Once there was a busy shepherd. She was always gathering strays. Her father taught her that if she focused on the strays, her sheep would always be safe.

Her sister joined the shepherd one day to help with the endless task. The sister asked, “Do all the sheep stray?”

“No,” responded the shepherd. “Only 16 ever stray.”

“Why don’t you build a little fenced area in each part of the pasture for those 16 to use when you bring the flock to that area? Then you’ll never have to chase strays again.”

She followed her sister’s advice. The shepherd then used her time watching the docile sheep to trade commodity futures by cell phone and increased the family fortune manyfold.

That was a 2,000 percent solution for increasing her income. A 2,000 percent solution is any way of accomplishing 20 times as much with the same time, effort, and resources . . . or accomplishing the same results with 1/20 the time, effort, and resources.

Many people are stalled from making 2,000 percent solutions because they are stuck with bad habits based on tradition, disbelief that there could be a better way, misconceptions about what the task is, wanting to avoid something unattractive, misunderstanding what’s been said, unintentionally confusing others, becoming bogged down in red tape, and procrastinating. A good way to overcome such stalled thinking is to examine your progress in the most important areas of your life. Ask yourself these questions about your activities over the last year.

What did you learn to do better?
Which activities take up more of your time than you would like?
Do you have enough time for the people you love?
Are there things you’d like to be doing that you don’t do?
Do you know how to make much faster progress in each of these areas?

If you are dissatisfied with your answers, you may feel a little overwhelmed about how you can make so many changes. That’s because each improvement usually requires learning lots of new things, spending time practicing those new activities, and still getting everything else done.

Relax. There’s a simpler, more effective way. Learn to be a 2,000 percent solver. This easy-to-learn method can be applied to every area of your life. You learn one process that you can apply to do anything. Sound good?

Okay, here are the steps.

1.Understand the importance of measuring your performance. If you don’t measure it, you don’t know how you’re doing . . . or if you’re getting better or worse.
2.Decide what to measure. The shepherd was measuring whether she lost any sheep; she should have been measuring how she much time she spent tracking down each sheep. Then she would have realized that she could just pen up the constant strays and free up all that time for complementary activities while she watched the docile animals.
3.Identify the future best practice. Dog trainers use electronic fences to encourage dogs not to stray. Perhaps something similar could be used for sheep so that the shepherd wouldn’t have to build so many pens.
4.Implement beyond the future best practice. If the shepherd sold off any sheep that were constant strays, she wouldn’t need to put up any fences.
5.Identify the ideal best practice. This is the best anyone could ever do. If we only raise sheep predisposed to stay with the herd, shepherds could focus on other things.
6.Pursue the ideal best practice. The shepherd should keep breeding records and observe which sheep never stray. She should then only breed sheep that are the most reliable in not straying, while selling off the occasional maverick.
7.Identify the right people and provide the right motivation. The shepherd could look around to see if any sheep raisers have been doing this kind of breeding already so that she could buy their stock.
8.Repeat the first seven steps. Having found one solution doesn’t mean that there’s not a better one. The second time around, the shepherd could look at how pasture choices affect straying.

But you’re not a shepherd. How does this lesson apply to you? Well, you may have children that need to be looked after. The purpose is to keep them from straying away from you and into trouble . . . both when they are with you and when they aren’t. The solutions will obviously be different than for tending sheep, but the same thought process can be employed. You’ll probably end up focusing on eliminating dangers in advance, monitoring access to dangers, and encouraging involvement in safe situations. You’ll be careful of who your children’s friends are and encourage your children to invite their friends to your house so you can see what’s going on.

You may also have employees to supervise to be sure they don’t stray from what they should be doing. Or you may be responsible for keeping customers loyal so they don’t stray to the competition. Or you may simply have big time wasters that distract you from what’s important, and you need to learn how not to stray into those areas.

Obviously, it takes time to learn this new skill. How can you make that time? We encourage everyone to begin by keeping a diary for two weeks of how every moment is spent 24 hours a day, seven days a week. At the end of two weeks, add up the time for each activity. Then see where you could make changes.

Many people will discover they are watching television more than necessary. Take out time-wasting shows, and you’ll have more time to learn. Others will discover that during commuting and travel time they aren’t doing anything else. You can listen to a self-improving message during those moments. Those with jobs may find they are working long hours because of inefficiencies at work. Delegate some of those tasks or get rid of the inefficiencies, and you’ll be home sooner. Some people discover they are sleeping 10 hours a night and could get by on a little less if they exercised more. The average person who does this exercise finds 25 hours a week to do something new.
If you apply some of that redirected time to learning about and creating 2,000 percent solutions, you’ll soon have even more time and resources. You can then choose to either spend that increased time in self-improvement, or self-enjoyment. In many cases, time can be substituted for money, and vice versa. Soon, many of your greatest dreams will be within your reach.

What are you waiting for?

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit http://www.selfgrowth.com/greatways2.html.

Author's Bio: 

Donald W. Mitchell is a coauthor of The 2,000 Percent Solution and The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook.

He can be reached by e-mail at ultimatecompetitiveadvantage@yahoo.com. You can read all but two chapters of The 2,000 Percent Solution for free at http://www.2000percentsolution.com. Each chapter begins with a one-paragraph summary and ends in questions to help you apply what you learned in the chapter. If you would like to have even more guidance, you can also purchase and read The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook.