Imagine the following scenario. You have a work-related project to complete in the next 10 days. You decide to complete an equal amount of work every day until the deadline. Fast forward the 10 days, the project is now ready and according to The 80/20 Rule: 80% of this project was made during 20% of the time you devoted to it (in this case 2 days) or, 80% of this project’s success is based on 20% of the work you did preparing it.
That’s the most basic example of The 80/20 Rule, also known as The Pareto Principle. It can be defined as follows:
For many outcomes in human life roughly 80% of outcomes come from 20% of the inputsPareto Principle
To give another example, imagine that you’re taking snowboarding lessons during your holidays. At the end of the trip 80% of how well you can snowboard, comes from 20% of what you learned during your lessons. I think you get it now.
This rule can be referred to a lot of aspects of human lives like wealth distribution, sports, economics, public safety, industrial or individual productivity and even personal traits like our mindset, wellbeing, or the relationships we make.
In the world of self-improvement, The 80/20 Rule is not a way to work better but to work smarter. To shift from efficiency to effectiveness. It’s all about learning which 20% of the work you do results in 80% of your income, experience, or other valuable outcomes. Anyone can do an excessive amount of mindless and meaningless work, but the trick is to achieve the same results doing only 20% of the work. Frankly, it can be harder to work less, but when you eventually build the right productivity system, it is all worth the struggle. You end up with the same outcomes and more time for the non-work activities, able to fulfill your dreams, and strengthen your relationships.
If you want to learn more about how to build an 80/20 work system I will be posting a more detailed article soon, but if you can’t wait I’d recommend reading ”The 80/20 Rule” by Richard Koch or ”The 4-hour workweek” by Tim Ferris. These are two amazing books with plenty of tools and hands-on techniques.
However, it is also crucial to apply this phenomenon to our private lives. To take advantage of The 80/20 Rule in your personal life, simply ask yourself the following questions:
1.“Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness?”
2.“Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness?”.
By answering the first question you can discover the presence of toxic relationships, distructive habits or other elements of your environment that aren’t serving you. Knowing what causes your unhappiness is half the battle, and addressing those later will be far easier than having to uncover who or what is making you miserable in the first place.
The second question is as much – if not more – essential to address in the search for true happiness. The answers are what you should spend your time and energy on as well as base your plans for the future. It is crucial to examine the causes of what you view as your success – doesn’t matter how big it is – and then understand what are your advantages as well as difficulties. Addressing the answers will make you discover the environment in which you feel and work best, which then helps to consciously recreate it.
The Pareto Principle was first discovered by Vilfredo Pareto, an economist who remarked the 80/20 relation while studying at the University of Lausanne in 1896. In his first work, “Cours d’économie politique“, Pareto proved that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people. His work was later uncovered by many researchers who examined his theory in other areas of human activity. The most recent and probably the broadest is the work of Richard Koch, an investor, historian, and writer who found Pareto’s book at Oxford when preparing for his exams and decided to apply it to his studies. He decided to research the previous years’ exams to find which questions were asked every year, and then to study only the most fundamental topics. In the words of the Pareto Principle, he asked himself: ”Which 20% of topic preparation would guarantee me the 80% exam score?”. The results of his little experiment were extraordinary therefore he decided to write a book on this phenomenon, presenting modern world applications of The 80/20 Rule which is also known as the principle of ”the vital few and the trivial many”.