The 80 20 Rule – And How to Use It to Boost Productivity


The 80 20 Rule or Pareto Principle, named after the nineteenth-century Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, who discovered that approximately 80% of Italian land in 1896 was owned by 20% of the population, has become a common axiom in business and life.

The principle has since spread to become a very important concept in various domains.

–              The principle was highlighted in 1992 by a United Nations Development Program report that showed that roughly 80% of the world’s wealth was in the hands of 20% of the population.

–              Businesses have reported that 80% of their sales come from 20% of their customers

–              Microsoft discovered that if they fix the top 20%, most reported bugs they eliminate 80% of the problems in their software.

It seems the Pareto Principle is all around us.

When it comes to productivity, the principle can be applied in that 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts.

The onus is now on you to discover what that 20% is so you can apply your most effort to that 20% and eliminate as much of the 80% that does not produce the results you want.

But, how do you do that?


Be Absolutely Clear on What It Is You Want to Achieve

The easiest and most effective way to do this is to be absolutely clear about what it is you are trying to achieve.

What is the outcome you want to achieve? Most people do not get clarity on what it is they want to achieve, and so get sucked into working on things that will not deliver a big contribution to the overall objective.

For example, if you have a project to relocate to a better apartment, spending an inordinate amount of time discussing the color you want to have the walls, what furniture you would like and what plants you will have in the garden will not move you very far towards moving house.

Instead, deciding how many rooms and in what location you would like the house would give you far more important data on which to be able to go to a real estate agent.

You are going to find the right house much more quickly if you’ve decided the area and size of apartment you are looking for than by discussing colors, furniture and items in your garden.

Before you begin any project, make a list of all the tasks involved to take the project to completion and then highlight the tasks that will give you the biggest contribution towards the completion of the project. Those tasks will be the 20% of tasks that will take you 80% of the way towards completing the project.


Understand Your Majors and Minors

According to Jim Rohn who coined the Majors and Minors philosophy, there are parts of the work you do each day that have a direct contribution to the overall objective you are trying to achieve.

Other parts of your work do not have a direct contribution to that objective but could be described as housekeeping tasks. The trick is to know what they are.

Brian Tracy often talks about this with the sales process. Major time is when you are in front of the customer talking with them. Minor time is traveling to the customer or being in meetings with your sales manager in the office.

Of course, traveling to see your customer or meeting with your sales manager is important, but they do not contribute directly to your sales performance so that would be classed as minor time.


Stop Thinking, Start Doing        

A lot of people spend far too much time on planning and thinking.

Now, planning and developing ideas do have their place when you have a task or challenge at hand, but there is a line. If you spend 80% of your time thinking and planning, your project is not going to launch.

For example, if you want to start a YouTube channels and you spend 80% of your time thinking rather than actually creating content, you are failing already.

Conversely, If you spend 80% of your time producing content and 20% of your time planning out your content, no matter what medium you are producing for, you will see positive results. If you turn that ratio around, you are not going to see much by way of results.

It is ok to make mistakes and improve on them as you proceed rather than waiting to have a perfect plan – there is no perfect plan.

Stop for a moment right now and ask yourself:

“What could I do today that will give me 80% of the results I most desire?”



There is no perfect answer to the key question of how to achieve balance in our lives, but there are a number of ideas that can help you to be, have, and do more in the areas that are important to you.

These ideas often require changes and modifications in the way you think and use your time, but the price is well worth it.

Consider the tasks you do every day, or your next big project and ask yourself, “what will I do today that will give me 80% of the results I need?” That is your magical wand, focus on that.


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