Pareto’s principle, or the 80/20 rule, is the idea that across the natural world and throughout human experience, around 20% of what we do accounts for 80% of our productivity and/or happiness.
Pareto noticed this as it related the distribution of wealth in Italy at the time, and he also noticed it in his garden, where 20% of the pea pods produced around 80% of the peas. Strangely enough, we see a similar distribution when it comes to other aspects of life, whether making 80% of our profit from 20% of customers, take in 80% of our calories in 20% of our meals, or find that 20% of the time we work represents 80% of what we produce.
OK, so why is this important and how can we apply the Pareto Principle? To begin, simply being aware that not all of what we do is equally good/productive is a start. However, a very simple exercise is to start by making a 10 item To Do List, and then identifying which two are most important or would deliver the most benefit.
Another way to apply the 80/20 rule is to look at how we spend our money or time? For example, what hours are we most productive at work? Or, of our disposable income, what goods or services do we spend 80% of our money on, versus the 20% that represents the most beneficial goods or services we purchase?
One way I apply the 80/20 rule to my life is when it comes to exercise. For years and years, I spent 80% of my time doing cardio: spinning, eliptical, running, etc. And yet, I still had a weight problem, to the point where I was pre-diabetic.
Obviously, changing my diet was key–but I also changed how I worked out. Through research, I discovered that in terms of fitness and fat loss, the most effective exercises were lifting heavy weights to exhaustion, and high intensity training (think sprints). So now, 80% of my exercise time is spent doing one of those two things, and maybe 20% is going on walks or doing cardio. The results have been tremendous: I spend way less time at the gym overall, and I’m in the best shape of my life.
Anyway, take a look at the Pareto Principle and think about how you can apply the 80/20 rule to your life, whether relationships, business, recreation, diet, exercise, etc. It’s a great way to maximize our efforts and minimize wasted time.