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Last Updated on September 24, 2020

How to Take Advantage of the 80 20 Rule to Succeed in Life

How to Take Advantage of the 80 20 Rule to Succeed in Life

The world of productivity has several hacks or tricks to help you manage your time: to-do lists, the Pomodoro Technique, Parkinson’s Law… All of these strategies are great strategies in their own way, but one strategy stands above all the others: the 80 20 rule.

This particular strategy has been used the most and is regarded as the most helpful in developing time management and other concepts in life.

But what’s so special about this rule? How does it give you success and how do you use it? Let’s explore the specifics.

What Is the 80 20 Rule?

Many people regard this rule as the 80 20 rule, but it has a proper name: the Pareto Principle[1]. The principle was named after its founder,  the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, in 1895. Pareto noticed that people in society were divided into two categories:

  • The “vital few,” which consisted of the top 20 percent with respect to money and influence.
  • The “trivial many,” otherwise known as the bottom 80 percent.

As he researched this further, he came to discover that this divide didn’t apply only to money and influence, but other areas, too. Virtually all economic activity was subject to his previous observation.

He observed that 80% of Italy’s wealth at the time was controlled by only 20% of the population.

Since the development of this rule, humankind has used this particular ratio in all kinds of situations. Even if the ratio isn’t always exact, we see this rule applied in many industries and in life. Examples are:

  • 20% of sales reps will generate 80% of your total sales.
  • 20% of customers account for 80% of total profits.
  • 80% of the revenue will stem from 20% of the workers.

Either way, I’m sure you can piece together why people call this rule the 80 20 rule over Pareto’s Principle[2].

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Make Your Life and Your Business More Efficient with the 80-20 Rule - Salesforce Canada Blog

    In terms of how this particular rule will be able to work for you, it’s a matter of applying this rule to how you spend your time. For us to see success, the goal is simple.

    We need to set it up in such a way that 20% of our input is responsible for 80% of our results.

    Another way to think about it is we use 20% of our time on activities that give us 80% of our results in a given area of life.

    How Does the 80 20 Rule Work?

    To best explain this, let’s visualize a bit.

    In an ideal world:

    • Every employee would contribute the same amount of effort to work.
    • Every feature that’s released for an app or product would be equally loved by users.
    • Each business idea you come up with would be a hit.

    In that scenario, planning would be a breeze. There wouldn’t be any need to analyze anything so long as you put in the effort.

    But that’s not reality.

    Yes, the effort is certainly an element, but what the 80 20 principle states is that everything is unequal. Invest in 10 start-up companies, and you’ll find only a few will pass year two and make it big. You’re in a team of five, and there’ll be one person doing more work than others.

    We wish our lives were always one-for-one in terms of input and output, but that’s simply not true. Understanding this is key to understanding how the 80 20 rule really works.

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    So how does it really work?

    It’s a matter of focusing on what’s giving you the most in your life for little of your time.

    Going back to the few examples I’ve presented above, consider this:

    • If two start-ups you invested in are making it big, focus on having a more direct hand, and see if you can help them prosper more.
    • If 20% of sales reps are giving you 80% of your sales, focus on rewarding those and keeping their spirits high and motivated.

    These scenarios can go on and on, but the idea is to place your efforts on the 20% that is actually making the difference in your life. Another term that’s good to know is the diminishing marginal utility[3].

    Pareto didn’t come up with this one, but the law goes as follows: each extra hour of effort or worker will add less “oomph” to your finished results.

    Eventually, you’ll hit a point where you will spend a lot of time on small and unimportant details, similar to perfectionism.

    So before hitting that point, you want to have a laser focus on the most important details, from family and relationships to your work or business. Prioritize the activities that are going to move you forward the most, and be wary of adding extra time, effort, or more hands into those particular tasks moving forward.

    How to Take Advantage of the 80 20 Rule

    So now that you have an understanding of the 80 20 rule and how it works, what is the best way to take advantage of it?

    Depending on where you are applying this rule, this can be used in all kinds of fashions.

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    For example, you can apply this rule to goal setting, as demonstrated by Brian Tracy in this video:

    Or you can apply it in terms of general productivity as explained in this article: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

    The core of this rule is that it forces us to ask ourselves the questions we wouldn’t consider otherwise. It helps us to place our focus in the right places with regards to all things in life.

    In short, the 80 20 rule places us in charge of our lives and helps us set out on our goals and dreams. With this in mind, here are some things you can consider concerning this rule.

    1. Focus on Your Big Tasks First

    While this is the essence of the 80 20 rule, it’s still worth mentioning. Why? Because so many of us feel intimidated by the biggest task. We instinctively avoid it and opt for smaller tasks first.

    We think that if we complete enough small tasks that we will feel motivated to finish that really big one later. But that’s really false hope at work.

    Once we finish off a lot of small tasks, we either feel drained, or we tell ourselves we’ll do this the next day.

    Instead of doing all that, bite the bullet and tackle the largest task first.

    If you need help with prioritization, check out this article.

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    I argue this by challenging you to ask yourself this one question:

    “Is the task I’m about to do the top 20 percent of my activities or the bottom 80 percent?”

    I’m sure you’ve seen time and again you or other workers spending a lot of time on one task for most of the day. In those kinds of grinds, you’re barely getting ahead and have next to nothing to show for it. That’s because they’re putting all their attention on work that’s in the 80 percent.

    It’s normally the big tasks that are part of the 20 percent.

    Another way to think about this is that everything we do starts a habit. If every day we spend our energy on low-value tasks, we will always prioritize those.

    2. Stretch This Into Personal Life

    While I’ve been talking about business and setting goals, remember you can use this in other areas of your life, too.

    Take your personal life and ask yourself some of these questions:

    • How much TV do you watch on a regular basis? What sort of shows are you legitimately into? These questions can help you in recognizing what shows you are watching purely for consumption. By applying the 80 20 rule, you can cut back on Netflix, TV, or YouTube video consumption and prioritize other areas of your life.
    • What does your wardrobe look like in terms of colors? Are there specific colors that you like? Knowing what you wear most times will help you in sorting out your wardrobe significantly. It also saves you time to come up with what to wear every morning.
    • How many newsletters do you actually read? This question can help you in figuring out which newsletters to unsubscribe to and can clear up a lot of space in your inbox. It can also relieve pressure from having to check your emails constantly.
    • How much time do you spend on your phone every day? How much of that time is actually doing something meaningful? These questions can help you in clearing out various apps that aren’t helping you with your goals. In fact, this can curb the need to check your phone constantly.

    Final Thoughts

    The 80 20 rule is the productivity hack that many of us need, and for good reason. As you can tell, it’ll help you to focus and prioritize the more important aspects of your life.

    Not only that, but it’ll maximize those outputs at the same time and ensure you’re not spending too much time working on them. All you need to do is start asking questions and taking action.

    More Techniques to Help You Succeed in Life

    Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

    50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn How to Program Your Mind to Kick the Bad Habit How to Start Setting Strategic Goals for a Successful Life 6 Ways to Finish Strong (When Your Momentum Is Low) 10 Good Habits to Have in Life to Be More Successful

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    Last Updated on November 19, 2020

    11 Organizational Skills That Every Smart Leader Needs

    11 Organizational Skills That Every Smart Leader Needs

    Failing to organize will often lead to chaos or, at the very least, an increase in stress levels. This occurs as you attempt to make sense of everything that surrounds you for the sake of making life easier. That’s why strong organizational skills are key to being a smart leader.

    The need to have organizational abilities becomes even more important when you are a boss or manager. After all, people turn to you for inspiration, and it will hardly be inspiring if they see you freaking out.

    What are organizational skills and how can you develop them? We’ll guide you through 11 key organizational skills that every leader needs to know. By the end, it will mean that you are in a better position to be a more effective leader.

    1. Time Management

    Poor time-management is at the root of so many issues within a company. As the leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure that things run like clockwork. This is only possible by having a firm understanding of what it is to be organized.

    Failure in this area will lead to you being unable to stay on the task in front of you. Suddenly, your ability to juggle everything at once diminishes before you. It won’t take much before it all comes crashing down, resulting in you being viewed as rather unreliable.

    Quick Tips for Time Management

      Be aware of the following: the tasks for completion, their deadlines, the amount of work required, and anything that cannot be delayed or avoided at any cost[1].

      Also, take a look at these 7 Effective Time Management Tips To Maximize Your Productivity.

      2. Planning

      Planning makes organizing easier, but we are often lacking when it comes to being able to plan ahead. Again, poor planning leads to disorganization and more pressure on you.

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      Remember that planning takes different forms, including dealing with time and how a project must proceed. However, a smart leader has to take things one step further to make a difference. You must also be aware of the plans of others and how they fit into your own approach if they are to make a difference.

      This becomes more important when dealing with a multi-disciplinary team where coordination can be problematic without adequate planning. A complete absence of planning will only ever lead to problems.

      3. Scheduling

      Even though this skill does overlap with those mentioned earlier, it’s still important enough to merit its own individual point. Having a schedule and keeping to it is known to be an effective tool for organizing your life.

      Scheduling indicates to others that you have an awareness about what they are doing. It also shows you have a firm grip on what is being done and that there are no issues with balancing a number of projects.

      Thanks to scheduling, your understanding of the time taken for different aspects becomes improved. This helps you to keep control of a project, as well as coping with problems thanks to an understanding of events.

      Scheduling time blocks is also a great technique to help you get organized: Get What Matters Done by Scheduling Time Blocks

      4. Resource Allocation

      It’s important to get the most out of your resources, and this too requires organization. Even knowing when to use those resources is important to prevent them becoming exhausted or used at incorrect times.

      Organizational skills, in this sense, means being acutely aware of the resources at hand and those you may call upon with a project. Your strength should also be in linking the correct resource to the right requirement to ensure it fits into their own abilities. Failure to do this means wasted resources, and this will not reflect well on you.

      To be certain of organization in this sense, you must first identify resources that may be relevant before beginning a new project. This prevents you from scrambling around and searching for help when you need it the most.

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      5. Delegation

      Delegation is an art form and one of the most important organizational skills, and not everyone has mastered it. An effective leader also understands its importance for a project to run smoothly.

      It’s impossible to handle each aspect of a project yourself, and that is where delegating tasks to team members can help. Being aware of who is best for a particular task prevents feelings of overwhelm, which will free you to oversee each aspect of the project.

      An organized leader will know their team and be aware of their strengths and weaknesses.[2] Being aware in advance means you will not stress when a problem arises, as you know who to call for help.

      Thanks to organization, your team will work more efficiently and complete each task with less stress on your shoulders.

      Take a look at this guide and learn how to delegate effectively: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

      6. Prioritizing

      Being capable of prioritizing tasks will make your life easier. Creating a to-do list and understanding which deadlines come first leads to better planning as well as less stress. As your experience builds, you become more confident at knowing which tasks are the most important.

      Disorganized individuals tend to cope in a haphazard way and deal with things as they arise. This leads to putting energy into the wrong areas, and the most important things fall by the wayside. Prioritization keeps you on track with the order in which you need to complete things.

      For this, you must be aware of the tasks at hand and the process for each one. Check deadlines and other pressing details in advance to allow you to be better organized.

      7. Collaboration

      Collaboration is one of the organizational skills that makes life easier all around. The only problem is that it does require organization on your part. An organized leader is aware of those individuals that may be the best person for a particular task. Not organizing leaves you in a position of searching for help when it should be plain sailing.

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      This is about more than mere delegation. Instead, the skill is with knowing in advance who you can call upon to make a project run as smooth as possible. This may also involve other leaders of various departments, so working in unison is key.

      With this skill, you must become aware of who you may need to collaborate with before the need arises. Do your research and know who to call upon at any point. This allows you to then cope with any problem in a cool and efficient manner.

      8. Setting Goals

      An organized individual will find it easier to set and achieve goals. A smart leader is able to show others that they can set short and long-term goals, work towards them, and ultimately achieve them. The only way this is done is through solid organizational skills.

      It will be impossible to reach a target if you are unaware of the path to follow. You must understand the actions and objectives, or you will never achieve anything. Organization skills also help you identify each step and any problems connected to it.

      Here, you must identify the target or goal at the earliest opportunity and then bring forward the other organizational skills that I have mentioned.

      9. Maintaining Efficiency

      Organization and efficiency go hand in hand. Efficiency leads to the need for planning as the smoother something runs, the fewer problems you encounter.

      Being efficient also allows you to know where you are in a project at any moment. This is due to you having organized things to such an extent that you are able to counteract problems before they occur. Remember that efficiency and your ability to identify issues work in unison. If you fail to be organized, then it is impossible for this to happen.

      To learn this skill, you must set aside time for each project and break it down into individual segments. Understand how each step must progress and who will be responsible for each part. Identify problems and how to resolve them to allow in such a way that everything can run like clockwork.

      Efficiency is a skill that develops over time, so continue working on it and how to improve problem areas to become a stronger leader.

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      10. Clear Communication

      A strong leader needs to be able to communicate clearly at all times.[3] With your organizational skills, you will find that this is easier to do.

      Thanks to these skills, you always know what is happening and can clarify any issues. You are also able to communicate exactly what you need simply because you are organized and know the status quo at that point. You will find it easier to get things started due to your ability to get things across clearly and concisely[4].

      Organizational skills: How to improve communication

        To have good communication, you have to be confident in your own abilities as a leader. If you use the different skills discussed above, you will notice a greater confidence in your voice, which then has a positive influence on the rest of the team.

        If you want to be more confident in your communication skills, check out this article: How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

        11. Self-Care

        Nothing mentioned above is possible if you are not organized in your own life, both professionally and personally. The ability to look after yourself is the glue that holds everything else together.

        You need to eat and sleep well, along with taking care of your general health. Organization in each aspect of your life is essential to ensure you have a healthy balance. Feeling under the weather, tired, stressed or anything else negative will have a profound impact on your abilities as a leader.

        Look at what people expect of you in each part of your life, and adopt the same strategies for each aspect. You can then expect a certain synergy to occur between the different areas, allowing them to work with a certain fluidity.

        This simple guide will be helpful for you to take better care of yourself: 13 Essential Self-Care Tips for Busy People

        The Bottom Line

        These 11 organizational skills are essential for any smart leader who wishes to be more organized in everything they do. By bettering yourself along these lines, it will lead to not only a greater sense of confidence in yourself, but also towards those that look to you for both guidance and inspiration.

        More Skills to Increase Productivity

        Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com

        Reference

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