The 80% Approach by Dan Sullivan cover

The 80% Approach by Dan Sullivan

Date read: 2014-02-19.
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Eliminate the paralysis of perfectionism and procrastination by acting fast and aiming for the first 80%. Good enough now is superior to perfect in indefinite future. Have a bias towards making things good enough. Your team will follow and productivity will rise.


Entrepreneurial individuals are those who continually strive to make things more useful and valuable than they found them.

The 80% Approach is a way of thinking and acting that eliminates the paralysis of perfectionism and procrastination.

The first 80% is often good enough.

The 80% Approach gives us permission to nip perfectionism in the bud.

If 80% is good enough, then that’s the very best result we need to achieve.

Get the first 80% result as quickly as possible so we can benefit from the result.

The second 80%

This can represent further improvements to the project on our part or, even better, further improvements done by other talented people.

It actually brings the overall project to 96% of the ideal result.

Are two 80% attempts all that’s needed? In all but a few situations in life, the answer is “yes.”

In a world filled with many sub-standard, shoddy, and unsatisfactory results, a 96%-quality project would look and actually be extraordinary.

Delegate the second 80% attempt as much as possible.

Perfectionism And Procrastination

Two paralyzing traps that always undermine individual and organizational confidence.

The habit of perfectionism paralyzes our ability to make decisions and commitments, while the habit of procrastination paralyzes our ability to take action. These two habits almost always accompany each other. You seldom have one without the other.

Perfectionists are always procrastinators, and procrastinators are always perfectionists

Perfectionism: obsession with the “ideal.”

Perfectionism is the result of a mental obsession with achieving the “ideal”—as a minimum requirement—in all situations and areas of life.

Perfectionism represents a belief system about how life should work—not how life actually does work, but how it should. This is a crucial point.

Perfectionists never take ownership of what happens to them.

Procrastination: refusal to take action.

Procrastination results from the refusal to take action until an “ideal” result is guaranteed in every situation.

Advantage 1: The first attempt at anything is never more than 80% — regardless of preparation.

Confidence only comes from fast engagement and completion.

Regardless of whether we’re procrastinating or trying to be more prepared, little or no learning takes place until we actually start. Something powerful happens to the mind and emotions when we’re engaged in producing a practical result.

Why procrastination is always doubly bad for us:

  1. It robs us of personal confidence during the period before we become engaged with the project.
  2. When we actually do engage with the project, we feel a sense of personal loss and guilt about the valuable time and energy that was wasted by procrastinating.

Preparation without engagement is worthless.

My preparation (without engagement) makes the project more complex than it needs to be.

The Advantage 1: Since procrastination and preparation without engagement are counterproductive and worthless, your advantage lies in immediately engaging with and completing the project—reaching your first 80% as quickly as possible.

Advantage 2: Recognizing that 80% is good enough in 80% of situations, 80% of the time.

Our “80%” is accepted by others as “100%.”

The perfectionist is fixated on achieving 100%, but no one else expects, requires, or will even appreciate this. In 80% of life’s situations, an 80% result is good enough to move things forward—and the best 80% result is the one that happens as quickly as possible.

The Advantage 2: Because modern life is based on teamwork and utilizes the different abilities of many people, striving for 80% instead of 100% leads to a much faster and superior overall result in 80% of situations.

Advantage 3: Recognizing which 80% of a project each person should handle

Doing only the 80% where I have a Unique Ability.

As I’ve organized my life increasingly around only those activities where I have a Unique Ability, my success and satisfaction in all areas of life have soared.

Many other people’s Unique Ability and “80% contributions” are required for the finished product.

The Advantage 3: Success occurs extraordinarily quickly when all members of a team focus only on their individual Unique Ability, and then focus their Unique Ability on their own “80% contributions” that guarantee the best overall teamwork and results

Advantage 4: The power of getting the first 80% done as quickly as possible.

Immediate increase of confidence and teamwork.

Anyone who applies this rule on a daily basis until it’s a habit will immediately notice a dramatic change in two areas of experience.

  1. The elimination of procrastination by doing the first 80% as quickly as possible will provide a burst of personal confidence.
  2. Out of this higher personal confidence—and with an actual achievement in hand—it will be easy to attract the teamwork of anyone else who would like to self-improve.

But everything depends on one person taking the lead. By eliminating your own procrastination, you enable others to do the same.

The Advantage 4: In any situation, you can immediately increase your own personal confidence and teamwork with others by getting the first 80% of any project done as quickly as possible.

Advantage 5: Why focusing on 80% produces bigger and better results than striving for 100%.

Making things worse than they were before.

Mentally, you’ll start thinking about failure because that’s what anything short of 100% will be. Physically, you’ll tighten up. You’ll become obsessed with 100%, making it difficult to relax or sleep, causing increased strain and fatigue.

In addition, you’ll become over-demanding with the people working with you, and you’ll neglect everyone else who isn’t involved with your 100% goal.

The Advantage 5: Because striving for just 80% taps into and utilizes powerful forces of human nature, it always produces a superior result over striving for 100%, which invariably works against human nature.

Advantage 6: The power of delegating the second 80% and beyond—as early and as often as possible.

The Advantage 6: Every contribution that you make to a team effort, do it as quickly as possible, so the next steps can be delegated to others as quickly and effectively as possible.

Advantage 7: How eliminating procrastination saves time, improves talent, and transforms emotions

The Advantage 7: By eliminating procrastination, especially in teamwork, we help others save time, improve their talents, and transform negative emotions.

Advantage 8: Why “80% thinkers and achievers” always enjoyably and profitably outperform perfectionists.

The great thinkers and doers were “80% people.”

The Advantage 8: By adopting The 80% Approach in all daily situations, over a lifetime, you will enjoyably and profitably outperform all the perfectionists you encounter in private and public life

The Self-Managing Future

Tips for getting started right now:

  1. Always be clear and confident about why any new project or initiative is important to you before taking action.
    • Unless it’s exciting and motivating to you, don’t get involved.
  2. Focus on just getting three important 80% actions done on any given day, and consider anything more than this a bonus
    • Never make a long list of things to do.
    • hold yourself accountable for reasonable progress, and achieve it.
    • Then celebrate your movement forward and repeat the same process tomorrow.
  3. Do everything well enough, but as quickly as possible, so that someone else can quickly take your projects and initiatives further
    • The biggest purpose of The 80% Approach is to surround yourself with teamwork as quickly as possible
  4. Never have a meeting with others until someone in the group has already completed a first 80% initiative that others can contribute to
  5. If it’s your project, think things through on your own, make maximum possible decisions, and start taking immediate actions before any kind of meeting.
    • Don’t waste other people’s time unless you have some committed progress and achievement to show them.
    • Never ask other people to supply you with motivation and commitment that you don’t already have yourself.
  6. If you are stuck on any project, ask yourself why you’re still doing it.
    • If you don’t have an answer, take the project off your list.
  7. If you’re stuck on a project and are still committed to it, identify the fastest and easiest action that will get it moving again.
    • Here’s a prediction: Every situation in your life where you feel stuck is the result of your wanting to achieve a 100% result.
  8. On a continual daily basis, surround yourself with more and more people who enjoy and are good at operating according to The 80% Approach.

The 80% Approach only requires a revolution of one person deciding to use it in daily life. Then the revolution will spread to others.