The 80-20 Rule. The Law of the Vital Few. The Principle of Factor Sparsity. The Pareto Principle is a business law and principle created by an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto. It is a rule that in summation says that 80% of results come from 20% of the efforts put into it.
In business this means that 80% of your profits come from 20% of your clients or customers. The law hasn't just been applied to business though. In fact Pareto came to the conclusion by observing the productivity of peas in his garden.
So why are we talking about the Pareto Principle today on the blog? Because when it comes to self improvement, the principle is often just as applicable.
So as an example, when writing this blog, the Pareto Principle states that 80% of my readers come from roughly 20% of my posts. I can then use this information to try and identify which posts comprise that 20%, and attempt to use them as examples to write articles with greater interest to my readers.
Today I want to talk about using this law in your life to maximize your effectiveness and become more efficient.
The Principle At Work
Because this is a rule of economics, it's appropriate that it finds a lot of practical application in the work environment.
Whatever your career is, you likely have measurable goals. Perhaps you're in a sales position. Perhaps you're in a management role. Maybe you're a writer, or an artist.
In each of these positions, you have a way of working down to where you are being most effective. The salesman might look for the clients who make up 80% of his sales. The manager might try to identify the 20% of their employees producing 80% of the work. The creative professional might try to see which 20% of their works are responsible for 80% of their notoriety or income.
Wherever you are getting your 80% of your results from, hone in on that. If those results are coming from 20% of your efforts, that means that the other 80% of your efforts are gaining you fewer results.
What you want to do is make it so those less productive efforts look a lot more like those efforts that return the majority of your benefits.
So the manager will want to hire more employees like the 20% who are the most productive. The salesman will seek more clients with lots of money and high-volume purchases. The author will write books more similar to those that sell or gain readers most effectively.
The point is, you want to replicate what is the most successful, and start making it so that as much of your time as possible is being put into work that gains results, so you are not just working for work's sake.
The Principle In Play
In your casual life it might be harder to apply the principle at first glance, but because of its open nature, it can be applied to much more than you might think.
Maybe 20% of the food you eat is leading to 80% of your weight gain.
Maybe 20% of the exercise you do is burning 80% of your calories.
Maybe you wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time.
Even on a trip to the grocery store, 20% of the things you are buying might make up 80% of what you're going to eat.
If we're eliminating waste here and becoming more efficient, you can already begin to see how we might make our lives more effective in these scenarios.
Once you know which 20% of your clothes you wear 80% of the time, you can stop buying those clothes you rarely wear, and only buy the kinds that you actually end up wearing, cutting your wardrobe and clothes spending down.
You can cut out the 20% of the foods you eat that are harming your diet the most.
While you may not always thing of your leisure time as something you can maximize your use of, it's a great exercise to begin thinking of the ways in which your relaxation can become more effective. Make your chores more effective so you get more time to relax.
The Pareto Principle is an incredibly useful way of framing the way you think about your effectiveness when trying to improve your life. It makes us think about when we are really being effective, and when we might just be working for work's sake. Putting in efforts that we know won't pay off very well.
When applying the Principle to your life, it may not always be an accurate description of where you are getting the results of your efforts. Maybe you are really wearing 30% of your clothes 70% of the time. But thinking in this way about which efforts are paying off and which efforts aren't can start you on a path to working only at maximum effectiveness, so that you use more of your time in a more effective manner.
However you wind up finding ways to use the Pareto Principle in your life, we want to hear about it! Let us know in the comments below, and the first five readers to use coupon code PARETOPRINCIPLE will get 20% off their next one-time order for reading.