The 80 20 Theory (a.k.a The Pareto Principle) Can Change Your Life

Entrepreneurs, diligent employees and successful people usually have their hands full trying to get a number of different tasks done in their day. And with so many things coming their way it is sometimes hard to label priorities and know what to dedicate more time to so that they are not wasting their time. This is where the 80 20 theory (or the Pareto Principle) comes in.

Where does the 80 20 theory come from?

The Pareto concept was discovered by an Italian economist and philosopher, Vilfredo Pareto. The Italian native, when analysing wealth and income distribution trends, one day found out that 80% of the land in his country was owned by only 20% of the population. This made him study other countries and other industries and realize that in the majority of the cases, 80% of results came from only 20% of the efforts.

The Pareto Principle can be applied to various situations, and business owners, workers and students can benefit from it to become more aware of how they spend their time and help them be more productive.

The Pareto principle explained

We understand the Pareto principle, but, how does it impact productivity? Well, the idea of the 80 20 theory is to get more done with less effort. This means that when you find out that the majority of your results are being generated by a small percentage of your efforts, you can pinpoint what they are and focus all your attention on them instead of wasting time and resources on things that don’t really give you any results.

I think we could all agree that, at least up to now, we thought that the effort we put into something correlates in a straight line to the results we get. That is simply not true. This distribution is rarely ever balanced and to prove it, the following are some day to day examples of how the eighty twenty rule takes place.

80 20 rule examples

When it comes to business, usually, 20% of employees are responsible for 80% of the productivity, 20% of the clients account for 80% of the profits and, when you take a look at your marketing strategy, you’ll see that only 20% of your efforts assist 80% of your customer’s purchase decisions. Other 80 20 theory examples not related to business are the fact that 20% of drivers cause 80% of all traffic accidents, and that 80% of pollution originates from 20% of all factories.

Tips on how to work with the Pareto Rule

Once we determine which tasks are majorly contributing to our final results, it’s time to learn how to prioritize them. My first tip is to identify if a task is urgent and important. If it’s both do it first! If it’s only important or only urgent, delegate it to someone else, leave it for last and spend only a few minutes on it. If it’s neither, then forget about it!

My second tip is to use the Pareto Principle to discover common characteristics of those tasks or employees that bring you the overall results. What is that 20% doing differently and can we apply it to the rest?

For example, if you are a blogger you might notice that 80% of the traffic comes from only 20% of your posts. Why are those posts succeeding? Is it their structure or what they talk about? The idea is to optimize the 80% of blog posts that aren’t doing so well by looking at the posts that are attracting visitors to your site.

And my third and final tip is to know when you’re most productive. For me, it is bright and early so this means I’ll tackle the most important tasks (aka the tasks that bring me the most results) early in the morning when I’m full of energy and focused. So on top of prioritizing what I have to do once I've taken into account the 80 20 theory, I’m also making sure I’m focusing on the key tasks in my prime time, so I give them my 100%.

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