Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule) of Time Management: Achieve More in Life By Doing Less

They say that we all have the same twenty-four hours in a day, some of us just use them differently than others. Many of us look at the ultra-productive among us and wonder what it is that they do so differently? It can be extremely frustrating to toil away without seeing the results that we want. This is why we will now explore the 80 20 rule of time management and see how it can be applied to anyone’s life. 


What is the 80 20 rule in time management?

The concept behind the 80/20 rule in time management is that the inputs and outputs that we exert into our daily activities rarely line up in the ways that we expect them to. We put forth a great amount of effort into certain activities and yield minimal results. On the other hand, we sometimes put a minimum amount of effort into other activities and achieve extremely positive results. This is the paradox that is the 80/20 rule. This is also known as Pareto principle of time management. 

The Pareto principle shows up in all sorts of ways in the real world, including: 

  • 80% of industrial pollution is produced by 20% of factories 
  • 80% of results are achieved by 20% of employees
  • 80% of crimes are committed by 20% of criminals
  • 80% of traffic accidents are caused by 20% of drivers

It is interesting how this principle continues to hold up time and time again under various conditions and as a result of various factors that are often beyond our understanding.


Why is the 80 20 rule important in time management?

80 percent of your results will yield just 20 percent of your effort. It is in these high yield/low effort activities that we should invest our focus and energy.

20 percent of actions result in 80 percent of results

When we dedicate too much time to other pursuits, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that we are putting too much effort into activities that will ultimately not reward us nearly enough.

Thus, the 80/20 rule may be used as a means of grounding us back into the type of work that truly creates value in our lives.

Ignoring the hard math that is right before our eyes as it relates to time management is a recipe for disaster. You should make sure that you keep the 80/20 rule in your mind at all times.

When you apply it to your life on a regular basis, you can achieve much more than you ever did before. 


How does the Pareto principle work?

The Pareto principle may be applied to virtually every aspect of life, though it is most often used for business and industrial purposes. People like the fact that they can apply something like the Pareto principle to something in their life that has hard numbers (such as business growth). 

When pouring over numbers, one may easily see the 80 20 time management rule at work. They can review employee performance and see where their standout superstars are.

Those are the people who are consistently churning out top-notch performances for the company on a regular basis. They are a small minority of people, but they are getting it done. They understand what needs to be done, and they work diligently to make it happen. They are likely putting in extra hours and taking on additional assignments in order to maintain high levels of performance.

superstar employees who bring in 80 percent of results 

It is possible to put the Pareto principle to work in your own life as well. The Pareto Principle can help you put the time in your day towards the things that really matter. When you start to put more of your efforts into the work that will yield more results for you, then you can start to gain some momentum on your overarching goals.


Why does the 80 20 time management rule work? 

It is one thing to understand that the Pareto principle exists and that it works, but it is something else to know why it works. From 1906 when the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto first discovered the principle until now, we see this principle in action all over the world.

He first observed it in terms of the uneven wealth distribution in his home country. However, it also appears in many other places throughout the world. It seems as if this is something that exists in the fabric of human existence itself. 

Humans tend to reward exceptional efforts made by various individuals (think about how much compensation professional athletes receive for example), and thus, many of the rewards in life go to a select group of people who have the talents necessary to achieve those heights in life.

The Pareto principle appears to work in many areas of life simply because that is how humans have always structured their affairs. We want some consistency in the way that rewards are distributed, and that is why we have always stuck by a system that showers those who provide the most effort into their work with the bounties of those efforts. 


Why should you use Pareto principle for time management?

You now know that the Pareto principle is a real thing and that it has existed for virtually all of human history. Why would you not take the opportunity to leverage that knowledge to make decisions about how you will structure your life going forward?

It seems obvious that you should do so in order to achieve optimal results. 

arrow representing that a person should choose 80 20 time management rule going forward


The main reasons for using the Pareto principle for time management are: 

  • It will allow you to remember that certain tasks will NOT yield great results
  • It can help you see which tasks are truly important to how your day unfolds
  • You can suddenly achieve outsized results that were always available to you before

The Pareto principle is easy to remember once you know it, and it is hard to avoid the fact that it shows up time and time again in life. Using this method or not is totally up to you, but many people find a lot of benefits from it.

“Those who seize the day become seriously rich” – Richard Koch (on the 80/20 rule)


Benefits of the 80/20 rule for time management

It is critically important to understand the benefits that a person can pick up by using the 80/20 rule in their life. The more that this principle is applied in their life, the better the results that they can achieve, but it is very important overall to make sure you know what those benefits are ahead of time so you can stay motivated to go after them. 


Declutter Your Life

There are numerous areas in your life that are likely cluttered right now. This is how most of us operate all the time. Try as we might, it is not easy to simply declutter our life with the snap of a finger. Instead, we must start to focus on the aspects of our lives that truly bring us satisfaction if we are going to get more out of it. 

decluttering brain and lfie

Your life may be cluttered financially, emotionally, socially, etc. The point is, when you use the 80/20 principle, you can start to rid yourself of the small tasks that just take up time and do not add a lot of value to your life.

Believe it or not, those are the areas of life that are likely taking away from your overall happiness. You are spending too much time on them and not getting enough in return. It is time to declutter those aspects of your life right now. 


Make Time For What You Actually Care About

Life is not just one long checklist of things to do. When living properly, life should also be about having fun and enjoying things that you want to do. When you make it about that, you can start to see your happiness improve and get more things done with your day.

Therefore, you should make time to get involved with the fun aspects of life that you enjoy. 

The 80/20 rule helps you get there by knocking out some of the things that you do not want to spend your time on right now. There is likely a lot on your plate each day, and you don’t always get to the things that bring you the most joy because you are always cycling through the other things that you feel need to get done.

The 80/20 rule can bring you some perspective on what you actually need to invest your time on and which things are merely keeping you from appreciating your life for all that it has to offer. 


Your Work Performance/Productivity Is Likely To Increase

Think about it. When you are channeling your energy into the things that bring real results to the table, you are likely going to increase the output and quality of work that you produce. You will bring real focus and intensity to the type of work that truly matters when you use the 80/20 rule.

focusing on one thing

This will manifest in you being able to achieve true results as far as getting things done on time and to the high standards that you set for yourself. Those who review your work will see the higher energy levels that you put into the work that truly matters. Do NOT throw out how important this can be to your ability to get things done.


3 areas where people usually use the 80 20 rule

People use the 80/20 rule in all sorts of areas of life, but we wanted to take a look at some specific uses of this rule as it is applied in real-world situations. Perhaps this will best illustrate how the 80/20 rule comes into play in your own life. 


1. Software Functionality

Let’s start by talking about one area that we all experience in some way, but many of us do not realize what we are dealing with. That area is in software functionality. Did you know that about eighty percent of the software functionality that you enjoy on your computer comes from just 20% of the plans that software engineers put into it? In other words, software developers spend an inordinate amount of time building new software products, but only about 20% of the time that they spend goes into the vast majority of what you use their software for. 

Software engineers are aware of this fact, and that is why they try to do their best to maintain good time management practices so they can focus their efforts on creating a product that you will love to use. 


2. Twenty Percent Of One’s Work Day Can Get Eighty Percent Of The Work Accomplished

It is often the case that just twenty percent of one’s workday is enough to accomplish eighty percent of what truly needs to get accomplished. This is useful information simply because the way that the workforce functions is changing rapidly.

man relaxing while working

It may be possible to point out the time drain that the company is investing in you by forcing you to be at work for a certain number of hours. They may be able to open up some flexibility in your schedule if you show them that from a time management perspective it makes more sense to cut you loose early. 


3. Traffic

The 80/20 rule applies to traffic as well. The vast majority of traffic clogs up a small minority of roads. If you know this ahead of time, you will surely react by doing something about it. Perhaps you will even change the route that you take home from work in order to get yourself where you need to be. This can improve your time management by making sure you don’t get stuck in traffic that you easily could have avoided. 


5 tips on using the 80 20 rule for time management 

1. Listen To Your Gut

There is a strong likelihood that you already know what you really need to do in your gut. You know which tasks need to be your priority and what you can ignore. Take care of the most pressing tasks first by using the “eat the frog” method to help clear your schedule up as much as possible. Pay attention to things like that, and take the time to follow the path that your gut lays out for you. You can get a lot more done when you stick to knocking out the first tasks that come to mind. 


2. Put A Price Tag On Your Time

It is perfectly reasonable to say no to certain requests. If there are things that are getting in your way, make sure you pay attention to this and note the way that you are valuing your own time. You deserve to let others know when you simply don’t have the time to help them out right now. You are applying the 80/20 principle to your life, and you have certain things that simply need to get done at this time. There is nothing wrong with valuing your time in that way. 


3. Interrupt Interruptions

Don’t let interruptions get in the way of your day if you are going to accomplish everything that you need to in your day. You need to stop and ask yourself where your energy should be placed right now. It is challenging to pull this off in the world that we live in today with all of its distractions, but you can still do it. You just need to make sure you have full confidence in yourself and your ability to accomplish big things. Put that together with knowing a bit about the 80/20 rule, and you can go far. 


4. Measure All That You Can

Keep data on yourself and measure as much as you can. You should want to know what your various stats are related to your productivity and your life. That is the best way to make the kind of impact that you want to make with things. If you do that, you will be in great shape. 


5. Learn To Delegate

One of the biggest lessons that people tend to learn when they take on the 80/20 method is the fact that they should delegate more of their work. Don’t put everything on your shoulders all the time. You can push some of it onto other people and allow them to show you how talented they are. This will also permit you to do more of the important work that you know needs to get done and will yield more fruitful results. 

The 80/20 method won’t solve all of your problems, but it can go a long way toward helping you accomplish what you need to accomplish in your day. You should think about that when working on how to make your life more productive and manage your time better.

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