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.