Manage your inputs using the 80/20 principle.

We live in such an incredible time. Near limitless information is literally at our fingertips at any time, any place. And it looks great, too! Retina displays, high-definition – information has never been more beautiful.

The downside is that we’re constantly inundated with incoming data. It can be overwhelming sometimes with the amount of inputs we receive on a daily basis. I remember a time when I could spend an entire day just in email. I didn’t like it.

We want to be productive. We want to be as effective as possible with the things that matter most to us. I believe that starts with the inputs we allow into our lives. If we’re more discerning with what comes to us on a daily basis, we can make better choices on what deserves our time, focus, and energy.

That’s why I apply the 80/20 principle to my inputs. 80% of results should be derived from 20% of effort.

It’s helped me stay focused and maximize my effectiveness both professionally and personally.

I like to collect everything so as to get it out of my head. But that doesn’t mean that everything is equally important. I now use a more critical eye when processing my inputs and really try to align what I’m doing with my overarching goals. If something I’ve collected doesn’t match up with my horizons of focus, it generally gets tossed. If it does align, but the effort is far greater than the return, it usually gets scrapped.

There are exceptions, of course, and I also look at the intrinsic value add a certain thing has (new experiences, building skills, etc.). Not everything has a monetary association. Some things are worth doing, even if they don’t have a quantifiable return.

What does this look like in practice?

When I process a thing in my inbox, I follow the general GTD principles.

Is it actionable? Yes. What’s the next action?

When I answer that, the next question I ask myself is this: where does this fall on the path that I’ve set for myself? In other words, where does this fit within my horizons of focus?

If it doesn’t, I can quickly evaluate whether or not this thing deserves any more of my attention. The things that don’t fit now might be incubated on for later when more resource is available. Usually, it gets tossed. In rare circumstances, the thing can add an element to one of my horizons, and then qualifies for further action.

I’ve found that using this principle to be more discerning with my inputs has helped me tremendously in staying productive, stress-free, and focused. And we need that in today’s information-rich hyperspace.

What techniques do you find effective in managing your inputs?

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