaborators who are untrustworthy or low quality
- Only a few amounts of people are interested in
- You don’t enjoy doing
- People ask you to do
- You’re not naturally good at doing
- Need to be done in a certain way
- Take twice as much time as they should need
Once your list is made, ask yourself are the common points.
The last step for this exercise might define the future actions you will take in any areas of your life. By making those lists, the goal is to multiply the 20% of your time that gives you 80% of happiness or high-quality and effective achievements.
“The point of examining the common characteristics of your happiness and achievements islands is to isolate something far more basic than what has happened: to isolate what you are uniquely programmed to do best.” — Richard Koch.
Reflecting on your life in this way might lead to a need to change your career or lifestyle. But don’t be scared — on the contrary: set up a new goal — a point B — towards which you want to go and start figuring how you will get there. Be as specific as possible, and if you cannot find the answers immediately, be patient with yourself, and let it sink in your mind for a while. Eventually, the answer will show up sooner than you think, because everything you put your focus on, grows.
I’d like to leave you with one last advice of Richard Koch concerning the way you use your time:
Don’t follow the crowd — be yourself, and dare to be eccentric and original.