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0 The Pareto Principle: Maximize Efficiency with the 80/20 Rule

There has been much written and researched about the Pareto Principle; a theory about productivity and efficiency and pea pods, discovered over 100 years ago by Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto. His work focused on the distribution of wealth in society, where he observed that 80% of the wealth and income was produced and possessed by 20% of the population.  What was most fascinating about Pareto’s work was that this 80/20 distribution turns up everywhere.  Pareto even saw this rule occurring in his garden - 20% of his pea pods contained 80% of the peas.  He came up with a guiding principle for, well, everything:


80% of the outputs are the results of 20% of the inputs.


So, it seems it’s been scientifically proven that effort, reward and output do not directly correlate with each other.  A certain minority of activities result in the majority of the outcomes. For example, who hasn’t been involved in a group project where 2-3 of the people do 80 percent of the work?  Interestingly, this principle also says that individuals and organizations are spending 80% of their efforts to accomplish 20% of their results. 


How can this simple principle be exploited to the very best advantage? The key is to put the maximum effort in areas that will gain the most return.  Stop and think about the areas of your life that could benefit from the Pareto Principle.  Ask yourself:


  • Do you own at least five amazing suits, but 80% of the time or more you grab the same one or two?
  • Do you have 10-15 rooms in your home, but spend 80% of your time in just your bedroom, family room, and kitchen?
  • Do you have 50 different mobile apps on your smart phone, but 80% of the time you are only using about 10?


The fact is, there are opportunities for efficiency in every area of your life.  And the best part is, because it’s something you have control over, it’s something you can improve.


So how can you apply Pareto’s principle to increase your return on your time/energy/money investment?  Many professionals are constantly faced with the challenge of limited resources. Instead of trying to do the impossible, a Pareto approach is to truly understand which projects are most important. What are the most important goals of your organization, or boss, and which specific tasks do you need to focus on to align with those goals? What tasks can you delegate or let go? This can also be applied to your personal life. Concentrate on those areas that provide you with a happy and healthy lifestyle and meaningful relationships.


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