The 80/20 Rule - Pareto's Principle

by Jake Smolarek
A mug with 80/20 writing

The golden rule

We work under the impression that the more time we spend working, the more results you'll get. This attitude is drilled into us from our school days, where attending lessons and completing hours of homework resulted in good exam results. It's the same mentality as practice makes perfect.

But spending hours and hours working may not be the best way to achieve success. Sacrificing time, the most precious resource that we have, with extended hours of inefficient work is, quite simply, a waste of time. After all, there are only so many hours in a day.

The amount of time you spend working is not as significant as the quality of the work. You need to work smarter, not harder. You want results as efficiently as possible, so you don't waste time and energy. What you need is the 80/20 rule.

The 80/20 rule is otherwise known as The Pareto Principle. It dates back hundreds of years and is named after Vilfredo Pareto, who coined the term in the 1800s. It effectively states that 80% of your time will be spent on trivial tasks, which will only contribute to 20% of your success. However, 20% of your time will be spent on vital tasks, which will give you 80% of your success.

What does that actually mean for you?

Let's go back to our school days. You've got a test the next morning, but you know there's no time to learn 100% of the curriculum. So, you need to choose what to study. Focus on what is important and going to get results. Not everything will come up on the test, so you need to decide to focus on the things that are likely to come up. If you focus on major topics, you're likely to learn 80% of what you need to know. The rest of the time, studying the minor details might get you some extra points, but it's only 20% of what you need.

Essentially - the majority of the results come from the minority of actions. You just have to know which activities are vital and which are trivial.

Of course, this principle can be applied to virtually anything in your life: work, hobbies, even your social circles. The minority course of necessary actions will give you the majority of the results. The trick is to find that 20%.

The difference between success and failure

While the Pareto principle can help you focus on finding the important things and ignoring the irrelevant extras, it also tells you that 80% of the work will only get you 20% of the way. This can be disheartening. However, what's more painful is working for hours and hours expecting results only to find out you've been doing trivial tasks. The Pareto principle should guide you to understand how to use your time more efficiently.

Often the difference between success and failure is not how hard you work; it's the type of work you're doing. If you're putting all your energy and time into the 80%, no matter how hard you work, you'll only get 20% of the way. Successful people thrive because they understand how to apply themselves and where to spend time and energy. Successful people don't waste time. They continuously look for ways to improve efficiency and productivity and avoid wasting time on trivial matters. This yields real results.

Working long hours is unnecessarily strenuous and can result in lower productivity. When you are tired, stressed, and overworked, you'll end up feeling drained and unable to perform to your full potential. The Pareto Principle can teach you how to avoid this by achieving your goals and preventing you from wasting time on things that won't help you in the long run.

Ask yourself - what is your most valuable task? Is it in the top 20% or the bottom 80%? If it's in the bottom 80%, assign it less time, less energy, and less stress.

It's a simple principle, and the most successful individuals still use it. 20% of clients bringing in 80% of the revenue. 20% of a book gives you 80% of the content you need. Even in your social circle, it's the 20% of your close friends who will provide you with the 80% sense of fulfillment you're looking for.

The point of the 80/20 rule is that it recognizes just how important time is for us. It's the one resource we can't buy, extend, or gain an advantage over. At the end of the day, you'll go through the very same 24 hours that anyone else did. What's important is how you spend your 24 hours. Time is a limited resource. Don't waste it.

Work smarter, not harder.

Focus, prioritise, and achieve your goals - efficiently.

About the Author

Jake Smolarek

Life and Business Coach & Entrepreneur

For over 10 years I have been helping people achieve their personal, professional, and financial goals faster and easier than they've ever imagined.

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