The April 2013 issue of Inc. features Tim Ferriss, the author who brought us “The 4-Hour Workweek” and other productivity books, blogs, and seminars. Ferriss’ 80/20 rule says that “eighty percent of one’s productivity comes from 20% of one’s efforts and likewise 80% of your wasted time comes from 20% of the possible causes.” I started to look at the twenty-percent possible causes.

1. Support system has not grown or flexed. When I speak of support system, I am referring to many factions.

  • At work: Is your support team, such as your assistant, HR, building facilities, vendors — all the people who are supposed to make things flow in an invisible kind of way — stagnant? Is that the way it really works? Or, are you working to their needs, schedules, and priorities? Are they not responsive or if they are, do they have your best interest and those of your customers in mind? Are you doing too much of their jobs? Are their standards as high as yours and are they constantly trying to make your life easier? Do they see that as their responsibility? Maybe not.
  • At home: Here I speak of your accountant, lawyer, your banker, car mechanic, and all the various people you pay on a regular basis to do a job and to do it right. Are you in charge of the follow-ups, reminders, making the calls rather than receiving them? Always checking-up and checking-out what is getting done? Are you the general contractor of your life or the on-site superintendent? At times maybe this is necessary but I have come to the conclusion it's often not the case.
  • With friends and colleagues: Do you have a few people in your life that are great to be with but too much work in the long run? I do. I have a family friend who has the 15-minute rule. He waits a quarter of an hour past the appointed time and if you don’t show, he leaves. Only if he gets a call, with a legitimate excuse, would he even consider sticking around. Otherwise, the feelings of anger or resentment that arise are too draining for him. He’s right. I waste time hoping certain people will change; that by some magical intervention they will suddenly become punctual or reliable, or emotionally available. That must be half of my 20%.
  • With family: All that can be said about friends is only magnified with family for many, many reasons. Maybe you’ve changed and they’ve stayed the same. Have they moved forward or away? Possibly both of you have shifted to different places. Whatever the cause, the effect is often hours and psychological calories wasted on people you can’t change, and not enough effort on moving up or away. It’s often hard because the connection is in our DNA, but so is survival.

Potential solutions — radical surgery. Fire the incompetents. It’s hard to do but the sense of relief after it is over can be exhilarating. Put the slackers on warning with specifics, “I need for you to give me a week’s notice before,” or “when I say get back to me, I expect you to get back to me.” Another possibility, for a period of time that might end up being forever, is to cut out, or stay away from whoever takes more than they give in terms of time, energy, or material goods.

2. Your technology is not up to par, outdated, or unreliable.

  • Your basic systems: Are you tolerating a too small screen, poor reception, or dropped calls? Are you rebooting the cable box, battling the ATM, or on long online help desk lines? It’s time to do something.
  • You’ve failed to upgrade: Is it money, time, or indecision? Is the thought of transferring all the data to another machine just too overwhelming, so you live with a lack of speed? Have you read so many reviews that now you’re more confused than before or have decided none of it is right for you because you seek perfection.
  • Bright shiny things: Does every shiny tech object attract your attention, so you are actually burden with gadgets, links, and e-mail accounts?

Potential solutions — Surrender Dorothy! Make a list of what you are tolerating and decide to either delete (meaning fire the guys), delegate (Task Rabbit, that smart kid down the hall who needs some money, or hire an expert and live with their way of doing things), or if all else fails, do it yourself but do it.

What’s taking up most of your daily energy? I guarantee, it is not the exciting project, the new hire with a unique perspective, or even the tried and true person who cares for your kids or ill parents. It’s the people and things we tolerate, excuse, and protect. What would you do with the found time and energy?

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.