For the people who are already applying it, the 80/20 Rule (also known as Pareto’s Law) might be as natural as breathing. But for those of you who don’t, it can just be the most simple and amazing rule to boost your productivity and save a lot of headaches.
Even being fairly simple, many people fail to apply the rule in their everyday lives and businesses. When they hear about it for the first time, the same thought always comes to their minds: How come didn’t I think about this before?
SO, WHAT IS IT?
The 80/20 Rule, developed by economist Vilfredo Pareto more than a century ago, states that in any collection of events, statistically 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. If you’re a bit skeptical about the statement, a quick look around will show us that same distribution occurring in multiple places:
- World’s wealth: 80% of the world’s wealth is controlled by 20% of the population
- Customer complaints: 80% of a company’s complaints usually come from 20% of their customers
- Business profits: 80% of a company’s profits usually come from 20% of their clients
- Software bugs: 80% of software crashes usually com from 20% of bugs
- Health issues: 80% of health issues come from 20% of illnesses
- And so on…
What this means for you is that 80% of your current results come from just 20% of your effort. The rest is wasted on tedious, trivial or unproductive tasks.
Wouldn’t it be great to always be as productive as your best 20%? Imagine what this could mean for your productivity!
WHAT CAN I DO THEN?
Make an honest evaluation of the processes related to the areas you want to improve. Which are the 20% of sources that are causing 80% of your desired outcomes? And which are the 20% of reasons that are causing 80% of your problems?
The idea is to allocate your time and efforts smartly. Focus on the 20% that matters and multiply your productivity. Eliminate the 20% that’s causing 80% of your headaches and you’ll free time up for better tasks.
Whenever you find yourself overwhelmed by any situation or in a serious time constraint, chances are you can apply the rule. Analyze the situation, identify the sources and act accordingly.
This could mean getting rid of problematic clients that don’t contribute a company’s profit, filtering unproductive emails that eat up your time, outsourcing tedious activities, getting rid of harmful relationships, eliminating things in your environment that produce stress…
Remember, any area can be dramatically improved: studying, training, housework, finances… Detect what’s eating your resources up and preventing you from accomplishing more.
OK, I DID IT, NOW WHAT?
You might think that if a process has already been improved, the rule won’t apply anymore. And that might be true… for a while.
But what the rule implies is that the 80/20 distribution is the natural tendency if you leave a process unsupervised. That’s why it’s important to check your tasks periodically and see where you can apply the rule again.
The 80/20 Rule is more than just a process optimizer. It’s a lifestyle. It can give you a happier life and help you achieve higher goals.
If you’re not familiar with the rule, our advice is to write it on a visible place so that you can remember it at all times. Write an ’80/20′ post-it note and put it on your desk. Add a widget to your phone’s homescreen. Remember it every day until it becomes second nature.
You’ll be amazed at the benefits the rule can bring to your life. Apply it now and give an instant boost to your productivity!
Do you identify areas in your life where the rule could be applied? Tell us about it. We’d like to know how your productivity improved!
(Recommended reading: The 4-Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferriss. This is an amazing book about productivity and lifestyle. If this book doesn’t challenge the way you look at work and productivity, not many books will!).