Episode: The 10/80/10 Principle: Grow Your Business with 20% of the Work

Michael Hyatt: Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt.

Megan Hyatt Miller: And I’m Megan Hyatt Miller.

Michael Hyatt: And this is Lead To Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. What if I told you that you could accomplish big stuff, I’m talking really big, important stuff, and only had to do 20% of the work? Huh? Right? That’s a pretty big promise. Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to be talking about on this episode. Megan, do you know what I’m talking about?

Megan Hyatt Miller: I do know what you’re talking about, and this is one of my favorite delegation hacks. We all know we got to be great delegators, but it can be really hard to figure out exactly how to do that. And so we want to share with you one of our favorite simple methods that we really use all the time. We call it the 10-80-10 framework, and we’re going to talk you through how to use it. And gosh, we have seen this be so valuable for our clients in terms solving that problem of, I have more that I need to contribute to than I have time to actually do the work. Well, this way, you get out of 80% of the work, but you really make your most significant contribution to that 20% that only you can do. So, that’s what we’re getting into today.

Michael Hyatt: That’s right. And this is a crowd favorite with our coaching clients. They’ve loved this. I had one coaching client tell me, after I presented this… And I only presented it in five or 10 minutes. I just kind of gave the idea. It was a throwaway answer to a question. He said, “That was worth the price of coming to Nashville, just to get that one idea.”
So, I want to set this up with a story of how I first discovered this principle. So, it was back when I was first podcasting, and I realized that it took an enormous amount of work, duh. For all those of you who podcast, it’s an enormous amount of work. And so in those days, I didn’t have a team. No. It was taking me two full days per week. So, here’s what it meant. It meant I had to create the show prep. It meant that I had to record, it meant I had to edit the audio file. Then I had to do all the promotion around it, I had to do this show notes, I had to do the post on social media. I don’t know, it was 10 or 12 different steps.
And then I had the idea, I don’t really think that I contribute to all these things. In other words, somebody else could do these probably better that I’m doing them. I’m not an audio engineer. What do I know about audio editing? But I was doing it. What do I hope about posted on social media? But I was doing it. I was doing all of it. So I said, where do I add the most value? And that’s where I discovered that honestly, I only needed to do about 20% of the podcast. And I took that workload from two full days a week down to about an hour or two a week.

Megan Hyatt Miller: This is a great principle, I think for people who maybe are going from being solopreneurs, where they’ve had to do everything to try… At the beginning, when they’re trying to figure out, okay, I’m building a team, I need to offload stuff, but what do I offload? Or, people, leaders, and business owners in particular, who are finding themselves kind of overwhelmed, and the work that they’re doing has never been more important, that they’ve never felt like they had less time, this is such a great strategy for how to maximize your contribution without compromising the double win, winning at work and succeeding at life, and continuing to make a greater, greater contribution over time without watching your hours just expand.

Michael Hyatt: Yeah. And so the key is to identify those parts where you make the biggest contribution, but we’re going to unpack all of this, and we’re going to do it in five steps. So, you can implement this whole idea of accomplishing really big, really important stuff, doing 20% of the work. And we’ve got five steps to lead you to that. So Megan, what’s the first one?

Megan Hyatt Miller: All right. So, step number one is to identify a long process that is eating up a significant amount of your time. So, just think about it for a second. Maybe something is coming to your mind. But maybe if you think back, there is some process that had just popped into your mind, and maybe you used to really enjoy it, but over time, you found your passion for it is waning, or at least parts of it, kind of like in that podcast example. Maybe there’s some part that’s just causing you friction, and you’re really at a place where you just can’t continue to do it all and give the attention necessary to other parts of your business. If your business is growing, which is what we want, then this is a natural point of friction that you’re going to experience over and over again, and you’re going to kind of come to this point of decision. But regardless, just think of one process that you’d like to re-engineer your own involvement with. So, that’s step number one, identify a long process eating up a significant amount of your time.

Michael Hyatt: Okay. I want to just talk for a minute, just kind of a sidebar on why this happens. I can get very motivated about doing things that initially are exciting to me, because I love learning and I love gaining new skills. What I don’t enjoy is maintaining a process that, after a while, just becomes too routine, too monotonous. And so I like to give those up. Now, there are people that God is wired, for whatever reason, that are good at that. They like to do that. They like to make things recur. But for people like me, I like sort of the invention of creating new things, and then I get quickly bored. So, this is one of those cases. And by the way, here’s another example. Here’s another recurring process. Once I discovered this with podcasting, I said, “Hmm, where else [inaudible 00:06:02] supply?” So obviously, we’re in the business in large part of content creation. So I thought, where else do I create content? Well, one of the main places was writing books.
So, how it used to look was that I would sign a book contract, and then I would procrastinate, because it felt like a giant, enormous project that I had to get done. And so that I would go from procrastinating to terror. And then finally I’d be so scared that I was going to miss the deadline and have to give the money back, that I would just get my butt in the chair and start writing. But as it turns out, writing is a huge, long, and for me, recurring process. I said, “I got to figure this out.” So literally, after writing nine books, where I wrote every word, and it took an enormous amount of time, it was a grueling process, I enjoyed, as it turned out, about 20% of the process. The rest of it for me was pure drudgery. So, now the process is to do the parts where I contribute the most value.
And even some of those, frankly, have been delegated now, but at least when I first started doing this, I would be involved in the brainstorming of the idea. Ideation is what we call it, big, fancy word to make it sound important. But I would dream up kind of the concept, and then I might put together kind of a rough outline. And then I would sit with the team and I would do a brain dump. And then they would do an interrogation, and then I walked away. And they would do that 80% in the middle that I wasn’t that good at, and I certainly didn’t enjoy, like all the research, the interviews with our clients, putting it together in the first draft. That’s always the most tedious part of it, is getting that first draft done. And the reality was, the thing I discovered was, they were much better. The team was much better at the research, much better at interviewing the clients, pulling out the lessons, putting together the first draft. Then I would come in at the last 10% of the project.
So, the first 10%, then I’d come in at the last 10% of the project, read through that first draft, make some suggestions, and then I was done, right? So, I’m getting a hundred percent of the result, and it’s a better result with 20% of the effort.

Megan Hyatt Miller: That reminds me of one of our longtime clients, Roy Barbary, who is in sales. And he was struggling, because frankly, he was a victim of his own success. And we end up in a situation with our clients where this comes up frequently. They’re so good at what they do, they’re experiencing such great success. Then all of a sudden, they can’t service all of the success that they have in the way that they used to. They have to reimagine, how are they going to be successful kind of in a 2.0 version, because there’s so much of it? And so Roy had more prospective clients than he could manage with the time allowed, especially because he is committed to the double [inaudible 00:09:06]. He is a big family. He really prioritizes his life outside of work, and so he had to get creative. And so he realized that his clients were very dependent on him.
They thought that he needed to be involved from end to end of the sales process, and they really liked that connection with him, but he knew that didn’t work for him. So he started thinking to himself, okay, what am I really, really good at here? And what could potentially be able to hand off to somebody else? And so what he realized was, he was really excellent at the relationship, development building the rapport and trust at the beginning of a relationship with a prospect. And he was really good at closing deals at the end. But all the stuff in the middle, the developing of the proposals, the going back and forth, the asking questions, all that kind of stuff really bogged him down, and it kept him from doing what he determined was his best contribution, which was developing those relationships, and ultimately bringing them to closure at the end of a deal. And so what he realized was, okay, I have this person who works for me, who is really talented.
And while the clients don’t know him, the prospective clients, if I introduce them to this new person that they’re going to be working with, kind of my right hand person, and kind of transfer the relationship and the authority that I have to this new person, make sure that’s a really good handoff, then they could actually serve the clients better than I could. And when I come in at the end, they’re going to be super happy with the experience that they’ve had and be even more likely to close. So, he had a really good mindset about it. He was open to thinking kind of out of the box. Well, it worked great. I think he was able to increase his income and his sales pretty dramatically on the other side of that, because he opened up his capacity. And I think that that’s one of the big takeaways from a story like this, and from a concept like this of the 10-80-10 rule, is that you’re able to increase your capacity to create opportunities when you don’t have to be the one doing a hundred percent of the work.

Michael Hyatt: Yeah. This framework was a game changer. And I often get asked, “How do you get so much done?” Well, it’s an illusion. The truth is I’m only involved in the front 10% and the back 10% of the important things that we do as a company, and everything else is handled in the middle, and they do… And the team does a phenomenal job. Now, this works best when it’s a recurring process, like a podcast, like a selling process, like writing a book, like anything that takes a long time, has a lot of component parts, and is sucking your energy and your time. But Megan, you had kind of a different opinion when we were talking offline. Do you want to make your case for why it doesn’t just have to be recurring?

Megan Hyatt Miller: Yeah, we might get in a little fight here. You ready?

Michael Hyatt: Oh, promises. Promises.

Megan Hyatt Miller: Okay. I actually disagree with you on this. I don’t disagree that this is very helpful for recurring process, for sure. I think I actually use this even more though for things that I am initiating. One of the things that I’ve learned about myself, and you and I are very similar in this, and I suspect y’all listening can relate to this, is usually, my greatest contribution to most things is in the ideational phase, kind of in the visionary phase of something, where we’re imagining something that doesn’t exist, what do I see in the future that I want to go create, figuring out how to do it, figuring out kind of what are the components, all of that. That’s not necessarily where I make my greatest contribution. Sometimes I have a very clear idea of how I want to do those things, but often I don’t. And for example, right now, we’re in the middle of, or we’re rather just about to kick off a project where we’re going to develop our own proprietary methodology for project management.
This is something, cross functionally and company-wide, that has becoming increasingly important for us. It’s not something that we have standardized until this point, but now it’s necessary to do that. I see the need for it. I have a handful of ideas for how I want this project to be done. However, I am not the best person to kind of sketch out the methodology for the project management itself, because I actually don’t do a lot of that work. I’m the one thinking of ideas that become projects later on, right? And so I spent the morning today really sketching out a vision for this this project, not the methodology itself, but what I want to accomplish with the project, some parameters that are important to me. And I’m going to be able to hand that off to the group that is going to be responsible for drafting the methodology, which then… So, that’s my 10%. And they’re going to do the 80% of the work, which is drafting the methodology, creating a handbook, all this kind of stuff.
They’re going to present it to me at the end for my approval. And I may make a few tweaks to it, although likely, I won’t. My guess is they’re going to get pretty darn close through that process, but I do that a lot. I’m really asking myself, okay, what’s my contribution? What’s my greatest contribution to this project? Do I even need to be involved at all? Sometimes I just think of something that needs to be done and hand it off. But oftentimes, my greatest contribution is at that visionary stage. Then I hand it off and ask myself, okay, who else could do this better than I could? Who are the best people to do this middle part? And then how do I need to be involved at the end? And that has really freed up a lot of time for me and has enabled me not to become the bottleneck, because for people waiting on my calendar, it can take a while.

Michael Hyatt: Okay, well, I’m not going to argue with you at this juncture. I think you make a fair point, and I’ll try to find an argument that we can have later in this episode. But for right now, I’m going to give you a pass.

Megan Hyatt Miller: Okay, great.

Michael Hyatt: So number one, step one, identify a long process eating up a significant amount of your time. What’s step two?

Megan Hyatt Miller: Step two is to dissect the process into its component parts. So, let’s assume that this is something you’ve done many times, like writing a book or producing a podcast. You want to make a simple sequential list of the component parts, what has to be done first, second, third, and so on. And you could use this example, the example of that you just shared of writing a book that you were talking about earlier. There are clear steps in that process that you can itemize, that you could ultimately hand off to somebody else. And it doesn’t need to be super complicated. I mean, this can be on one page that you can identify these things.

Michael Hyatt: Yeah. And so in our case, we’ve got about nine steps for writing a book. I think I’m involved in one and nine, maybe a little bit in the middle. Sometimes a team will come back to me and interview me for stories, especially for anecdotes, and so I’ll do a brain dump on that, but we’ve identified those component parts. We know what it takes to create a book. We know what it takes to create a podcast, although I’m quickly forgetting what it takes to do a podcast, because it’s been years since I’ve done it, but it can be for any kind of project that you want to do. What are the component parts? Now, I want to go back to your example, because now’s where I think I want to pick the argument, is when you don’t know what the component parts are, which it seems to be in your situation, how do you do that?

Megan Hyatt Miller: Well, it’s pretty difficult. You don’t necessarily. I think that you have the vision, and you have to bring other people in to identify what the component parts are, and then match the right people to those individual parts. So, I agree with you. And that kind of is a good lead in to step number three, which is to assess where you add the most value. And I think one of the great things, to your point, about going through this kind of dissection process of identifying the component parts is that then… It’s like when we think about this stuff naturally, like creating a podcast, we think about it as one task, but it’s actually made up of a whole bunch of components. And I think what becomes clear, when you start to pull them apart from each other, is you think to yourself, okay, I’m really great at that one. I’m really great at coming up with ideas for the content, or I’m really great at delivering the content, or I’m really great at doing the research in advance of the ideation process.
And it kind of externalizes those pieces so you can start to ask yourself the question of really where do I add the most value, because it’s not going to be everywhere. Like you said, audio production, you don’t have any particular expertise at that. Social media strategy, you don’t have any particular expertise at that. And so you can quickly identify, these are the things that I can hand off to somebody else.

Michael Hyatt: Well, and we’ve talked on this podcast before about the freedom compass and about the intersection of our passion and our proficiency. And that’s a clue, right? That’s one of the places you should first look. What am I passionate about doing, and what am I proficient at or good at doing? So, you want those two things to help you identify where you need to be focused, and the other things, you need to get out of. Now, here’s what gets a little bit tricky though, and I don’t know if you found this Megan, but a lot of times when I’m doing something new for the first time, I don’t know if it’s in my desire zone where passion and proficiency meet. I could remember, back when I used to do… Well, when I first started writing, there was a good example. I used to hate it. I used to dread it. I procrastinated. But over time, I learned to really like it, and I got, I think, pretty good at it.
Same thing with video. Whenever I would create videos, I mean, I hated it at the beginning. Now, I enjoy it. Especially if it’s live streaming to a live audience, I really enjoy that. So, I think sometimes you… And this is kind of an advanced topic with the freedom compass. We don’t always talk about this, except for our clients inside our business accelerator program, but there’s something also called the development zone, where you just kind of put something in a box where you’re not sure yet. You got to hunch that it’s going to be important, but you don’t have enough proficiency yet to really enjoy it. And so you kind of have to work it out until you get to the point where you have some enjoyment around it. Same thing was true with podcasting. I mean, it’s one of those things that I’ve grown to love over time, but it’s still work. But I do feel like it’s more in my desire zone than it used to be. Does that make sense?

Megan Hyatt Miller: Yeah, I think that’s helpful, because sometimes there are these little outliers that you’re like, ugh, I don’t know. It’s just sort of a question mark to me. The good news is, I think so many things that we’re talking about as candidates for this kind of delegation with 10-80-20, you’re going to be able to identify right off the bat. Oh my gosh. If I could just hand off that 80%, I would love my life again. I wouldn’t feel like I was sucked down into all this stuff that sucks my energy and is draining to me. And that’s really what we’re talking about. Go for that low hanging fruit first, because there’s probably a lot of that stuff. And I think that it’s important to remember this change is over time, and the context matters. Like you were saying, sometimes you enjoy something at the beginning, or you felt that you had a lot of proficiency. Maybe it got more complicated and sophisticated as time went on, or maybe you lost interest in it as you’ve become more focused and more clear about what your greatest contribution is.
So, this is one of those things you can really keep coming back to, especially as your business is growing, you’re going to have to narrow and narrow your focus, because there’s just not going to be enough time to do all the things that are necessary to keep your business growing.

Michael Hyatt: Well, this whole point about adding value, just imagine, for example, in my podcast where I’m spending 16 hours a week, two full days a week doing a podcast episode, not episode, an episode. And then I was able to reduce that to two hours, and it was two hours of stuff that I enjoyed the most. That affected the quality of my life. It affected my job satisfaction. It changed everything. And so what we’re suggesting for you listening to this is to identify one of those processes that takes a lot of time, that’s sucking a lot of time and energy. And if you could re-engineer that so you’re focused only on the 20% where you add the most value, that would make a huge difference.

Megan Hyatt Miller: Well, and think about the financial impact of that if you’re a business owner or an executive. If you were spending 16 hours a week on a podcast versus two hours a week… And now we spend even less than that, right? When you think about what that frees up your time to be invested in, a lot of that is not revenue generating activity. It’s important, but it’s not revenue generating. And so as the business owner, if you can transfer that investment of time to something that is revenue generating, that’s generating new business, or future opportunities, or new relationships or whatever, I mean, just think about what that makes possible financially. So, this is not only about your quality of life, although that’s great. It’s not only about your satisfaction professionally, although that’s important. This is also about the financial opportunity and the operating results in your business that you can directly affect from your seat as the business owner.

Michael Hyatt: Or to say it another way, this is an opportunity to scale your business. This is a practical tool for scaling your business. Okay. Step one, identify a long process that’s eating up a significant amount of time. Step two, dissect the process into its component parts. Step three, assess where you add the most value. That’s what we’ve just been talking about. And then step number four, call a meeting with those you want to involve in the process.

Megan Hyatt Miller: Yeah. So, this should include anybody to whom you might delegate part of this process. It could be one person, it could be multiple people, but in this meeting, you want to explain what you want to do and why. And the why is really important, because if people don’t understand what the outcome you’re after really is and why it’s important, then it’s hard for them to engineer that middle 80% to deliver the outcome that you want. So, it’s really important to provide that context for people. This is one of the most important kind of pro tips with regard to delegation that we share with our clients, is that it can be really easy to make this transactional. You just hand somebody a piece of paper with a task, or shoot something in Slack or whatever. And then the people that you’re delegating to aren’t really empowered with the information they need and the context they need to deliver an excellent outcome for you, that when you come back and you do your last 10%, we want you to have your expectations exceeded.
But the only way that happens is if you do a really good handoff and take the time to have this meeting and explain things to the people you’re delegating to.

Michael Hyatt: That’s good. So, identifying the right people to get in the room is important. And I would say this, I would say that if anybody’s going to be touching the project, they probably ought to be involved in it, because they need to hear it kind of from the horse’s mouth in terms of getting the vision, and as you said, the context, so that they can really follow through and make decisions that don’t require you to make all the little decisions because they understand the overall rationale. And by the way, that’s true in every delegation. That’s why, when we talk about our vision caster tool, we talk about the rationale, telling people why this task that you’re delegating matters so that they can make decisions about how to move forward in your absence. And it doesn’t require you to make all those, you know, myriad of micro decisions that have to be made in any project.

Megan Hyatt Miller: A great story of this that I really think illustrates the point, I was asking your executive assistant, Jim, to do something for me recently. I had a calendar request that I wanted him to prioritize, which I knew was going to be inconvenient to him. He was going to have to rearrange a bunch of stuff, it was going to kind of put the pressure on your time during a short window, in such a way that he wasn’t probably going to like it very much. Normally, he’s very protective of your time and he has his priorities, and it’s really his job to engineer a calendar to deliver on your greatest priorities. And so I was going to be asking him to make some compromises for the sake of something greater. And normally what I would do in this situation is, I would ask my assistant, Elizabeth, to reach out to Jim, and just say, “Hey, Jim. Can you do such and such? Megan, needs it for X, Y, Z.”
And I thought to myself, this is a big enough request, it’s going to be disruptive enough that, if it’s going to be successful, I really need to give Jim the context. I need to honor him with the context so that he’s empowered to say yes and to prioritize my request, even though it’s going to mean some compromises. So, I shot him a little video. I just pulled out my phone, shot a two minute video. And I said, “Hey, Jim, I wanted to see if you could add these three dates to my dad’s calendar. Here’s why this is really important and what we’re trying to do with it.” I was empathetic about… “I know this is going to mean you’re going to have to move these things I see on the calendar around. I’m sorry for that. But here’s why I think it’s going to be worth it.” And I just shot it to him with the request.
And instead of making it transactional, I really took the time to explain what I was asking him to do, this delegation. And he really, really appreciated that. He was able to make it happen. He said, “Sure, no problem. I’m on it,” which could have been some back and forth around him saying no because he didn’t understand the bigger context and he knew it was going to threaten some other things that he already had in place. And he was so happy to be on board, and so helpful. And I just think it’s a good example of, when we’re delegating, especially the more important it is, the more important it is to do this step of really, not just getting the right people in the room and involving them in the process, but explaining the why, because then you get a level of alignment and buy-in that makes things possible that otherwise just might not be

Michael Hyatt: That’s so true. So good. I had no idea you did that. All of a sudden, I was like my schedule’s really crowded, and I’m thinking why? I had no context.

Megan Hyatt Miller: No, this is in the past. It’s already happened.

Michael Hyatt: I almost fired Jim over that. Just kidding.
Okay. The final step, step five, and this may be my most favorite, which is begin the new process as an experiment. Okay, so this is a hack I’ve talked about before, but whatever I’m trying to do anything for the first time, I realize, hey, I don’t have to commit to this for the rest of my life. I’m not even sure it’s going to work, but let’s just try this as an experiment. So, we tried that at the beginning of the pandemic, when we went to a 30 hour work week. We said, “Let’s just set it up as an experiment,” because we didn’t know all the contingencies and all the ifs, ands, and whatevers. We didn’t know how it was going to all work. We didn’t know if we were borrowing trouble from the future, if it wasn’t going to pan an out. So we said, “Let’s just set it up as an experiment.”
That takes the risk out of it. So, you always have the option of going back to the way that you were doing it before. But rarely, on things like this, do I go back, but I want to validate it through experiment. In fact, I think we’ve got an entire podcast on developing an experimental mindset. Somewhere, that’s in the archive, and we’ll post that in the show notes, but that’s a great hack for getting started and sort of getting off the blocks and getting a fast start.

Megan Hyatt Miller: Well, this also does something else that I think is important with delegation. Sometimes when we’re either delegating to somebody new or we are new to delegation ourselves, we don’t always get the exact result that we’re looking for right out of the gate, especially with a big delegation like delegating 80% of a process to someone. And it could be easy to give up after you have not hit the ball out of the park on your first try, like, “Oh yeah, well, that delegation thing doesn’t really work for me. I tried it and they messed up this part,” or whatever. What’s great about setting it up like an experiment is that you’re setting up the expectation that one, it’s not going to be perfect the first time, and two, that you’re going to iterate on the feedback, and kind of the information that you gather, in this first-

Michael Hyatt: Yes.

Megan Hyatt Miller: … kind of experimental period. So for example, when I was working on my vision caster, my vision for this project management methodology project that I was talking about earlier, I specifically put, in the vision caster, that we evaluated. We went through an after action review process at 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days, and then iterated on the methodology and documented that in the handbook that I’d also prescribed in this vision caster as part of the project, so that we just assumed this is not going to work perfectly from the beginning. That’s fine. It’s kind of a beta test, and that we’re going to iterate as we go, because what kind of can happen for business owners is we’re so focused on the future that we do a delegation like this, we hand over a delegation, and then we’re just onto the next thing, and we never look at it again, except to maybe say, “Oh, that didn’t work. I guess I won’t do that again.”
And we just give up too easily, and that iterative process, that process of experimentation is so important to ultimately fine tuning this and getting to a place where you’re getting consistently excellent outcomes.

Michael Hyatt: Okay. So, in this episode, we’ve talked about how to accomplish big, important stuff, get a hundred percent of the results, and do only 20% of the work. I still get excited thinking about that. That’s just such a great promise, and it’s true. But we talked about five steps. Step number one, identify a long process that’s eating up a significant amount of your time. Step two, dissect the process into its component parts. Step three, assess where you add the most value. Step four, call a meeting with those you want to involve in the process. And step five, begin the new process as an experiment. Megan, any final thoughts?

Megan Hyatt Miller: Well, we’ve been talking lately about this idea of in order to scale your business, you have to scale yourself, because otherwise, you become the ceiling on your own growth. And I think this principle, this 10-80-10 principle, is such a great illustration of how we raise the ceiling on ourselves as business leaders so that we can ultimately scale our business. Like I said, if you can imagine freeing up 80% of your capacity around important projects to devote to future opportunities, revenue generating opportunities, and what that would mean for the growth of your business, I mean, this is a big idea. And so it gets me excited. I just want to encourage you guys to pick something that you can try this out on, because I think once you do, and if you commit yourself to iteration on the back end, you’re just never going to look back, and what it makes possible is going to be so exciting for your business growth.

Michael Hyatt: Megan, thank you so much. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation on a topic that’s been such a big game changer for us and for a lot of our clients. And we’re delighted to share it with you all. We hope it’s been helpful, but we look forward to our next time together. And until then, lead to win.