Here's a new way to apply the pareto principle: Apply it to your thoughts, decisions, and bathroom break.

Effectively and efficiently completing a project requires a number of pareto actions, the prioritization of the most important, impactful steps. Often, these are the most grueling, anxiety-laden, time-sucking tasks. They require us to do stuff.

But equally important (and sometimes more important) are tasks that don’t involve doing something important, but rather involve deciding something important.

The critical decisions that are made in between the pareto actions. They require thinking and decision-making, not physical action.

I call these pareto decisions.

Usually, these decisions happen while performing an action. We stop writing and slam out foreheads into our palms. We groan and we daze off, ultimately wasting our most valuable time and resources.

But our most important space-times ought to be reserved for those tasks that most deserve them: the tough stuff we have to slog through manually. The actions, not the decisions.

I keep a short list of pareto decisions in my head, and I try to think through them when I am otherwise unable to do take other long term action but am still feeling energetic and focused. Driving is good for this, as is exercising.

Or maybe I just finished a task and have a few minutes to kill. It happens all the time in those “in-between” moments.

Or, when we are participating in the short term world: Next time you are in the middle of a conversation and your conversant starts playing with their phone, cue up a pareto decision.

You can make important decisions anywhere. Even in the bathroom.

You can make important decisions anywhere. Even in the bathroom.

There are plenty of chances to think.

Might as well use them effectively.

Will this practice dramatically change your life?

No. Of course not. Very few practices will. And most that promise to do so, won’t.

But the war between a long term person and the short term world is won or lost in thousands of battles. Might as well win one of them.


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