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Summary:

The popular 80/20 rule says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. But the future’s uncertain, so it can be difficult to know which 20% of activities will lead to the lion’s share of benefits. Look to your past for lessons about […]

The popular 80/20 rule says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. But the future’s uncertain, so it can be difficult to know which 20% of activities will lead to the lion’s share of benefits. Look to your past for lessons about what business activities hold the most promise for you.

As an example, consider conferences, which are touted for their networking and educational opportunities but often require big investments of time and money. Information Architect Stephen Collins muses that they aren’t always worth it:

You know, conferences, for all their imagined value sometimes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. The signal to noise ratio ends up being way out of whack and you walk away after two or three days thinking you’d have been better off saving your money and staying at work. There are more than a few conferences that strike me as being mostly noise.

It’s hard to know in advance which conferences will be valuable — just like it’s generally hard to predict which professional activities of any sort will have the best payoff in the future.

But you can look to your past for some lessons about what activities have the most value for you. And the end of year lull is a great time to do it, so you can feed what you discover into your future plans. (Career coach Michael Melcher suggests a year-end review process that might help.)

What was most worth your while this year — whether a conference you attended (or organized or spoke at), a project you took on, a new tool you tried, or a relationship you built?

And what wasn’t worth the time, effort, and money you put in? Maybe there’s something you need to put on your Not To Do list.

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By Anne Zelenka

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  1. I’ve had a busy year and should go back and id my top 20%, will have to take a look at the year-end review process. Thanks!

  2. Biggest waste of time for me? Trying to compete for freelance web design jobs on craigslist.

    Even after weeding out the obviously ridiculous posts, most everything is from people trying to find a bargain rather than quality work.

    That doesn’t tend to work out very well for someone who won’t cater to the lowest common denominator. :-)

  3. By far the most worthwhile: Starting a blog–it gets me better clients and a lot of great feedback. The blog also helped me clarify some product ideas and get testers for the first product.

    For what it’s worth, the previous year’s most worthwhile event was speaking at a conference. I think it was more the slideshow than the talk, however. I put the slideshow on my site and it became slightly viral.

  4. The most worthwhile for me this year was taking the courses in the Landmark Education Curriculum for Living. I got to see how my past was influencing my present and was able to remote the restraints that that imposed on my life and find new possibilities for life that inspire me and those around me.

  5. The most worthwhile to me this year was getting serious about optimizing my technological life – I have decreased the clutter, stress and frustration from having lots of copies of the same documents, multiple programs that do the same thing and junky folders for bookmarks in my browser.

    A little housecleaning (perhaps 5 hours total) made a world of difference in how I work!

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