Time Hack: Focus on high-leverage activities

by | May 9, 2013 | Time

Takeaway: It doesn’t matter how productive you are if you’re not doing the right things in the first place. Look around for the highest-leverage activities in both your work and home life.

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute, 5s.


A question was recently posed on the popular question-and-answer website Quora that asked, “What’s the single most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your professional life?”


The top answer is one that I recommend you read in whole, and it promotes the virtues of the 80-20 rule. The rule says that 80% of the results you achieve come from 20% of your efforts. According to Edmond Lau, this “20% of work consists of [your] highest leverage activities”.1

The 80-20 rule is one that’s widely-known and referred to, particularly in business, where 80% of your sales often come from 20% of your customers. What really makes Lau’s answer unique, though, is his application of the principal to how he manages his time.

Some of the more interesting high-leverage activities he engages in are:

  • Mentoring new employees (since one hour of mentoring will likely pay for itself ten times over)
  • Building and automating repetitive work
  • Investing in learning
  • Pushing back on meetings without an agenda, or ones he doesn’t want to be a part of

All of this of course begs the question – what are the highest-leverage activities in your work and home life? It’s one thing to do things more efficiently, but are you actually doing the right things?

It’s a question I’ll be thinking about over the next several days, particularly as it pertains to this site.2

  1. Source: http://www.quora.com/Whats-the-single-most-valuable-lesson-youve-learned-in-your-professional-life/answer/Edmond-Lau 

  2. I think the answer is to simply keep writing, and create as much valuable stuff as I can. Valuable content first, promotion and everything else second. 

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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