Debunking the Myth of the 80/20 Rule

I had a meeting with my manager last week, our monthly one-on-one. We discuss everything from job performance to personal ambitions. Since my internship is wrapping up in a month (which is scary, don’t even get me started), we were also talking about what I want to do after my internship is over. My idea of winning the lottery was a little… less than concrete, shall we say. And it is not that I haven’t been looking for jobs, because I most definitely have. There have just been very few that I have found interesting within my geographic surroundings.

That is when she tried to drop a little dose of reality on me that she called the “80/20 Rule”.

“Doug, you have to understand,” she said to me, “that, when it comes to a job you have to think 80/20. 80% of the job you do, you do it because it has to be done. You do it for the 20%, because that is the part you enjoy. That 20% is what makes you come to work every single day.”

At the time I just sort of laughed, and we barely elaborated on that any further – our meeting was almost over and I was looking for some more advice. But now that I have had a few days to dwell on what she said, I have come to a conclusion.

That is ridiculous.

I have been very adamant since I began this blog that I am all about following your passions. Do what you love, but also work hard to support it – I wrote a whole blog about that. But to think that an individual should spend 80% of their time doing what they dislike just to enjoy the remainder is insane to me. Just like the traditional idea of working to retirement. Spending forty years to enjoy ten or fifteen is, to quote my Scottish grandparents, daft. Why not enjoy the journey to your destination? When you go on a road trip, you make fun stops along the way, ultimately culminating in something incredible at the end. Why should the biggest journey of your life be any different?

Now please, do no mistake my incredulousness for naivety. I am well aware that there will never be anything that is always desirable, all the time. Even running this blog, which I absolutely adore, has its tedious and difficult moments. There are times when I say to myself “Doug, you have to get this done whether you like it or not,” and I trudge through it. I do that because this is something that I have grown to love doing. I am enjoying so many aspects of my current role, but every now and then I have to compile lists of 200+ locations, send out mail to two dozen people, or track things in an ever-expanding Excel spreadsheet. But it is not 80% of the job. If it was, I think I might go insane.

So this isn’t an argument to reverse that number, either. To think that administrative or busy work would only comprise 20% of your work is still a tad unrealistic. For every ten hours I spend on this blog, more than two goes into editing, promoting, formatting, or planning. Not that these things can’t be fun, but they tend not to be.

So where does that leave me?

My idealistic thoughts unfortunately do not pay the bills, so I am continuously searching for jobs that actually excite me. My go-to key word is “creative” in the job search, though finding something outside of Toronto is difficult. Creative, content-oriented jobs are becoming more popular, but only in businesses that are willing to give them a shot. It requires innovative risk-taking, and those companies – at least in my area – tend to operate in Toronto. While I am enjoying my time in the big city right now, it is not something that I can see myself continuing for long. Plus I am spending a fortune on books to read on the train.

That leads me to a question I see every now and then: Will I ever monetize this blog? It is highly unlikely that I will and, if I do, it will not be anytime soon. For starters, I don’t have enough traffic to make it worthwhile. I have no illusions that the traffic I get is some kind of incredible number, though it continues to make me happy on a personal level. Beyond that, however, I see the blog as a means for me to connect with people. Not so much a marketing tool or revenue stream, as it is for larger blogs or businesses, but it is a way for me to establish a link with others, to grow and to help them grow. The incredible changes and opportunities that have come my way because of this blog in just four months has been invaluable. Would it be nice to run a personal blog to the point of it being part-time employment? Yes, it would be incredible! But that is a ways away.

So I will keep everyone updated as to how the job search goes, and where I will find a job that doesn’t abide by that ridiculous 80/20 rule. Let me know in the comments, a Tweet, or an email what you look for in a job. If you are one of those people who have found a job that breaks the 80/20 rule, I would love to hear about it! Maybe you could give this optimistic soul some helpful tips.