Episode 38: Jenn Uren on The 80/20 Rule

business Oct 26, 2021
Jenn Uren knows the 80/20 Rule

Resources mentioned:

Your Best Yes, episode 33
Your Best Yes filter, downloadable resource
The 90-Day Year, episode 35

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This is a transcript of the This Mom Knows Podcast - Episode - 38

Jennifer Uren
Margin. Boundaries. Space

We talk about these things a lot. We're told we need them. We're told to create them if they're not in place, and to protect them when they are. But what are we really talking about? Because how do we create or protect something, if we don't even know what it is? So, let's talk about that today.

The good news is that it's actually quite simple. All of these are just examples of the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule is a very simple concept and the idea behind it is that you take something and you make sure that you only use about 80% of it, and leave 20% unused. That's it super simple, right? Well, sometimes things are easier said than done and so I think this is one of those. So, let's talk about what it actually looks like in action.

So, first of all, where do we actually apply this rule? Well, the answer is everywhere. We can use this for our time, for our things, for our thoughts, because, honestly, we need margin boundaries, and space for all of those things, right?

So, how do we do it? Well, let's go through some examples of when it comes to our time, our things, and our thoughts. But before we do, I just want to bring to mind the idea of your plate. Now we can all relate to the concept of having too much on our plate. So that will help you embrace how to apply the 80/20 rule to the things that you can't see or touch like time. So think about what your plate is what it is that you are working with, when it comes to all of this.

So when we apply the 80/20 rule, we really have two options, we can keep something or we can purge it. And the things that we keep, we can either remain as they are, keep them right where they're at, or we can delegate them somewhere else.

So, let's talk about our time. We have only 24 hours in a day so we want to be sure that we don't fill that all up. So take the time to map out your typical week. What do you need time for? Well, sleep, eating household responsibilities, business needs, kids activities - put all of it on there. If you get to the end, and you see that every single minute is accounted for, or worse, you have more things to accomplish than what time allows, then you are at capacity. So removing responsibilities or commitments will give the margin that you need. And sometimes this looks like saying no to something you know "I'm sorry, but I will no longer be attending this weekly commitment." But other times, it can look like delegating. And remember hiring someone is the same as delegating, it could be as simple as "I am paying the membership fee to use instacart for grocery delivery rather than going to do the shopping myself", or might be hiring somebody to do your social media posting so that you can spend your time elsewhere.

When it comes to our things, this might actually be a little bit more easy to grasp, because we can see and touch our things. So let's use a dresser drawer. As an example. When you have too many clothes, the drawer is stuffed, it's hard to close, and it just does not work. Nothing stays folded, it's a mess. It can be pretty obvious then that you're at capacity. So you need to decide what you're keeping in that drawer. What is that 80%? And what you're not - the 20%? And remember, if it is overstuffed drawer, you might actually be getting rid of more than 20%. But you're just going back to 80% of what that drawer will hold. So you can either get rid of the rest - donate it, give it to a friend - or you can delegate it to a new place. So for example, you might decide that this current drawer is just for t-shirts, and you create a second drawer for polo shirts. It solves the immediate issue for that drawer. And it gives you space with which to work.

So, when it comes to our thoughts, they can be a little bit more challenging to keep in line. And what we really want here though, I think, is to be able to focus and not be distracted. Our thoughts are influenced by the things around us. So as we free up our time and our space, there will be a natural lightening of our thoughts. But removing thoughts can have the same impact and the easiest way that I know of to remove thoughts is to have a place to write them down so that they're contained and no longer need to rattle around in our brain. So that's great.

We've talked about you know how to do it. We've talked about what to do with, but how are we going to know if it's working? Well, the easiest way to know that the 80/20 rule is working is when you can say yes to something without it throwing everything else off. With your time, you can take on a new project or a commitment, because you have space for it. Just remember, if it's a short term commitment, it will rebalance eventually. But if it's a long term commitment, you might need to renegotiate something else to be removed. With your things, it's acquiring something new and having a spot for it. Maybe it's a new t shirt, and you're just able to add it to your drawer with ease, because there's space for it. With our thoughts, it might often manifest itself in the fact that we now have space to be creative. We start to have new ideas and dream again about what could be. We have capacity for that, right?

But maybe the biggest cue that tells us if the 80/2020 rule is working well, is that we can transition. We have time to wrap up from the meeting and move on to the next thing without leaving a pile of new to-dos waiting for us. We can clean up from breakfast and get to the school bus without leaving a tornado in our path. We can move from focusing our thoughts on one thing to being present in a social setting.

So, how do we keep it in balance? We've decided it's working. But how do we keep it working? Well, I think there's two things that are super helpful for keeping things in check.

The first is actually just regular check-ins. If you'll remember back to the episode that we did on the 90-day year, you'll recall that as mompreneurs, we have regularly scheduled interruptions to our year. In that episode, we talked about the benefit of only planning our time and setting our goals within these four major chunks of the year. Well, another benefit of doing it that way is that we have built in triggers to remind us to audit our time. When you make a commitment, you can make it for a shorter period of time, and that's going to give you this natural off ramp. There is something freeing about saying "I can do this for the next 12 weeks. And then we can revisit it." And after 12 weeks, you know what, if it's not a good fit, you can walk away. But if it is a good fit, you can extend your commitment.

So do the same with your things. Maybe you seasonally purge your drawers or every spring you do a deep clean with a purge. And each year, each time this is going to get easier and faster, because at some point, you're going to transition into a maintenance mode.

Now with your thoughts, maybe you have a regular coffee date with a friend who can ask you some consistent questions that will help you assess if your thoughts have overwhelmed you.

But the second thing is and I alluded to it before, the second thing is triggers. These might look different for each of us. But here are some examples. If your desk is piled high with post-its and small notes that are things you need to do, that might be a trigger that your time needs to be rebalanced. Or when you can't stuff one more shirt into that drawer, that's your trigger that says it's time to purge. And when you just can't focus, you can't think it's time to figure out how to create space so that you can.

Now you might have noticed something here. And that's that these can often be connected. Sometimes a decision about time is going to have an impact on thoughts and things. And sometimes the decision about things is going to have an impact on our time and our thoughts.

Now before we wrap up today's episode, I just want to point out something that you might not have thought about. And we talked about it at the beginning a little bit but that is the question of capacity. What is enough? Now I talk about a lot of this again in that Your Best Yes, where we talk about the ideas of things on your plate and how much can you handle. And so since I've mentioned it twice now in this one, I do encourage you to go back and listen to that episode because it's really about this idea of capacity. Because if we don't know what our capacity is, then we won't be able to know when it's 80% full. And everybody's capacity is going to be a little bit different. So that is something you've got to figure out.

Now time might seem obvious because we have 24-hours in a day, but this is where good systems let us use our time more efficiently. And that actually gives us more capacity. When it comes to our things, we can only have as much as what fits where we live, right? Unless we spill over into storage units, and are we talking about using all the space or leaving room between pieces of furniture, you have to decide what your capacity is for things. I have been in homes where they feel they can continue to bring things in and add. And there's just piles and stuff everywhere. And then I've been in homes that are very open and airy and they will say I simply don't have room for more. So you have to decide what your capacity is for yourself. With our thoughts, it can be easy to take the weight on of all the things around us and so you may need to work through some of that with a counselor on this one, to help you figure out what is your capacity for engaging with others, and for having those boundaries so that you don't take on more than what you can shoulder.

So that's actually what I'm going to leave you with today. It's a challenge to decide for yourself what your capacity is. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. So feel free to connect with me on social media, or send me an email but I look forward to hearing how the 80/20 rule helps you create margin, boundaries, and space.