Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pareto’s Principle and Time Management in Meeting Planning

Simply put, Pareto’s Principle (described here) states that, in anything, 80% of the results come from 20% of the group. While this principle was originally applied to the distribution of wealth in Italy, where 20% of the population owned 80% of the wealth, it can also be applied to other areas of life. In Quality Management, it became the “80-20 Rule”.

So how do Pareto’s Principle and the 80-20 Rule apply to meeting & conference planning (or any job for that matter)? The 80-20 Rule says that you should spend 80% of your time on the 20% of daily activities that really matter – because those activities will produce 80% of your results! For me, this means figuring out which 20% matter.

In order to be a good time manager, one would typically keep a list of hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly priorities; this is a great office technique regardless of the nature of your job. It helps to manage time well and to complete that tasks that are the most important in a timely manner. Taking the time to prioritize activities is a good way to identify the tasks that are most important and make sure they get done no matter what.

Teamwork is an important part of inter-office dynamics (for us, anyway) and should also be planned into the workday. Know when you have the time to jump in and assist another colleague and how long it will take to make a positive impact on the work to be done. Volunteering to assist another colleague does affect your workload and how much time you have for your projects, so plan accordingly.

As meeting and conference planners, it is important to keep current “timelines” for every project. This helps to guarantee that we focus on the 20% that matters most without losing track of the rest in the process. The timeline also designates who is responsible for each task and when the task is due to be completed. The length of time involved to complete various task is always different and needs to be considered per task on a regular basis. Keeping detailed notes or a daily log of “things-to-do” is also a great way to keep on task.

When I get into the office each day – I determine what are the most important things I need to do that day. Some of the more immediate things many include: listening to voice mails, returning phone calls, or responding to client emails. Referring to a list of daily priorities throughout the day is also helpful. That way, it is easy to check things off as they are completed, while at the same time being aware of what remains to be done and the time of day that tasks need to be completed. Paying attention to deadlines is also very important. Each day is totally different in terms of priorities, so I make sure to review my lists every day.

Part of my interpretation of this rule is that 80% of your time is non-productive. Being non-productive, in the office or in my own personal life is not something I am comfortable with. I feel good when I accomplish things each and every day! I like to use my day to the fullest and enjoy the ride along the way, as well. Some may argue with the fact that it is not necessary to be productive every day, but we all have our own opinions and live our lives accordingly. Organization is a huge part of most of our lives and everyone can and will approach it differently.

If you have suggestions to add to my input on “Time Management” – please email me at I would appreciate your feedback and be happy to share responses in future posts.

Note: What you have just read is the opinion of one – me! It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the entire RDL Management, staff, or any of our clients.

- Cyndy Hutchinson • Executive Director, RDL enterprises