Okinawans, some of the healthiest people in the world, follow a tradition called hara hachi bu, which means they eat until they’re 80% full. Justin Jackson applied this principle beyond dieting to his work and found enormous benefits.
Many of us eat and work to capacity (if not to over-capacity). We max out in just about every area of our lives: career, money, social commitments, and more. This puts us at risk of burning out and it leaves no room for error or anything else, Jackson says:
I loved the busyness. I was firing on all cylinders. Spinning all these plates in the air. The world was my oyster!
And it all worked fine until…
You see, I had no reserves. The problem with being maxed out is you can’t deal with anything new. I couldn’t fit anything else in. I’d squeezed my schedule, my finances, my energy, and my family to the absolute limit. And then a crisis: the business I’d invested in went bad. I had no extra room to deal with a crisis: all those plates I’d been spinning came crashing down. I experienced depression for the first time in my life.
His solution was a kind of mental hara hachi bu at work—deliberately pacing and managing his energy so he was only working at about 80% instead of 110%. It’s not an exact science, but it’s simply about being more mindful:
There’s not really a good way of describing how I determine whether or not I’m at 80%. It’s a state of being mindful. I try not to overstimulate my brain: I pick 2-3 big things to accomplish a day. After that, I focus on little things that don’t require as much energy.
As a result, Jackson is better able to handle unexpected and urgent things, his work is more focused, and he’s no longer at risk of burnout.
The 80/20 ratio comes up a lot, for dieting, making work more fun, clearing out clutter, networking, and managing tasks. This example isn’t really about the pareto principle, though, so much as it is about creating more space in yout life.
The principle that changed my life | Justin Jackson
Photo by marekuliasz.