Answer this riddle: What is more precious than gold, cannot be bought, earned, or saved and you never have enough of it?
The answer of course is time!
Time is elusive, fleeting and precious. We are only allotted so much during our lifetime and learning to manage it better, is the best way to maximize the time we do have. One of the top ways to make the most of your time is to utilize the 80/20 rule.
The 80/20 Rule: The Law of the Vital Few
The 80/20 rule or the Pareto Principle (named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto) operates on the premise, that in general, 80 percent of an outcome is derived from just 20 percent of the input or effort. This rule is most often referenced to and utilized in business settings. Consider the following examples:
- 80% of problems can be attributed to 20% of causes
- 80% of a company’s profits comes from 20% of its customers
- 80% of a company’s complaints come from 20% of its customers
However, the fundamental truth that underlies this principle has been proven to be true in just about every context conceivable:
- 80% of crimes are committed by 20% of the population
- 80% of victories in sports come from 20% of the teams
- 80% of all wealth is owned by 20% of the people
The truth is so much of our time and energy is wasted doing things that produce little to no real or valuable output. Imagine what you could accomplish or where you could be if you were able to cut your overall lack of productivity in half?
Maximize your time using the 80/20 Rule
Now that we clearly understand the rule of 80/20, we can all agree that we do waste a lot of time. In a world filled with mundane, arduous and tedious tasks, how do we actually apply this rule in our everyday lives?
Great question! Below are a few simple tips to help you begin to better maximize your time and ensure your efforts yield higher and more meaningful results:
1. Learn to prioritize
This is by far the most vital component in proper time management and optimizing the 80/20 principle in your everyday life. In order to do this, a conscience and intentional shift in thinking must occur. Instead of mindlessly performing routine tasks, learn how to shorten or cut the ones that yield very little outcome from your routine. We are all aware that certain things must be done that are time-consuming and do not add value to our daily lives. Things like commuting, cooking, cleaning, ironing clothes, grocery shopping (you get the picture), must be done, but ultimately have very little to do with our goals, passions or overall quality of life. Yet, so much of our time is spent on these types of activities.
2. Learning to better schedule
Learning to better schedule, shorten or the better yet, outsource these things whenever possible is key to establishing the 80/20 ratio in your daily life. Hire someone to cut the grass, take public transportation or Uber to work and spend that time responding to emails or for planning your schedule.
3. Set and modify your goals frequently
Clearly defined goals that are always in the forefront of your mind helps you stay focused and helps you with prioritization. Map out a path to achieving your goals and adjust frequently. Life happens and plans are derailed. When you find yourself drifting off course, regroup and recalculate as quickly as possible. Try to spend as little time as possible on things that do not directly drive you toward your goals.
4. Establish the correct effort-reward balance
Establish the correct effort-reward balance for all activities: This is done by first evaluating the reward that comes from the task and then determining the amount of effort required. For example, if the task is making your bed every morning, for most of us, the reward for a well-made bed is very minimal, therefore the effort (time and energy) spent making the bed should also be minimal (or skipped altogether). I know some of you (like me) are perfectionists and like to do everything to the best of your ability, which is very admirable, but not practical or effective. Learn to give the best of yourself to the things that really matter and the other things get the best of what you have left.
Downsize and simplify- 80/20 in Action
Putting this principle into action is actually fairly simple. Start by asking yourself some of the following questions:
- What are the 20% of your possessions you get the most value out of?
- What do you spend 20% of your time doing that gives you 80% of your happiness?
- Who are the 20% of people you’re close to who make you the happiest?
- What are the 20% of the clothes you wear 80% of the time?
- What are the 20% of foods you eat 80% of the time?
Chances are you answered all of these questions fairly easily. You’ve just never considered them before. Now that you’ve answered them, you are ready to and can easily focus on becoming more efficient in your life. For instance, the 80% of people you spend time with who only add 20% of the pleasure in your life – spend less time with them. The 80% of the stuff that you use 20% of the time – throw it out or sell it. The 80% of the clothes you only wear 20% of the time – get rid of them
Obviously, the 80/20 rule is not necessarily a rigid dictum to live by. Think of it as a tool and a lens to view aspects of your life. The overall goal is to simplify your life and to spend your most precious commodity wisely.