In 2006, I was started a nonprofit at the age of twenty-three while also working at another full time job. I was short on time (and experience). I was soaking up time management strategies. My mentors were having me read all kinds of books. One of those books was the now infamous 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris.
I loved most of what Ferris had to say, but the practical strategies to save time were most helpful. In this section, he introduce me to the 80/20 principle. Then I bought an entire book about it. I still remember reading it outside Flushing Meadows where I flew up to New York for the day to see the US Open Finals. (Federer beat Murray that year)
The 80/20 principle is the phenomenon that 80% of someone’s success, came from 20% of your work and energy. It can be applied in so many work and life situations, even in nature. For my nonprofit, it helped me realize that 80% of our fundraising came from 20% of the donors.
So, I started applying this to everything and it was really helpful. I started to be very critical of the 80% of my energy that wasn’t accomplishing much, and started to figure out how to dive into the 20% I was looking for.
In the world of free travel, I think we’ve nailed the 80/20 principle. For someone like me who doesn’t have a ton of income or a lot of expenses to earn points on regular spending, I rely heavily on the big sign-up bonuses. Then, as I move on to other cards, I start to notice what points are giving me the best value and what airlines and cards are too much of a hassle (due to bad customer service, too many logistics, etc.).
Becoming a free traveler should not be a full-time job. I think most people should keep things simple. Follow the 80/20 principle. What 20% of your energy leads to 80% of your free travel? And, what 80% of your energy only garners 20% of your value? For me, it’s letting go of the minutiae. My wife and I stick with the cards with the best rewards, and we keep our treasure chest of miles full. It’s amazing. It’s simple. And, it’s given us adventures and experiences I thought I’d only achieve when I was 70 and retired.
Probably the biggest energy zap comes with managing cards. The hardest part for me is keeping track of them: 1) knowing when my bonus deadlines are due; 2) knowing when my annual fees are coming up; and 3) how many accounts I’ve opened in the last 24 months that count against the Chase 5/24 rule. So after failing over and over with a spreadsheet and seeking other solutions, I came up with a software solution. This is the foundation of Travel Freely.