Where the Magic Happens

The past two weeks have been the busiest of my year, and it has taken all the hours I have available in a day to get everything done. That’s what happens when multiple big projects go live at the same time – projects with tight timeframes that challenge and stretch you, but also require that you step up in a big time. Get up even earlier and get to work.

During my too-busy-for-much-of-anything-else weeks, I’ve been reflecting on 10% to 20%. This seems to be the margin where the magic happens – of learning, of growing, of becoming better.


  • 3M’s idea of 15% of work time for your own side projects projects, also practiced at Google and other places. 15%.
  • David Allen’s comment many years ago that a filing cabinet is full at 80%. There’s not enough space to use it easily once it is more full than that. 20%.
  • The Sabbath in the Old Testament. One day out of seven for rest and worship. 14.3%.
  • The personal finance idea of not spending it all today, and investing 15% to 20% of everything you earn. Pay yourself first. 17.5%.
  • The “study one hour a day for 5 years and you’ll be a world expert” idea. 11% to 12.5%.
  • The idea of creating one untouchable day a week for disconnecting from the world and focusing on your key project. 20%.
  • Value-added sales taxes of 10%-20% in various countries around the world (higher in some), which generates a nice additional stream of income for the government to help fund its expense streams. 15%.

I’m sure there are more examples.

The good news is that it’s not 50% or 70%. Just 15%.

Categories: Miscellaneous