The Archimedes Protocol

The Archimedes Protocol

Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.

~ Archimedes

When I find myself getting stuck, whether it’s in my personal life, or related to a work project, I’ve begun to combine three powerful questions, which together I’m calling the Archimedes Protocol. These are…

  • What’s the desired end state?
  • How can I apply the Pareto Principle to this?
  • What is the ONE thing I can do?
    • What can be delegated?

What is the Desired End State?

A "desired end state" (DES) is a term often used in planning and strategy to refer to the ultimate condition or outcome that an individual, group, or organization wishes to achieve through their efforts. Here’s a breakdown of the term:

The “desired end state” is the final, ideal condition or goal that one aims to achieve through a process, plan, or series of actions. It is the vision or target that guides decision-making and strategy, serving as a benchmark for success.

Examples in Various Contexts:

  • Project Management: In a project, the desired end state could be the successful delivery of the project's objectives, within time and budget constraints. It's the condition where the project's goals are met, stakeholders are satisfied, and the project team can consider their work complete.
  • Military Planning: In military strategy, the desired end state might be the successful completion of a mission with minimal casualties. This could involve neutralizing a threat, securing a location, or providing humanitarian aid effectively and efficiently.
  • Personal Goals: On a personal level, a desired end state might be the achievement of life goals, like financial independence, a fulfilling career, or a happy family life.
  • Public Policy: In public policy and social programs, the desired end state might be the improvement in the quality of life for citizens, attainment of social equity, or environmental sustainability.


Understanding and clearly defining the desired end state is crucial because it provides:

  • Direction: Guides the planning and execution process.
  • Focus: Helps in allocating resources and effort effectively.
  • Measurement: Offers criteria for evaluating performance and success.
  • Motivation: Inspires and aligns the team or individuals involved towards a common goal.


It's essential to articulate the desired end state clearly and concisely, making it an effective tool for communication and alignment among stakeholders involved in a plan or project. Often, this term is used in the context of planning, where having a vision of the end goal is crucial for successful navigation and completion of the journey.

Note: Don’t restrict your imagination to the constructs of ‘reality’ when you’re considering a desired end state. Many things were considered impossible until they weren’t, the four minute mile, the international space station, instant communication with audio and visual components on two separate sides of the planet.

Once you create your desired or ideal end state, then draft an acceptable (mid-case) and worst-case. This helps with preparedness and gets your brain out of preset grooves.

How can I apply the Pareto Principle to this problem/project/task?

This concept is often referred to as the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule. The principle was named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of Italy's land was owned by 20% of the population. Since then, the concept has been applied more broadly to various fields, including business, economics, health care, software development, and many others.


The Pareto Principle suggests that in many situations, approximately 80% of effects or results come from 20% of causes or inputs. This is not a strict rule but rather a common pattern observed in various scenarios. The actual ratio can vary (it might be closer to 70/30, 90/10, etc.), but the general principle holds: a small percentage of inputs is responsible for a large percentage of outputs.


  1. Business: In many businesses, it is observed that 80% of sales often come from 20% of the products or customers.
  2. Software Development: 80% of bugs or errors may be found in 20% of the code.
  3. Time Management: Often, 20% of efforts or time invested can lead to 80% of the desired results or productivity.


Understanding the Pareto Principle can help individuals and organizations focus on the most critical areas that will produce the greatest results. By identifying and prioritizing the 20% of inputs or efforts that lead to 80% of outcomes, resources and energy can be allocated more efficiently.


  • The Pareto Principle is a heuristic, not a law. The exact ratio can vary significantly depending on the context and situation.
  • It doesn’t provide specific strategies for identifying which 20% of inputs will yield 80% of results. This requires careful analysis and evaluation.
  • Relying solely on the 80/20 Rule may lead to overlooking important details or opportunities that fall outside of the primary 20% of inputs.

How to Use:

  1. Analysis: Examine your scenario or data set closely to identify the vital few inputs or efforts that lead to the majority of results.
  2. Prioritization: Prioritize and focus on the significant inputs identified through analysis.
  3. Resource Allocation: Dedicate more resources and attention to the high-priority areas to maximize output.
  4. Continuous Improvement: Regularly reassess and adjust the focus as necessary, since the vital few inputs may change over time.


The Pareto Principle is a valuable tool for understanding efficiency and effectiveness in various domains. While it isn’t precise or universally applicable, it offers a useful starting point for analysis and decision-making.

What is the ONE thing I can do next?

The exact question to ask is:
  • What's the One Thing I can do / such that by doing it / everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

The central concept of the book is the idea of “The ONE Thing,” which refers to the single most important task or goal that, once completed, will make other tasks easier or unnecessary. The authors suggest that individuals should concentrate their energy and attention on completing this "ONE Thing" to achieve better results in their professional and personal lives.

"The ONE Thing" is a self-help book that encourages readers to focus on a single goal or task at a time to improve productivity and success. The authors argue that spreading oneself too thin—trying to juggle multiple goals or tasks at once—dilutes focus and effectiveness.

Here are the key takeaways:

  1. The Domino Effect: Just as a small domino can topple larger dominos, a small, focused effort can lead to disproportionate results. Concentrating on your ONE Thing can create a cascade of positive outcomes in different areas of your life.
  2. Avoiding Multitasking: Multitasking is often counterproductive because it dilutes focus. By zeroing in on your ONE Thing, you can accomplish more.
  3. Setting Priorities: Not all tasks are of equal importance. Identify and prioritize the task that will have the greatest impact.
  4. Time Blocking: Dedicate specific blocks of time to work on your ONE Thing, protecting this time from interruptions and distractions.
  5. The Focusing Question: The authors introduce a focusing question to help identify your ONE Thing: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”