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7 Habits of The Highly Effective Engineer Part 4 - First Things First Using the 80/20 Rule

Paul Vickers
Aug 5, 2021 12:28:48 PM

7 Habits of the Highly Effective Engineer Part4 - Put First Things First - Pareto was Right to use the 80/20 Rule

So let's talk about the 3rd habit. In Covey's terms; Put First Things First. 

What does that have to do with us engineers? Well, Pareto was right. Who was Pareto? He was an economist who created the 80/20 rule, which I hope you have heard of. The 80/20 rule is where you separate the vital few from trivial many. It follows that 80% come from 20% of the causes. It is a general rule that follows many things. For example:

You go to a real-estate office, and 80% of the sales come from 20% of the realtors

You get into retail business, and you find that 80% of the revenue comes from 20% of the things on the shelves. 

80/20 rule and Pareto - DCS

So you have the vital few, and the trivial many. What we want to do is make sure we are always focused on the vital few. So a corollary, to focus on the vital few, is ignore the trivial many until at last they become vital. It would become vital for example by lowering the water to expose the rocks by getting rid of the high impact, vital few, taking care of them, leaving the others to rise in importance. 

How do you determine which are the vital few?

Well, there is a common theme across these habits. That is, test don't guess. So form a hypothesis, test that, and here it is to test in order to find out what is important and what is not. So I want to gather some data and create some pareto charts and not some untested fishbone diagrams. Now, I like fishbone diagrams, great tool and great method, but each of those branches are hypotheses until we test them. Each is only a hypothesis until tested in a real-world environment. 

How do you spend your time? DCS

So I do create a fishbone diagram. I then test the fishbone diagram which tells me which ones are most important and have the biggest impact. I work on those first. I ignore all the small stuff. 

So really its about choosing how to spend your time, how to spend your time wisely. Spend your time on the most important things, and spend it on the most timely things. this could be in terms of effect, or in terms of a time perspective. 

Remember, have some action today, not tomorrow on the most important things. Let's be impactful, work on the right things, and not be busy. 

I do a lot of career mentoring, and a lot of people didn't understand why they didn't move forward because they spent a lot of time at work while others didn't spend as much time and did move forward. 

The key difference was between being busy and being impactful. You don't get promoted for being busy. 


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7 Habits eBook - DCS



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