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HOW the 80/20 Rule Can Boost Your Productivity.

As the story goes, back in 1906, the Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto was in his garden looking at his peas. He noticed that a very small number of pea pods – twenty percent – were responsible for the majority of the healthy peas that he harvested: eighty percent. On the other hand, the majority of the pods gave him very few healthy peas: the remaining twenty percent.

This got him thinking, and he noticed this 80/20 ratio elsewhere, in the land distribution in Italy. He noticed that eighty percent of the land in the peninsula was owned by only twenty percent of the population. The same, by the way, is true today.

Since then, we have seen this ratio in many things, thanks to the marketing consultant, Joseph Juran, who named it ‘the Pareto principle’. Juran’s principle – ‘the vital few and the trivial many’ or the 80/20 rule – states that eighty percent of effects come from twenty percent of causes.

Time management: Be productive, not busy.

We all see those people running around looking stressed and anxious because they have so much to do. Whilst they may be very successful, it’s likely that the majority of their time (80%) gets a little wasted.

According to the Pareto principle, eighty percent of the results that they see – in terms of work achieved, impact made, goals reached or money earned – probably comes from only twenty percent of the work that they have done. The remaining eighty percent of work produces very meagre results.

If you want to be productive, rather than just flat-out busy, you might want to focus your attention on the gains made by the most vital portion of your time: the twenty percent. The rest can be given less energy, focus, and stress.

Pareto Principle at Work

Another example of the 80/20 rule – the most famous, probably – is profit. Generally speaking, eighty percent of the profit that a business makes will come from only twenty percent of your customers. These are your key customers, your ideal customers, the ones you want to cultivate, keep, and with whom you want to strengthen your relationship. Think about it. Eighty percent of your customers only give you twenty percent of your income!

Consider time in this also, twenty percent of your customers will give you eighty percent of the trouble. As Perry Marshall, the wizard of the Pareto principle, writes here, it is well worth letting them go. They aren’t worth your time. You know the ones I mean!

  • Divert resources – energy, time, people – from some of the less powerful to the top twenty percent. Knowing it is all well and good. But the key to the Pareto Principle is making the most of the twenty and leaving the eighty behind.

Time Well Spent

This rule shows you that you should be focusing your energies, hours and focus on the work that creates the most positive output. This work is that which brings plentiful reward – that eighty percent.

You have probably experienced the situation Stephen Covey calls the ‘thick of thin things’, all those daily tasks that when you look at what they have achieved, there is little to show for it. This can include numerous emails, meaningless meetings, constant interruptions and wasted time. All of these can fill 80% of your day but only deliver 20% of the output.

This is where you need to identify the 20% of tasks that DO ‘move the needle’ on your work. And then do more of that! Secondly, take a look at what takes up the other 80% and take action to reduce them.

    • Protect the time in which you are most productive. Are you most productive from eight until ten, whilst the rest of the day your mind wanders? Protect that time: don’t allow any disturbances!
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80/20 Everywhere

By this point, you won’t be surprised to hear that this 80/20 ratio can be found all over the place.

Take an audit of your daily activities, remember when you are most productive and what tasks and activities bring the best results (personally and professionally), what boosted your mood and energy levels.

Think about your clothes. You will wear twenty percent of your total clothes eighty percent of the time.

Or books. Eighty percent of the information is contained in only twenty percent of their pages (say the introduction and conclusion).

The 80/20 Rule also applies to achieving your life goals or Intention too. How much time did you spend last week working towards one of your big goals? 20%? 10%? 5%? None?

What if you devoted just 20% of your free time to achieving your goals, what impact would that have? That could mean half an hour to an hour a day reading a book or learning a new skill like the HOW Skill Set.

Applying this seemingly simple rule to your work, time management and life in general, can be one of the best productivity tools out there!

You will be amazed how this simple principle shows up every day!

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