People tell me all the time, “I’m all in! You tell me what you want me to do and what to eat, and I’ll do it!” But inevitably there’s a graduation party, your sales team just hit their monthly goal, vacation, a friend’s BBQ or gathering. I hear the excuses all the time. Honestly, I don’t care. I actually encourage you to go participate in those things. Those events are the memory makers of our lifetime. People will always laugh sharing stories from group experiences.

So, how do you balance a life and self-improvement? How do you achieve the physical goals you have without becoming a creepy recluse? 80/20. It’s simple, just do the things that’ll move your needle 80% of the time and have fun the other 20%.

Actually, this is a pretty simple rule for eating to get healthy. Take a look at the average day; if you get up drink your water, eat your protein at most of your meals, get your fruits and veggies in and eat “real food” all day long, then go out to dinner with friends you can have that drink or even dessert! Take a look at that day, if you look at where your calories and nutrients came from on a day like that you’ll most likely see 80% of your food was quality healthy real food. Yes, you went out to dinner with friends but you probably had the grilled chicken, mashed potato, and steamed green beans with a Manhattan and a slice of cheese cake. The drink and dessert fit into the 20%. This is way better than not eating all day because you know you’re going out that night, then you have the fried mozzarella sticks, a burger and fries, a slice of cake and 3 beers. Using that math almost 100% of your calories and nutrients for that day were crap. Reflect on your day and grade yourself. The more 80/20’s you can string together the happier you’ll be with yourself.

I really don’t care where you sprinkle your 20% but if you can give me 80% quality, you’ll succeed!

This rule is very effective for your workouts as well. You don’t have to push yourself so hard you’re leaning over the puke bucket questioning the meaning of life or why you ever signed up for the pointless beat down. For both strength and cardio (yes, you NEED both) you should spend 80% of your time developing a skill and the other 20% pushing yourself. For example, if you like to run for 30 minutes 3x a week, spend 72 of those 90 minutes in zone 2 of your heart rate zones. I can hear you whining already, “that’s too slow for me!” I don’t care! That slow effort teaches your body to burn fat for fuel, it teaches your body safe jogging mechanics or efficiency, and it’s easier on your joints so you can function the rest of the day. Spend the other 18 minutes of your weekly running in zone 4 or 5 with some speed intervals. It’ll be fun to get out and fly, besides it’ll be a good anaerobic beat down.

This also works for strength training as well. Remember, not only are you building strength in the gym but you’re learning a skill. With strength training I suggest you put 20% of your effort on max strength development, and the other 80% on moderate effort. This gives you a chance to practice your deadlift with a weight that allows you to improve your skill, gain efficiency, and still get a decent workout in. Then later on load it up and pull some heavy doubles or triples. Maybe you want to work on 5 sets of 2 rep heavy dead’s? If those 10 reps are your 20% work, then get in another 40 total reps of moderate weight later in the week to practice your technique but still feel it in the right areas. I guarantee this approach will get you stronger and allow you to build some fat burning muscle. Most people obsess that the easy stuff is too easy and the hard stuff is too hard, so they wind up living unhappily in the middle. 80/20. It’s crazy simple yet highly effective. It allows you to have a life and still move toward your goals. You can get your workouts in without feeling like you’re going to die, yet still push yourself to see progress, plus you can still eat right but have a life too.