6 Reasons Why You Are Not Doing More Productive Work

When being productive, it’s more about quality than it is quantity. Doing more productive work means trimming the fat and taking the actions that count the most.

It means using the 80/20 rule.  The 80/20 rule says that 20% of your actions create 80% of your results.

80-20 Rule

When I worked as a Consultant I dropped my work week from a 40 hour work week to a 20 work week.  This was more than enough time for me to produce the same results in half the time.  The way I did this is by trimming the fat and taking action on what mattered the most – effective actions.

An effective action is where 20% of your actions produce 80% of your results.

It sounds straightforward, right?

Well it is – it’s not rocket science, but the problem is that most people don’t follow this rule.  They know that it works, but they’re still not using it!


Here are 6 reasons why you are not following the 80/20 rule and doing more productive work:

Reason #1: Fear of failure

There is an element of failure built-in when taking effective action.   Most people will avoid taking actions that have any element of failure built into them.  They would rather not risk being a failure – because failing once would mean that they are a failure – which is completely untrue.

It reminds me of a quote by Micheal Jordan.  He once said,  “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”

If Michael Jordan can take effective action without being a failure, then why can’t you

Reason #2: You don’t get out of your comfort zone

I guess being an entrepreneur has it’s benefits because I’m almost always in a state of being uncomfortable.  If I get too comfortable, I fall asleep. That’s why I left my job – for the most part is was too boring.

But there were those moments when I stepped it up a notch and got uncomfortable.  I remember this one time I was completely annoyed with my boss.  He was always late for our meetings.  I went into his office and asked if I could speak with him.  I was extremely nervous, but I talked to him anyway.  At one point I said to him, “When you show up late to meetings or don’t show up at all, it tells me that wherever you are is more important than being in that meeting.”  The next day we had another meeting and he showed up on time.

Reason #3: You’re attached

When you take effective action you’re not attached to the end result, you’re committed – you make it work.  Here’s the difference.  Being attached to the end result means the process has to look a certain way. There are steps involved and it must be done that way.  That’s a clear sign of attachment.

Being committed is quite different.  You’re detached from the outcome.  You act effectively with the end in mind.  You’re open to possibility and what could be; you could care less on how it happens.  You just know that you’re committed to the end result and adjust your actions and thought processes along the way.

Reason #4: You haven’t made, “effective action” a habit

Everyone has an automatic success mechanism built within them, but very few use it.  It’s the same mechanism that let’s you drive your car and brush your teeth without consciously thinking – it’s your unconscious mind.

Once you start taking effective action on a more consistent basis, it will become a habit; and that’s the point when your productivity will skyrocket because it’s on auto-pilot.  Make effective action a habit.

Reason #5: You’ve got to have it perfect

This is closely tied to #1, except for one difference.  You could be scared to death of failure and avoid taking action because you don’t want to be a failure.  You already know this is untrue.  But you could be avoiding effective action for entirely different reason.  You don’t think it’s perfect just yet.

And since you don’t think it’s perfect you stall; especially when it’s time to make that important phone call or start that savings account – the actions that would make all the difference for you.  I’ll let you in on a little secret.  It’s never going to be perfect until you make it perfect and take effective action.  That’s the fastest way to make it perfect.  Just aim and shoot.

Reason #6: You’ll look bad

You realize that if you take effective action you might look bad, and you couldn’t have that.  Looking bad is an action killer.

You see, at some point a leader who takes effective action gives up their idea of “looking bad” because they realize it’s not as important as what they want.  I’ve found through coaching that some people will stop themselves from having something because it might make them look bad.  And the people who let this stop them usually have a low self-image.  Because if they had a better self-image, you know they would just go out there and just frickin do it!

So let’s look at the numbers again.  When you act effectively, 20% of your actions will create 80% of your results.  That means you can actually do less than you’re doing right now and get more done.  Bigger and better results.  It’s about quality, not quantity.

Does it sound too good to be true?  Well, when I started working from home, I began creating a list of 5-6 daily actions.  I still do this today.  These are the most important actions I will take that day.

Most days I work through that list and get done what is the most important.  If I don’t, then it’s for the reasons I mentioned above, but there may be others.

What do you think?  What are the reasons we avoid taking effective action?


  • Valerie M

    Reply Reply September 14, 2009

    Hi Steve,
    You really nailed it for me with this list. The biggest issue for me is #4. The more I take on and the more ideas I have, the more I realize just how much my time management sucks. So lately I’ve been focusing on that and forming better habits because there’s no other way anything will get done.

    Some people know they are getting in their own way but do nothing about it, because it’s too much work. The root of all these points is a lack of self-discipline: kicking yourself in the butt when you need to and stopping when you need to.

  • Simonas

    Reply Reply September 14, 2009

    Thank you for your clarification. Would you be willing to share with us what was the list of 5-6 daily actions you keep doing since you decided? I’d be happy to hear.

  • Steve

    Reply Reply September 15, 2009


    Well my focus has been on blogging and coaching. The most effective actions in those two areas can vary based on what I’m working on and what my goals are.

    As a general rule, I’ve found that marketing and systemization of my business systems are on my #1 and #2 so that I’m working on the most important first.

    Cheers from Jasper,


    PS – btw Simonas, what business are you in, if any?

  • Ben

    Reply Reply September 25, 2009

    Great points here Steve. I think the biggest one that gets me is #5. I tend to want to keep researching or refining the product before I push the big green “GO” button. It’s the classic ‘paralysis by analysis’ routine.

    I coach myself by the argument that ‘practice makes perfect’, eventually and the best way to inch your way closer to perfection, or at least to a better product, is to keep kicking things out.

    Another thing that I’ve found helps me is to push myself to do _something_ then the momentum tends to snowball. This is the topic of a post at my site that seems like it might be relevant to this topic:


  • Steve

    Reply Reply September 26, 2009

    Hi Ben,

    You bring up an interesting point. As a blogger, it’s our job to consistently “put out” content. It might not necessarily be perfect every time we put it out, but it does get out. And by doing this consistently this has taught me the habit of execution – no matter what it is, to get it out and let others decide if it’s perfect or not…. then tweak that post based on the response I get until I’ve made an improvement.

    Your comment also makes me think of this quote:

    “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” ~ Albert Einstein

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