Advertising

Last Updated on November 27, 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
Advertising

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].

Advertising

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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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

    A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better 17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

    Trending in Focus

    1 Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better 2 7 Best Noise-Canceling Headphones For Productivity Boost 3 Why Making Yourself a Priority Boosts Your Productivity 4 How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster 5 Take Control of Your Focus! How to Avoid Distractions

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on July 27, 2021

    Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better

    Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better
    Advertising

    What comes to mind when you think of learning how to focus better? Do you think of the attention or concentration it takes to complete a task? Do you consider the amount of willpower needed to finish writing a report without touching your phone? Do you think it requires sitting in complete silence and away from distractions so that you can study for an important exam or prepare for an interview?

    I’m sure many of you can relate to the above statements and agree that the ability to focus is about staying on task for a given period of time. Breaking that concentration would mean that you’ve lost your focus, and you’re either doing something else or trying to gain back that focus to finish up the intended task.

    With an ever-increasing amount of information—that is easily accessible online and offline—we’re faced with a lot more opportunities and avenues to create possibilities to experience things on a daily basis.

    Unfortunately, that can make it a lot harder for us to make progress or get things done because we’re either easily distracted or overwhelmed by the constant influx of information.

    That’s why many of us end up having problems concentrating or focusing in life—whether it be on a smaller scale like completing a task on time, or something much bigger like staying on track in your career and climbing the ladder of success. We’ve all found ourselves in situations where we blame our failures due to a lack of focus.

    Learning how to focus better doesn’t have to be too complex. Here is some information to help you get started.

    Focus Is Not About Paying Attention

    What if I tell you that you’ve been doing it all wrong this whole time?

    Focus isn’t just the attention span of giving 20 minutes to a task. It actually goes far beyond that.

    Advertising

    The real reason why we focus is because we need to do something that exceeds our existing capability. We need to devote large amounts of time and energy to move the needle in life, to make that progress and positive change.

    And why do we want to do that? Because we want to spend time becoming a better version of ourselves!

    At the end of the day, the reason why we stay focused on any task, project, or goal is because we want to succeed. With that success comes progress in our lives, which means we eventually become better than what we were a month ago, or even a year ago.

    Let me give you an example:

    Say you’ve been tasked to manage a project by your boss. You have targets to meet and favorable outcomes to achieve. Your focus and attention has to be on this project.

    Once the project has been completed, your boss is happy with the results and your hard work. She rewards you with praise, a promotion, or maybe even a year-end bonus.

    That’s your success right there, and you feel good about your achievements. Looking back at who you were before and after the completion of this project, wouldn’t you say you’ve become a better version of your previous self?

    Focus Is a Flow

    This is what focus is and how where learning how to focus better starts. It’s not a one-off, task-by-task mode that you jump into whenever needed. Rather, focus is a flow[1].

    Advertising

    Focus is the way in which you deliberately target your energy to push progress in something you care about. Because focus takes energy, time, and effort, whatever it is that you need to focus on should be something meaningful to you, something that’s worth shutting down phone calls, text messages, and social media for.

    So, why is it that we sometimes find it so hard to focus?

    Usually, it’s because we’re missing two major elements. Either we don’t know where we want to go—in that we don’t have a clear goal—or we do have a goal, but we don’t have a clear roadmap.

    Trying to improve your focus without these two things is like driving to get somewhere in a foreign country with no road map. You end up using a lot of gas and driving for hours without knowing if you’re getting anywhere.

    Let’s go back to the example of your boss assigning you a project to manage. The company is opening a new office, and your boss wants you to oversee the renovations and moving-in process of this new location.

    Now, if you didn’t have a clear goal or end result of how the new office should look, you could be busy arranging for contractors, interior designers, or movers to come, but have no clue what to assign or brief them on.

    The second scenario is that you know exactly how the new office should look and when it should be up and running. However, because you don’t have a clear roadmap to get to that end result, you end up working all over the place; one moment you’re arranging for the contractors to start renovations, the next moment you’ve got furniture coming in when the space isn’t ready. What do you focus on first?

    The Focus Flow

    Without a clear goal and road map, things can turn out frantic and frustrating, with many wrong turns. You also end up expending a lot more mental energy than needed. But, having a Focus Flow when learning how to focus better can help.

    Advertising

    Let me show you how theFocus Flow works.

    1. It starts from a clear objective.
    2. This becomes a clear roadmap.
    3. Then it manifests into a state oftargeted attentionand effort.
    4. This results in pushing your progress towards your ultimate destination.

    Setting a Clear Objective

    To start off, you need to set a clear focus objective. If you don’t have an objective, how can you decide on which things are worth focusing on? You can’t focus on everything at the same time, so you have to make a choice.

    Like driving a car, you need a destination.

    In this case, you don’t want to drive around aimlessly. You want to arrive at your destination before you run out of gas.

    A good focus objective, therefore, needs to be concrete. This means that it should be something you can visualize, such as determining how the new office is going to look after you’ve completed the renovation and moving in. If you can visualize it, that means you have a clear enough picture to know what’s needed to achieve it.

    Drawing a Focus Roadmap

    The second step is to lay out a practical focus roadmap. Once you have your ideas, setting an objective is easy. The most difficult part is determining how you’re going to achieve your objective.

    There are lots of things you can do to work towards your goal, but what comes first? What’s more valuable, and how long will it take?

    That’s where having a roadmap helps you answer these questions. Like driving, you need to have at least a rough idea of which major roads to drive on, and the order in which you need to drive them.

    Advertising

    Yet, creating a roadmap can get tricky because you have absolute freedom on how you’re going to achieve your objective.

    To create a good road map, you should include major milestones. These are targets you need to hit in order to achieve success. Your roadmap should also include feasible and realistic actions that you can achieve as you learn how to focus better.

    Need a little help in drawing this Focus Roadmap? The Full Life Planner can help you. It’s a practical planner to help you stay focused and on track with your most important goals and tasks in an organized way. Get yours today!

    Power Up Your Productivity

    I hope you now have a better understanding of how focus truly works. By harnessing your focus using the Focus Flow, you’ll be able to work on a task more productively, not because you’re able to concentrate, but rather because you know exactly what your end goal is, and you have a game plan in place to make that happen.

    Once there is clarity, I can assure you that you’ll be less likely to get distracted or lose focus on your tasks at hand.

    You may think it’s going to take you extra time writing out an objective and setting out a roadmap. You may believe that you are better off getting right down to the actual work.

    However, as I’ve mentioned, there’s no point in rushing your efforts that lead you to nowhere or cause you additional detours. You’ll end up expending more mental energy and time than needed.

    Once you’ve made your roadmap and found your focus, follow it up with unbreakable determination with Lifehack’s Actionable Motivation On Demand Handbook.

    Advertising

    More on Overcoming Distractions

    Featured photo credit: Paul Skorupskas via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Very Well Mind: The Psychology of Flow

    Read Next