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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

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2020

    How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

    How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

    Memory plays an integral role in our lives, both in the short and long term. If you’re wondering how to improve memory, I’m here to tell you that there are natural and effective ways to do so.

    Despite what you might think, improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it.

    Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve memory efficiently and reduce the risk of memory loss.

    1. Meditate

    We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts, and figures into our conscious minds.

    Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder, then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

    Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. Research suggests that the more information and distractions you receive, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory[1].

    Fortunately, meditation can help.

    Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which, in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

    While any amount of meditation will do something to help your memory, one study pointed out that “8 but not 4 weeks of brief, daily meditation decreased negative mood state and enhanced attention, working memory, and recognition memory as well as decreased state anxiety scores”[2].

    Therefore, if you’re looking for the most benefits, try sticking with a meditation practice for at least 8 weeks.

    However, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

    2. Get Plenty of Sleep

    If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then it’s likely that you’re not able to remember well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

    If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities, including your memory.

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    If you want to learn how to improve memory, how much sleep should you be getting?

    Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation[3], you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things[4].

    If you want to improve memory, get plenty of sleep.

      Maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!), but if you care about improving your long and short term memory, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

      Try these three things to naturally improve your sleep cycle:

      • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
      • Don’t eat too late
      • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

      Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

      However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory.

      3. Challenge Your Brain

      When was the last time you challenged your brain?

      I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or under-sleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and memory games.

      To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

      Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-solving ability, and memory.

      There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

      • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
      • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
      • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

      If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

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      Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it; try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

      4. Take More Breaks

      When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctly remember working all the hours under the sun—and many under the moon, too!

      At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat, and tears.

      However, if you want to know how to improve memory, taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative, and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

      Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

      One 2011 study from the University of Illinois concluded that “the brain is built to detect and respond to change…and prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance”[5].

      This is based on something called the “vigilance decrement.” This can be applied to many things. For example, we often don’t notice the feeling of clothing touch our bodies because our brain becomes accustomed to the sensation. However, if you change clothes, you’ll likely notice the difference in texture and temperature for a few minutes.

      When you take a break from memorizing information, it refocuses your attention and energy, leading to increased focus overall.

      It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart, and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

      Basically, make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

      5. Learn a New Skill

      I love this quote, as it’s 100% true but frequently overlooked:

      “Learning never exhausts the mind.” -Leonardo da Vinci

      From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

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      Let me give you an example of this:

      Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day, many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

      Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

      The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you rather than letting you work in your own way.

      Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction into learning a new skill (computer coding).

      It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career, and the ongoing learning made the call center job much more bearable.

      Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus, and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking out new information. When learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly becomes a habit, too.

      If you want to know how to learn something new every day, check out this article.

      6. Start Working out

      If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

      Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory[6].

      Regular physical activities increase blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. A well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

      Even if you don’t have much time, research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines[7].

      Interested in getting started?

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      Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

      • Join a gym
      • Join a sports team
      • Buy a bike
      • Take up hiking
      • Dance to your favorite music

      7. Eat Healthier Foods

      I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

      This applies to your brain, too.

      The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health, as well.

      Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery, and dark chocolate. But any fruits, vegetables, or foods high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory. Here’re some ideas: 15 Brain Foods That Will Super Boost Your Brain Power

      Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain, leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

      If you want to improve your mental health, eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

      • Turmeric – Helps new brain cells grown
      • Broccoli – Protects the brain against damage
      • Nuts – Improves memory
      • Green tea – Enhances brain performance, memory and focus[8]
      • Fish oilFish oil supplements can increase your brain power

      Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

      Also, remember that your brain is about 75% water, so dehydration can have a huge effect on the way your brain functions. Stay hydrated if you really want to improve memory!

      Final Thoughts

      I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be helpful for you.

      You don’t need to implement them all, but you can try out the ones that appeal to you.

      But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory and avoiding cognitive decline, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested.

      More on How to Improve Memory

      Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

      Reference

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