The 60/30/10 "rule"

Ben Neely · May 17, 2022

Most people know about Google’s 80/20 rule, but last January I learned about the 60/30/10 rule. (I was going through my notebook, which is about to be retired as it is full, and thought I would lose the info. So it is going here.)

As long as I can remember, Google was known for letting employees have 20% of their time to devote to creative projects, and 80% was their “main job”. A quick DuckDuckGo Search tells me this may not be quite the utopian situation one would hope. Still, on small teams it is important to have these creative projects. For me personally, the side projects are what keep me from burning out and allow me to maintain passion and excitement for the work I do in general.

Back in January I had the pleasure of chatting with Jonathan Jacobs (@bioinformer; Senior Director of Bioinformatics, BioNexus Principal Scientist at ATCC, and Research Assistant Professor at Syracuse University) and somehow we got to talking about this concept. He uses a 60/30/10 rule for his team: 60% of your time is your main job, whatever that is (call it primary mission, responsibilities, whatever), 30% of your time is helping/supporting the team (consults on other projects, lending a hand on processing, etc.), while 10% of your time is side projects. This has a similar feel to the 80/20, but with more emphasis on the team. My favorite part is that you can use questions like “How is your 10% time side project coming along?” to get a pulse of those around you, or even prospective new hires.

For me, having a job that not only allows, but encourages, side projects is essential.