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How to Take Advantage of the 80 20 Rule to Succeed in Life…


The world of productivity has several hacks or tricks to help you manage your time. The amount of time management tactics to productivity strategies out there is both amazing and overwhelming.

Of course, to make matters harder for people, a lot of these methods have been tried by various people who have stood by them… To-do list systems, the Pomodoro Technique, Parkinson’s Law…

All of these strategies are great strategies in their own way, but one strategy stands above all else: The 80 20 rule. Out of the many, this particular strategy has been used the most and is regarded as the most helpful in developing time management and other concepts in life.

But what’s so special about this rule? How does it give you success and how do you use it? Let’s explore the specifics.

What Is the 80 20 Rule?

Many people regard this rule as the 80 20 rule, but it has a proper name: the Pareto Principle. The principle was named after its founder, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto, in 1895. How it all started was when Pareto noticed that people in society were divided into two “categories”:

  • The “vital few” which consisted of the top 20 percent with respect to money and influence.
  • The “trivial many” otherwise known as the bottom 80 percent.

As he researched this further, he came to discover that this divide didn’t apply only to money and influence but other areas too. Virtually all economic activity was subject to his previous observation.

That observation being this:

80 percent of the wealth of Italy at the time was controlled by only 20 percent of the population.

Since the development of this rule, humankind has used this particular ratio in all kinds of situations. Even if the ratio isn’t always exact, we see this rule applied in many industries and in life. Examples are:

  • 20% of sales reps will generate 80% of your total sales.
  • 20% of customers account for 80% of total profits.
  • 80% of the revenue will stem from 20% of the workers.
  • And so on…

Either way, I’m sure you can piece together why people call this rule the 80 20 rule over Pareto’s Principle.

In terms of how this particular rule will be able to work for you, it’s a matter of applying this rule in our lives as I’ve said. For us to see success, the goal is simple.

We need to set it up in such a way that 20% of our input will give us 80% of our results.

Another way to think about it is we place 20% of our time on activities that give us 80% of our results in whatever area in life.

How Does the 80 20 Rule Work?

To best explain this, let’s visualize a bit.

In an ideal world:

  • Every employee would contribute the same amount of effort to work.
  • Every feature that’s released for an app or product would be equally loved by users.
  • Each business idea you come up with would be a hit.

In that scenario, planning would be a breeze. There wouldn’t be any need to analyze anything so long as you put in the effort.

But that’s not reality.

Yes, the effort is certainly an element, but what the 80 20 rule states is that everything is unequal. Invest in 10 start-up companies and you’ll find only a few will pass year two and make it big. You’re in a team of five and there’ll be one person doing more work than others.

We wish our lives are always one for one in terms of input and output, but that’s simply not true. Understanding this is key to understanding how the 80 20 rule really works.

So how does it really work?

You may be asking and it’s quite simple. It’s a matter of focusing on what’s giving you the most in your life for little of your time.

Going back to the few examples I’ve presented above, consider this:

  • If two start-ups you invested in are making it big, focus on having a more direct hand and see if you can help them prosper more.
  • If 20% of sales reps are giving you 80% of your sales, focus on rewarding those and keeping their spirits high and motivated.

These scenarios can go on and on but the idea is to place your efforts on the 20% that is actually making the difference in your life. Another term that’s good to know is the diminishing marginal benefit.

Pareto didn’t come up with this one, but the law goes as follows: each extra hour of effort or worker will add less “oomph” to your finished results.

Eventually, you’ll hit a point where you will spend a lot of time on small and unimportant details. Similar to perfectionism.

So before hitting that point, you want to have a laser focus on the most important details. From family and relationships to your work or business. Prioritize the activities that are going to move you forward the most. And be wary of adding extra time, effort, or more hands into those particular tasks moving forward.

How to Take Advantage of the 80 20 Rule

So now that you have an understanding of the 80 20 rule and how it works, what is the best way to take advantage of it?

Depending on where you are applying this rule, this can be used in all kinds of fashions.

For example, you can apply this rule to goal setting, as demonstrated by Brian Tracy in this video:

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