The 80/20 Principle and Getting Things Done

The 80/20 principle, also known as the Pareto principle, states that, for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Whole books have been written on this. It’s applied to every conceivable scenario and the concept is simple. We all waste a lot of time and effort on things that are unproductive. If we can focus on those few things that create the greatest results, we will achieve so much more in less time. A couple of tools I find useful are as follows: In his book, “First Things First”, Steven Covey describes a grid of four boxes. In one box are those things that are urgent and important (must be handled now and is important for reaching my goal). In a second box are things that are urgent and unimportant (the typical things that pop up day-to-day that, because of it’s urgency, we feel like it must be important, but it won’t help us reach our goals) You’ll be amazed how many actually fall into this category. These are the real life-suckers that can leave us too fatigued to do the meaningful stuff. A third… not urgent, but important (envisioning your future and how to attain it or maybe planning/taking some down time to recharge your inner batteries). A fourth… not urgent and unimportant (wasting time).


Write out your list of things to do and label them as fitting into one of these boxes. Then stick to the two “important” boxes and either delegate or toss out the rest. (I love this exercise.)

Take that one step further with a tip from “The 4-Hour Workweek”, by Tim Ferris. It discusses the inefficient use of our time and how multi-tasking helps us work at many things and finish none of them. Ferries believes in locking yourself away from distractions and working on only one task at a time until that task is finished. (I’m a big believer in this one.)

Now go to your lists in the important boxes and prioritize them. Gather all of the information or things you will need for the first project and lock yourself away until it’s done. If you can’t get it all done in one sitting, then schedule a meeting with yourself each day until you do finish. If we can set our minds to attacking and completing the 20% of things on our list that are really important , we’ll attain the results we’re seeking sooner than we could have imagined.

Good luck, Mark

No Man (or Woman) is an Island

I know that many trainers get certified and head out into the world believing that they have all of the answers. They may see other trainers as competition and choose to keep whatever knowledge/information they have to themselves for fear of giving away something that will give others a business advantage.

islandThis is a trap that will hold you back from becoming the best trainer that you could be. The times change, the science changes, and you need to change and grow with them.

I have been a personal trainer and in club management for 35 years. I have acquired a great deal of information over the years and have much to share. That said, every time I get a chance to talk with other professionals in the field, I come away with new insight. Sometimes it’s something completely new and sometimes it’s an affirmation that I am on the right track. I example, I just got back from an executive roundtable for fitness directors. Everyone on the roundtable disclosed everything from financials to best practices and I believe I speak for the group in saying that we all came away with new ideas and a better understanding of how to become more successful.

While this example is larger scale and you may not think it is applicable to you, it is. I have had similar discussions with fellow trainers in our club and even with trainers from competing clubs. The key is that almost 70% of the US population is overweight or obese. We sit too much. We eat too much. We are an unwell society. There is no shortage of potential clients.

So go talk to other trainers about their training and their business and talk to them about yours.

You cannot be your best if you isolate yourself.

Share, listen, learn, and repeat.

Service With a Smile?

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? It’s incredible to me how often I see people in the service industry that just don’t get it. How many times do you walk into a store or restaurant and can’t seem to get anyone’s attention or, if you do, you’re obviously interrupting something very important (like an inspection of their nail polish or a conversation they’re having with a co-worker) because they genuinely seemed ticked off that you’re there. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone cared enough to even fake caring?
For me, it’s like Roy Scheider’s portrayal of Bob Fosse in the movie “All That Jazz”. Fosse wakes every morning up after obvious hard nights, throws some Visine in his eyes, takes a couple of uppers, and says to himself in the mirror, “It’s show time, folks!” and puts on his I-must-deal-with-the-public face.

While that may be an extreme example, the point is that every interaction that you have can make or break someone’s day. It’s no different with Personal Trainers. I always talk about it being “show time”. You need to leave everything that’s bothering you outside of work. Remind yourself you have the power to create positive experiences for others and that’s a wonderful thing. Enjoy that power. Even if life is hard outside of work, you can choose to focus on the positive effects you have on others while at work.
So, smile and pass it on.

Revisiting “Who Moved My Cheese”

“Change is the only constant. Hanging on is the only sin.” – Denise McCluggage

Every once in a while I am astounded by certain people’s resistance to change. In any business or, in fact, any life, change is inevitable.


The world around us is changing so rapidly, how can we believe that we can, or should, escape it? I’m reminded of when my wife Heather and I first joined the corporate team of Town Sports International. We were immediately handed a copy of Spencer Johnson’s “Who Moved My Cheese”. The message of the book is simple, things change and if you don’t accept it and move on you’ll be left behind wondering where it all went and when is it coming back (which its not).

We can always improve how and what we do. How can we help more people? How can we have a greater impact? How can we improve the world? Change has it’s ups and downs but, the yin and yang of it is that without the downs there are no ups. Without the risk of failing, there’s no chance of improving, no growth.

We need to embrace change and go for that ride of what could be. With change the possibilities are endless.

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston S. Churchill