The 80/20 Rule is one of the most helpful of all concepts of time and life management. It is also called the Pareto Principle. It was created by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist who first became aware of it in 1895. Pareto saw that people in his society seemed to divide naturally into what we called ‘the vital few’ - the top 20 percent in terms of money and influence. The remaining 80 percent he referred to as the ‘trivial many’.
Pareto then later discovered that virtually all economic activity was subject to this principle. The principle says that 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results. Alternatively, 20 percent of your customers will account for 80 percent of your turnover. An example would be that if you had a list of ten items to do, that 2 of those items will turn out to be worth five times more than the other eight tasks on your list. Another way to look at the list of ten.
Examples of Pareto 80/20 rule
- 80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your customers
- 20 percent of employees are responsible for 80 percent of results.
- 20 percent of students are responsible for getting 80% of higher results
- 20 percent of marketing result in 80 percent of your sales
- 80 percent of wealth is owned by 20 percent of population
- 20 percent of sales reps get 80 percent of the sales
The video below explains what the 80-20 rule is, with some real life examples of how it effects our everyday life.
80/20 Rule - Focus on Activities
You often see people who appear to be very busy with no time to talk, but yet these people seem to accomplish very little in this time. On the other side, you may well see people who only seem to work for a very little time, yet manage to be very efficient and get good results. This may be down to the fact that those who are frantically working are always focusing on tasks that are of low value, while procrastinating and putting off the one or two tasks that would have the most impactful results. However, if they completed the important tasks, this could make a significant difference to the overall performance and results they are getting. If you applied this to companies, think how much time and money they would save, while getting the same or better results.
The reason why we and others may put off the tasks that get the bigger results is that they may be harder and more complex. At the start of each day, steer away from working on the 80 percent of tasks that will gain you the lesser results, but instead focus on completing the top performing tasks first. A good question to ask yourself is, ‘Would this task be in the top 20 percent of my activities, or would it be in the bottom 80 percent’. Simple, but effective. Always resist the temptation to clear up the smaller tasks on your to do list first.
Doing the above each day will form a healthy and beneficial habit. You’ll soon not need to think about the question of which tasks to start with, but instead automatically know which are the bigger reward tasks and to perform these first. If we start our working day by selecting the low-value tasks, you will soon develop a habit of always choosing the easier and quicker tasks, but ultimately not getting the results you want.
As with any complex or hard task, the trickiest part is to get started. However, once you do start to work on a valuable task a sense of motivation will carry you on to complete it. We all love to feel that what we are working on is valuable and important.
Motivate Yourself with the 80/20 Rule
Just thinking about starting and finishing an important task motivates us and helps us to overcome procrastination and putting the task off. The fact is that the amount of time required to complete an important job is quite often the same amount of time involved in performing a lower value job. The difference is the result we get at the end, and the motivation we receive while carrying out and finishing the job. When we complete a low performing job, the sense of accomplishment is missing, and the satisfaction is little.
Time management could also be referred to as life management. Time management is effectively taking control of the time we have available to each and every one of us, and making the sequence of events work for us, and not against us. Managing our time allows us the freedom and opportunity to choose what to do next. The choice of choosing an important or low value task to complete is yours, and you are in control, so make the right choice! This will essentially determine how successful you are.
People who are often seen as effective and productive will often self-discipline themselves to start with the most important task first. They make the decision to choose the most rewarding task first, despite it sometimes being the hardest job they may have to do that day. As a result, these people on average will accomplish a great deal more with the time that they have.
The next time you come to write down your to-do list, think about the 80 20 rule, and how you can apply it to the tasks you have to complete. Think about which tasks on your list will give you the most impactful results, and complete these first. You’ll be astounded by the difference this has on your working day, and the results you get.