The Other 80/20 Principle and the mindful use of digital technology

How can we heal our relationship with technology?

The Other 80/20 Principle and the mindful use of digital technology

“The Other 80/20 Principle and the mindful use of digital technology…”

While training to be a leadership consultant and coach I came across something I call ‘The Other 80/20 Principle’. We all know the original 80/20 principle about working smart – where 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. The Other 80/20 Principle is also a results producing concept, but in a very different context, and lately it’s been helping me to manage my relationship with tech.

The central conjecture in a coaching sense is that too often, when interacting with another person, we become drawn into their world and lose touch with ourselves as the conversation unfolds. Our attention is seduced by their content, their story and their emotions, and we can end up playing to their agenda, people pleasing and pandering to their unconscious needs as opposed to highlighting them. In the worst cases, we lose touch with why we are in the meeting in the first place, and leave asking ‘what the hell just happened?!’.

The Other 80/20 Principle is about keeping 80% of our attention on ourselves, and 20% on the other person we are with. In doing so, we stay connected to our full capacities, and we are more likely to bring our maximum contribution to the conversation. We stay connected to the wisdom of the body as well as that of the mind, accessing new dimensions of conversation, connection and creativity. It’s a popular idea with many coaches whom I work with and have trained with, and seems to be gathering pace and momentum inside those circles. I believe that’s because it is a universal principle. It’s not just people we get lost in, it’s the world around us, things we can buy, food and drink we can consume, holidays to plan – and more and more, things to do online and inside our devices. Our relationships to all of these things can be improved through the application of The Other 80/20 Principle.

Recently, I’ve been trialing it on my relationship with digital technology. Over the past year or so, together with some colleagues of mine, I’ve been proactively monitoring my behavior in relationship to tech with ever increasing awareness and at times, alarm. It’s not only the potential for wasted time, lost down some crazy internet wormhole, but also the bigger questions that the ‘runaway success story’ that is digital technology present. What have other runaway success stories brought with them? With industry it was climate change. With cigarettes it was cancer. And it’s our belief that digital tech carries an even greater threat – it is the threat to our relationship to reality itself, and the mental health needed to sustain that.

The Other 80/20 Principle is a way of working to ensure we don’t get lost in the ‘digital story’ that at times seems to be swallowing up the world we are in. ‘Show the best and hide the rest’ is the mantra. And if we are not careful, our behavior changes to fit this model, discarding our own genuine desires and values in favour of fulfilling those of another. In a sense, when used unconsciously, the machines we use train us to be like them – and we find ourselves becoming more robotic, and less human, than before. By keeping 80% of our attention on ourselves, and 20% on our screens and devices, we start to see that it is possible to avoid getting lost in the often meaningless, profane and false digital world. By sensing our own capacities, our own intelligence, our own priorities, thoughts and feelings, we can stay connected to ourselves as we use the technology around us. In doing so we start to use our digital platforms and devices in an optimal way – rather than have them use us.

We get to use technology to help us be more human – not less – and we get to realize our own dreams, rather than the dreams that others, and the digital world, have for us. If you’d like to spend more time learning about the mindful use of digital technology, join me and good friends for a group inquiry, at Evolve Wellness in South Kensington, London on Wednesday 24th April, for the event info, click here.


By Ben Hewitt