The 80 20 rule is one of the most helpful concepts for life and time management. Also known as the Pareto Principle, this rule suggests that 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results. This being the case, you should change the way you set goals forever.
What Is the 80 20 Rule?
As I just mentioned, the 80 20 rule is also called the “Pareto Principle.” It was named after its founder, the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, back in 1895. He noticed that people in society seemed to divide naturally into what he called the “vital few,” or the top 20 percent in terms of money and influence, and the “trivial many,” or the bottom 80 percent.
Later, he discovered that virtually all economic activity was subject to this principle, in that 80 percent of the wealth of Italy during that time was controlled by 20 percent of the population. We can take Pareto’s 80 20 rule and apply it to almost any situation. Understanding the principle is essential to learning how to prioritize your tasks, days, weeks, and months. In business, it’s essential to strategic planning, which is one of the leadership qualities shared by the world’s most important leaders.
How Does the Pareto Principle Work?
The Pareto Principle is a concept that suggests two out of ten items, on any general to-do list, will turn out to be worth more than the other eight items put together. The sad fact is that most people procrastinate on the top 10 or 20 percent of items that are the most valuable and important, the “vital few,” and busy themselves instead with the least important 80 percent, the “trivial many,” that contribute very little to their success.
How You Can Use It
So how can you apply Pareto’s principle to gain more time in your life?
Are you an executive? You’re surely faced with the constant challenge of limited resources. It’s not just your time you need to maximize, but your entire team’s. Instead of trying to do the impossible, a Pareto approach is to truly understand which projects are most important. What are the most important goals of your organization, or boss, and which specific tasks do you need to focus on to align with those goals. Delegate or drop the rest.
Are you a freelancer? It’s important to identify your best (and highest-paying) clients. Of course, you don’t want all your eggs in one basket. But too much diversification will quickly lead to burnout. Focus on the money makers and strengthening those long-term relationships.
Are you an entrepreneur? The temptation always exists to try the new and exciting. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it boils down to your goals. Are you trying to grow your current business? Would an 80/20 mindset help you to stay focused on your strategic plan and spend less time chasing endless new opportunities?
No matter what your situation, it’s important to remember that there are only so many minutes in an hour, hours in a day, and days in a week. Pareto can help you to see this is a good thing; otherwise, you’d be a slave to a never-ending list of things to do.
How to Use the 80/20 Rule (AKA the Pareto Principle) to Change Your Life
When it comes to productivity hacks, the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) is one that is seriously overlooked but can have a serious impact on your life.
So what is the 80/20 rule? Founded by economist Vilfredo Pareto, the rule says that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your actions. Pareto was only using for a few specific situations at the time, but it’s since been shown that this principle can apply to just about ANYTHING.
Here are a few examples:
• Business: 20% of customers bring in 80% of the profit.
• Economics: In the United States, the top 20% of earners pay about 80% of Federal income taxes.
• Software: Microsoft reported that by fixing the top 20% of the most reported bugs, they could eliminate 80% of problems.
• Sports: 20% of exercises have 80% of the impact. Additionally, 15% of players produce 85% percent of wins.
• Healthcare: 20% of patients use 80% of healthcare resources.
• Crime: 20% of criminals commit 80% of crimes.
Seriously, you can apply the Pareto Principle to just about anything! Today I want to share a few examples of how you can apply the 80/20 rule to change your own life!
How to Use the 80/20 Rule to Change Your Life
Your To Do List
Does anyone else’s to-do list get cluttered up with really minor tasks that add up to take up a lot of your time, but you really don’t feel like they’re contributing to your life? Yep, that’s those 80% of the tasks on your to-do list that are probably only contributing to about 20% of your productivity. Also, try to identify the minority tasks that are making up most of your productivity!
The obvious answer here would be to eliminate the 80% of tasks that only contribute to a minority of your productivity, but in a lot of cases, these “busy work” tasks aren’t something that can be totally eliminated. However, you can probably automate them, outsource them, or devote less time to them.
For example, if you work full-time and have a side hustle, but find you’re spending more time cleaning your home than working on your side hustle, figure out how to minimize that task. This means either outsourcing the cleaning (hiring a cleaning service) or minimizing the cleaning (being okay with your house not being super clean).
In some cases, you’re spending your precious free time on things that are not at all productive or necessary. For example, I used to spend a lot of time watching TV. Usually binge-watching a show on Netflix. And this was a ton of time I wasn’t spending on my business.
The time wasters in everyone’s day are going to be different, but it all comes down to figuring out what in your daily routine is not making the most of your time, and figure out how to spend less time on it.
How much of our day runs on autopilot? Few different sources say that 40-50% of our day is made up of habits, meaning we’re running on autopilot rather than making conscious decisions.
In some ways that seems great because it means we’re cutting back on the number of decisions in a day, therefore minimizing decision fatigue.
But then when we think about it again, because it’s kind of alarming how much of an impact bad habits can have on our lives. And hence using the 80/20 we can assume that 20% of our habits are responsible for 80% of our results, its super important that those habits be healthy ones! Since habits are often things we do on autopilot, we might not even notice all of them. So take a few days and just try to be super mindful of what you’re doing and thinking about throughout the day. And take notes, either in a notebook or on your phone! Make note of which habits are taking up a lot of your energy, and which are having a big impact on your day.
It’s scary how a few bad habits can have a major impact on your life. One example for it is smoking. We don’t spend a significant portion of our day smoking, but there were certain times of day where we just automatically light a cigarette out of habit, and holy smokes is that a bad habit to have!
Other habits that probably have a huge impact on your life but you might not think about that much are what you’re eating throughout the day, how much you’re moving, how much time you’re spending on your phone or on social media, and how much of your day you spend in a negative headspace (complaining, gossiping, feeling down about yourself, etc.). Having a really accurate view of the habits you have will make it so much easier to start changing any habits that need changing or maximizing the good habits you already have!
Chances are, some of the relationships in your life are bringing you a lot more happiness than others. As someone with limited free time (having a full-time job AND having own business) have to be picky about how they spend their time.
When it comes to the social life, they do this by making sure they are maximizing the 20% of relationships in their life that bring them the most happiness. Basically, this means their significant other, the family, and very few close friends.
not suggesting needs to be approached the same way. For some people, their social life is a considerably more important part of their life, and they genuinely enjoy spending their time with lots of friends or getting to know new ones. That’s totally fine! It’s not about following hard and fast rules, it about knows what makes YOU happy and contributes to your life and doing more of that.
Take a look around your home at your possessions and ask yourself two questions:
1. Does this item bring me happiness?
2. Do I regularly use this item?
Chances are you only answer yes to both of those questions for about 20% of your items (though it’s entirely possible they weren’t the same items).
Pretty much anything that didn’t cause you to answer yes to one of the two questions above had to go.
It’s not necessarily you should immediately discard anything that doesn’t fit into one of the two questions, but those questions can definitely be a guide when it comes to decluttering your home, as well as purchasing new items in the future. If it doesn’t make you happy and you’re not going to use it regularly, do you really need it?
If you have a business, take a hard look at the tasks you’re doing every month and figure out what 20% of tasks are actually making a big difference in making money, and which aren’t. Minimizing those 80% tasks will save you a ton of time and make space for the 20%.
Where Else Can You Apply the 80/20 Rule?
These are just a few areas of your life where you might apply the 80/20 rule, but it’s guaranteed there are others where you can apply it too!
Consider the different categories of your life (relationships, career, money, personal development, home, etc.) and take note of any imbalances you find. Keep in mind that the majority of your results are coming from a minority of your actions, so figure out what actions you can do more of to see bigger results in the areas you want to.
If you devote more time to the 20% of actions that see results, you’ll see even more results!
It’s amazing how changing or maximizing a minority of the actions you take can have such a serious impact on your results! But now that you’ve seen a bunch of examples of the 80/20 rule at work, it’s super easy to see how it can apply to your own life. I would love for you to leave a comment and let me know your big takeaways from this post and what part of your life you can really see the 80/20 rule at work.