The 80 20 Rule

And How To Apply It To Your Life & Work

The 80 20 Rule is a fantastic tool you can use to increase your productivity and well-being. It can help you to identify the areas of your life which are responsible for your major successes, and it can also aid you by pointing out which parts of your life are causing most of your problems.

It’s so simple to apply the 80 20 rule too. You will be able to complete the exercises in this article in about ten minutes, ending up with a surprisingly accurate overview of what’s causing the good and bad in your life – with action points so you can implement changes and progress. Basically, the aim is to do more of the stuff that makes you happy, and less of the stuff that makes you stressed.

Before we get into that though, here’s a bit of background on the origins of the rule – also known as the “Pareto Principle”, the “Law of the Vital Few”, and “Pareto’s Law”.

The 80 20 Rule – An Overview

Vilfredo Pareto was a controversial Italian economist and sociologist, whose best-known achievement was the discovery of the 80 20 rule.

Pareto realised that 80% of the wealth in Italy was concentrated in the hands of just 20% of the people. Intrigued, he applied this formula to other countries’ economies – and saw that the 80 20 principle applied to their economies too.

Presumably, dear old Vilfredo was a little shocked when he discovered that the 80 20 rule not only applied to economics, but to his garden too... Dear old Vilfredo liked to plant peas in his garden, you see, and he stumbled across the fact that 80% of the peas sprouted from just 20% of the peapods he planted. With this little anomaly, the 80 20 rule was born.

Since Pareto’s time, more and more people have found that their lives and businesses are governed by the 80 20 rule. Microsoft, for example, realised that by fixing the top 20% of the most reported bugs, 80% percent of the errors and crashes were eliminated from Windows.

Salespeople realise that 80% of their sales often come from just 20% of their clients, and focus their time on this 20% accordingly. You probably inadvertently use the 80 20 principle too – it’s likely that you wear your favourite 20% items of clothing up to 80% of the time... be honest now!

This unusual little idea can effectively be summarised as follows:

Approximately 80% of the results
come from approximately 20% of the causes.

This means that if 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions - and you can identify those actions - it is possible to improve your results and become more productive, by simply doing more of these actions.

Equally, if 80% of your problems come from 20% of your activities or beliefs, you can isolate them and stop doing them.

Here is how to do this...

Application of the 80 20 Rule

Here are 7 questions that will help you to understand how the 80 20 rule operates in your life – and allow you to make changes so you get more of the good stuff, and less of the bad.

If you take a few minutes to answer these questions honestly, you’re likely to have a remarkably simple - yet accurate - overview of what’s good and bad in your life.

My recommendation is to answer all the questions, and then create an Action Point for each. After all, knowledge is of limited value without action.

For example, if your answer to question 3 is “The 20% of my work activities that are causing 80% of my work results are pitching, being tenacious and not giving up”, then the action point would be to ensure that you spend more time pitching, being tenacious, and not giving up!

Equally, if your answer to number 6 is “The 20% of my skills that are causing 80% of my success are my charm, interpersonal skills and confidence”, then you could create an action plan to get a job that emphasises these qualities and allows you to use them more of the time... Simple!

Sometimes, just having this kind of clarity will allow you to make the changes you desire. At the very least, this knowledge will ensure that you have a deeper understanding of what makes you tick, and will point out the areas that you should focus on to be more productive and get better results.

Here are the questions:

(1) Which 20% of activities are causing 80% of my happiness?

(2) Which 20% of activities are causing 80% of my stresses?

(3) Which 20% of work activities are causing 80% of my work results?

(4) Which 20% of my friends are contributing to 80% of my fun?

(5) Which 20% of my friends are contributing to 80% of my issues?

(6) Which 20% of my skills and qualities are responsible for 80% of my success?

(7) Which 20% of my beliefs are responsible for 80% of my tribulations?

By answering these questions honestly, you’ll have an overview of the things you do that make you happy – and the things you do that make you sad. You’ll realise what to focus on at work to make yourself more productive. You’ll know which of your friends are affirming your beliefs and aspirations – and you might know which of your friends you’ll have to have a quiet word with to explain how they make you feel. Finally, you’ll identify which of your skills and qualities are contributing most to your success, and you’ll have isolated some self-limiting beliefs.

Not bad for 10 minutes ay?

Try and play with the 80 20 rule in your life. It’s a remarkably effective way to become more productive, and it helps you to be happier too. All that’s left to say is a big old “thank you” to Vilfredo... and good luck!

Related Articles

How To Be Productive

How To Be Happy

Personal Values Development

Dealing With Negative People

Mind Habits

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