The 80/20 Rule
Reduce Stress and Focus on the Big Things
D id you know April is Stress think anyone needs to be made aware that stress exists. At the firm, we work with clients who are often really stressed out — for good reason. Filing for bankruptcy or being in the middle of a personal injury case comes with a great deal of stress. As an attorney, I’ve had to learn how to deal with plenty of stress, and I’m always willing to share my strategies for stress management. I’ve found I tend to use humor to alleviate stress. Making a joke or finding a reason to laugh doesn’t make someone’s situation less serious, but it can really break the tension. A good laugh can also help you see your situation from a brighter point of view. If I can help my client find a little relief with a laugh, they usually feel a lot better when they leave my office. That said, we can’t laugh our problems away. Real stress management comes from having a plan to address the things that stress us out. Clients come to me because, as a lawyer, it’s my job to help them make a plan to get out of whatever stressful situation they’re in. Thanks to the law and courts, I’m able to take a heavy burden off my clients’ shoulders by settling a personal injury case or wiping their debt away. In my personal life, I use lists for stress management. Making a list is the top result on almost every internet article about stress management, and that’s because it works! When you write down everything you have to do, you’ll usually find that 80 percent of what’s stressing you out is only 20 percent of what you need to get done. This comes from the Pareto principle, also called the 80/20 rule. What’s great about the 80/20 rule is that it proves you don’t need to do everything on your list to feel less stressed — you just need to tackle those few things that stress you out the most. Awareness Month? It sounds a little unnecessary since I don’t
“... 80 percent of what’s stressing you out is only 20 percent of what you need to get done.”
The 80/20 rule reminds me of a story from Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Imagine if you take a jar and fill it to the brim with water and sand, but then you have to put three big rocks into the jar. What happens? The water and sand spill out because there’s no room for the rocks! But if you put the big rocks in first, you can fill the spaces in between with water and sand. Everything fits. Dr. Covey’s story isn’t just a tip for collecting great souvenirs at the beach. It’s a reminder that when we’re making our lists, we need to prioritize the important things first. The big rocks represent the important things in our lives, like our health, family, and spiritual growth. Those are what make life worthwhile. When we put a real effort into those areas, the other mundane things — the water and sand in the jar — feel less overwhelming. When it comes to stress management, the key is to put the advice into practice. That’s the hard part, I know, but when we don’t invest time into the big things, we’ll spend every day running around putting out fires. Here’s my advice: Tonight, make a list of everything you need to do tomorrow, with the big things at the top of the list. Then commit to getting at least 20 percent of your list done every day. If you can manage that, you might find 80 percent of your stress disappears.
–Walter E. “Pete” Moak
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