The 80/20 Rule (Pareto Principle)


The rule states that 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results (Also called the Pareto Principle). At first, I was a little skeptical about this because it is basically saying that 80% of what you do is a waste of time.

Even with my skepticism I still decided to give this principal a try. It turns out that it was one of the greatest decisions I ever made. Not only was I getting more done, surprisingly I was also spending less time doing the work. This rule led me to realize something that is very important.

Productivity isn’t about doing more things—it’s about doing the right things.

I learned this information from the book Eat That Frog!. I highly recommend everyone read this book. go read the description and decide if you would like it for yourself

Applying This Rule

There are a few different ways that you can apply this rule in your life. I will go over a few methods that I have found work better than others. I do recommend that you choose only one of the following methods that you like the most. Trying to use all of them at once is overkill since they all do basically the same thing.

The ABCDE method

First, you start by writing a to-do list of everything that you need to get done. Then you will place an A, B, C, D, or E next to each item on your list.

  • An “A” task is defined as something that is very important, something that you must do. This is a task that will have serious positive or negative consequences if you do it or fail to do it, like visiting a key customer or finishing a report that your teacher/boss needs you to complete.
  • A “B” task is defined as a task that you should do.
  • A “C” task is defined as something that would be nice to do
  • A “D” task is defined as something you can delegate to someone else.
  • An “E” task is defined as something that you can eliminate altogether

if you want to you can also go one step further and rank your tasks within each category too. (Ex: A-1,A-2…)

The key to making this ABCDE Method work is for you to now discipline yourself to start immediately on your A-1 task and then stay at it until it is complete.

The 90 percent rule

The 90 percent rule is simple: when you look at a new opportunity, rank it on a scale of 1-100 on how valuable or meaningful you think it is. If it isn’t a 90 or above, don’t do it.

I have tried both of these methods and found they both work really well. I suggest choosing whichever one you think you will use more and stick with that one.

Avoiding Low Return Tasks

Low return tasks waste more of your time than anything else you are doing. This is because they are easy to do and they make you feel like you are doing work. They are basically the Netflixes of the working world.

Maintenance Tasks

Maintenance tasks are things that aren’t really helpful towards your goals but they still need to get done. These are the simple things like mowing the lawn, cutting your nails, folding clothes, etc…

The best way to handle these tasks is instead of doing them as soon as you think about them, you should make a Maintenance list and write down anything you think of during the day. Then set aside some time during the week to do only maintenance tasks.

By doing this you will find the tasks don’t take as much time as they normally do. usually, you waste a lot of time during the process of thinking of what else to do. But since you already have your list you can just run on autopilot.

Maintenance Multitasking

Multitasking is usually a bad idea. But usually, your maintenance tasks don’t require to much brain power. A good way to productively multitask is to listen to audiobooks or podcasts during your maintenance tasks. You will feel less bored and you will be learning too.

Try The Pareto Principle

I can almost guarantee you will get a lot more of your most important work done if you try either one of the methods mentioned in this post. I myself use the ABCDE method on a daily basis and it has had a huge impact on how much I get done.

Now that you know this information hopefully you will change what tasks you are focusing on so you can avoid the 80% of tasks that only get you 20% of your results. This way you can focus on that vital 20% of work that will get you 80% of your results.

As I said in the beginning of this post I first learned about this rule in the book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. I highly recommend this book if you want to beat procrastination.