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3 Time Laws to Boost Your Productivity with Ewa Halliday

Hello Zen Organizers!

Today, I'm joined by the great Ewa Halliday for the first interview on the podcast! I'm super glad to have her on the podcast because she produces incredibly high-quality content in her Facebook group and Instagram account. I highly recommend you to check them out if you want to improve your productivity!

I'm always amazed by her ability to make complex concepts sound super understandable and easily applicable in your life. And that's why I asked her to come here today to explain three economics laws and concepts that can be very useful in terms of productivity improvement and time management in your daily life, not just in business!

Here they are!

The Pareto Law (also known as the 80/20 Rule) [5:00]

This law states that 80% of your results are produced by 20% of your actions. So, for example, if you have 10 items on your to-do list, only two of these tasks will yield 80% of the impact of your entire day. Therefore, you should identify these tasks and prioritize them over the other ones that bring less impact. Simply put, these should be the first tasks you tackle in your day!

You can also apply this law in another way: find the 20% within each of your tasks that bring the most impact. This way, you can do a little bit of each task by only focusing on their most impactful parts and tackle more tasks on your to-do list. This method is great if you have to work on all your tasks on a given day and not only on a few.

Examples of application:

  • High-Intensity Trainings (HIITs) are a great example of this: they take the most efficient part of muscle training in the least amount of time, which allows you to get a great workout without needing to spend hours in the gym (I personally love HIITs for that reason, but I hadn't realized they apply the Pareto Law!!).

  • If you have to write a report, the 20% of action that will bring the most results is writing its content. The rest, the layout, the addition of pictures, the margins, the pagination, etc. will not bring as many results.

  • When you have 100 mails in your mailbox, but can't reply/read all of them, only read and answer the ones that are really important or urgent.

The Law of Diminishing Returns [13:00]

*** Very useful law for perfectionists ***

This law states that, when you're working on something, there comes a point where the ratio of the results to efforts shifts. At the beginning, your efforts yield a lot of impacts. But at some point, the more efforts you're putting into a task, the fewer results you're getting for the same amount of effort. And after a while, you can even start producing negative results.

Bell curve that shows the Law of Diminishing Returns
Representation of the Law of Diminishing Returns

And that's where perfectionists need to be careful: the more they try to put in the effort to make their work perfect, the more they risk ending up creating negative returns and impacts on their work. Because if you keep working on the task after the point of maximum yield, you actually start to get negative returns and destroy the great work you've done. And this is what a lot of perfectionists do: they aim for the point of maximum yield, but they very often go way past it and create negative returns.

Therefore, we should aim for the point right before our efforts start producing less and less. We should always aim to do the first, most impactful 20% of the task. If we do a little bit more, it's great. But we shouldn't enter the diminishing returns phase, and especially not the negative returns phase.

Finally, this law is closely related to the Pareto Law: usually, when we start working on a task, we focus on the 20% of the task that is very important, so it yields a lot of results. But after a while, we work on the small details that don't really bring more impact (the 80% of the tasks that only produce 20% of the impacts). So beware of that and try to do only the work that produces the greatest amount of results!

The Law of Increasing Opportunity Cost [28:00]

This law tackles our increasing anxiety and inability to make choices. And in terms of productivity, it's really interesting because it can help explain why it's so hard to choose which task to focus on first. Why? Because we are constantly comparing the results we are producing through our chosen actions to the results and benefits of all the actions we could have chosen to do instead.

Since we can only do one impactful effortful task at a time, we have to choose which one we have to do at a certain point in time. But with today's technology, we could always be doing hundreds of different things at any moment because we have access to almost everything through our devices. So it becomes more difficult to make the right choice between all the possible tasks we can do. For example, at any given moment, you can reply to an important email, make a phone call, write a document, book a flight, order food, check your social media accounts, read the news, etc.

So it's become increasingly difficult to be in the present moment and choose the most impactful action to do right now because we have too many choices to choose from. It becomes overwhelming, and it hinders our capacity to make choices.

So we need to learn to say no to both the good and the bad opportunities, tasks, and activities because we're not able to do all of them. We need to start prioritizing the things that will create a great impact in our lives and make us feel fulfilled versus the other things we want to do, but that will not create a great impact.

So here are some tips to stop doubting your choices:

  • Have a list of things you're not going to do.

  • Accept that it is possible that any of your priority tasks are a good choice to do but that you'll focus only on one at a time.

  • If you keep thinking about your other tasks while you're working, just write them down and schedule them, so your mind will stop thinking about them.

  • Plan your day the night before, so you know exactly what tasks you'll be working on at what time; this alleviates the pressure of choosing in the moment which task should be tackled first.

  • However, be flexible with your planning. Adapt it if something unexpected comes up or if you don't feel like doing a specific task at the time you had planned to do it.

  • Never overbook your day. Always leave some room for unexpected events and changes of plans. I suggest leaving 20% of your day unplanned (about an hour and a half if you work eight hours a day) so you don't feel overwhelmed if any unexpected request/task/event happens!

"A lot of these laws, at the end of the day, really help us reflect on how much we value our time. Because if we really valued our time, we would not be spending it unless the results were worth our effort." - Ewa Halliday

I hope this episode prompted you to review your relationship to time and the way you use it!

I tried to summarize in this article the most important points covered in the episode, but I highly recommend you listen to the episode because Ewa gave so many tips and provided a lot of food for thought on productivity and time management!

And don't forget to check her Facebook Group and Instagram, where she publishes great content!

I wish you a zenly organized week,


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