2 min read

How to get 90% of the results with 20% of the effort

Challenge the notion that the right way has to be the hard way
How to get 90% of the results with 20% of the effort
Photo by Sebastian Svenson / Unsplash

Sustain issue #41 (Get Sustain in your inbox next Thursday)

Stop me if you’ve experienced this before.

You’ve done the hard work to get all stakeholders aligned on the project you’re working on. Everyone is clear on the execution steps. And then two weeks into the project your boss comes to you with a new big idea.

*Recoils in seat*

The new idea is substantially more work. It will extend the timeline. And you’re not convinced it will even be impactful.

This happens to me all the time. I’m guessing for you, too.

We exist in a business world where conventional wisdom screws with us. It leads us to believe that for a project to have maximum impact, the journey to get there must be friggin’ HARD. Said more simply: The best way must be the hardest way.

Every success story seems to involve blood, sweat, and tears. But does it have to?

How to get 90% of the results

We just challenged this notion at my job. In 2020, we put on a big virtual event with dozens of speakers, complex workstreams, and a massive working team. It was successful but it destroyed a group of people on the path to get there.

Recently, we tried again with the hypothesis that we could get 90% of the results with 20% of the work. We had just a couple speakers and a smaller working team. It wasn’t perfect (as a few people still felt a bit wrecked), but we achieved the results.

It’s a model to build on.

Greg McKeown in his book Effortless describes this as effortless action. Where you do more by focusing on less. There is a false economy of powering through. You reach a point of diminishing when you keep going and going.

You can overachieve without overextending.

At a sustainable pace,


Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to end burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) who suffered deep burnout and came back from it with no help of the hacky advice out there.

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