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20% of your efforts drives 80% of the results.

The challenge is that many of us have a hard time identifying what that 20% is. So, we just keep giving 100% effort, even when we mentally understand that only 20% of what we’re doing is making a significant difference to our creative projects, communities, or businesses.

I recently stumbled on a simple diagnostic (I’m calling it the “Effectiveness Diagnostic”) that helped me get clear on my 20%. Want to know how it works? Read on!

The Effectiveness Diagnostic

I call this the Effectiveness Diagnostic because I have long held that effectiveness is superior to productivity, and if we were honest with ourselves, we’d see that effectiveness is what we truly desire.

I could expound on that thought (as I have done elsewhere), but if I were to bottom line it, it’s that productivity is just getting things done, while effectiveness is getting the right things done.

So, let’s identify the right things.

Step #1

Prepare two blank pieces of paper (or create a new note on your iPad, as I like to do).

On the first piece of paper, write down everything you are currently doing. Yes, everything. Do this first.

Also consider things you’ve done in the past (IMPORTANT), especially things that worked for you. For example, if you used to guest post on relevant industry blogs, and that drove a lot of traffic to your website, that would be something to add to your sheet.

Step #2

On the second piece of paper, create three sections, labeled “low effectiveness,” “medium effectiveness,” and “high effectiveness.” You don’t need to split your sheet into three equal parts. Just make sure there’s enough room for each.

Now, because it can be hard to think in black and white terms, you may find it beneficial to add one or two other sections to your sheet – “low-medium effectiveness,” and “medium-high effectiveness.” It’s up to you. If there are certain things you do that you have trouble assigning to low, medium, or high, these extra “in between” labels can help.

Step #3

Look over your first sheet and categorize the various tasks, activities, and projects you’ve written down.

Put them into their appropriate category – low effectiveness, medium effectiveness, and high effectiveness. Be as ruthless and detached as possible.

Note: This will require some deep thinking on your part. So, take your time.

As I was doing this, I realized very quickly that most activities fell under “low effectiveness,” some went under “medium effectiveness,” and only a few made it into “high effectiveness.”

If more than 20% of your tasks made it into “high effectiveness,” you’re either lying to yourself, or you’re being a little too generous.

I ended up with six items under “high effectiveness,” past efforts considered. If you end up with more than three to seven items here, something is probably off. Consider reevaluating.

That’s it!

You’ve just applied the 80/20 principle to your work. Now you have a much better understanding of the things that make a difference in your projects, community, or business, as well as the things that just take up time and do not lead to desired results.

What can you do with this information?

Well, I’m a bit of an operations nerd, so my suggestion would be to eliminate, automate, or delegate.

Basically, STOP doing the things that don’t yield results.

AUTOMATE the things that still need to be done but can be done using a SaaS app or machine.

And DELEGATE the things that still need to be done, aren’t an effective use of your time, and require a human touch.

Double down on the highly effective 20% that leads to the outcomes you’re looking to create.

Final Thoughts

I found this simple diagnostic to be of immense value.

There are certain commitments I’ve made (such as publishing daily) that I will be keeping for at least a year, regardless of effectiveness.

Having said that, I learned from James Schramko that you can’t apply simple math to building an asset. So, when it comes to publishing daily and the many benefits I derive from blogging, I’m going to be more lenient.

In all other areas, I’m going to spend more time doing the things that I know work. Proven strategies and tactics are far more exciting than ones that are untested and do not offer consistent results.

Much of what we do doesn’t work, even things we’ve been told we should do. That’s the reality of the situation.

What did you learn from going through this exercise? What did you identify as being your most effective work?

Let me know in the comments.

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