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Published on December 5, 2019

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. The amount of time management tactics to productivity strategies out there is both amazing and overwhelming.

Of course, to make matters harder for people, a lot of these methods have been tried by various people who have stood by them… To-do list systems, the Pomodoro Technique, Parkinson’s Law

All of these strategies are great strategies in their own way, but one strategy stands above all else: The 80 20 rule. Out of the many, 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. The principle was named after its founder, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto, in 1895. How it all started was when 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.

That observation being this:

80 percent of the wealth of Italy at the time was controlled by only 20 percent 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:

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  • 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.
  • And so on…

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

In terms of how this particular rule will be able to work for you, it’s a matter of applying this rule in our lives as I’ve said. For us to see success, the goal is simple.

We need to set it up in such a way that 20% of our input will give us 80% of our results.

Another way to think about it is we place 20% of our time on activities that give us 80% of our results in whatever area in 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 rule 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.

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We wish our lives are 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.

So how does it really work?

You may be asking and it’s quite simple. 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 benefit.

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?

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

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’s helping 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.

Here’s what you can do to maximize the benefits of using the 80 20 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 build up enough tasks completed that we 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.

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

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 at 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

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

Top 10 Management Skills Any Strong Leader Should Master

Top 10 Management Skills Any Strong Leader Should Master

The newspaper headlines, blogs, social media, TV programs are talking about leaders, leadership qualities and people who occupy high positions in government, enterprises and multinational corporations more and more every day.

We understand that all these high positions are not the main things we should talk about. Leadership is not about the profession, place of a particular person in the hierarchy of the company or government body. It doesn’t make anyone a strong leader.

Being a strong leader means acquiring management skills which allow you to lead people, to get them to the new achievements and high results. That’s the ticket. It doesn’t matter you are a small company manager or an industry leader the next list of TOP-10 management skills will boost your effectiveness, will make you a strong leader.

1. Always Inspire the Team

Remember that your job is not just about hitting goals, enhancing sales or raising profits. We both realize the importance of these indicators for stakeholders and investors.

Now let’s focus on leading your team. Be rooted in reality and always strive to give your empathy, perspective to all circumstances and situations you encounter.

Roll up your sleeves and inspire:

  • Be visible among your staff to become their inspiration. There is no chance to be a good leader hiding in your office on a top floor;
  • Join your team to complete ad-hoc projects. Believe us, your participation and contribution is always inspiring;
  • Focus on each person’s strengths, stay enthusiastic with his/her contribution;
  • Be closer to your team;
  • Find the right words. It may be the biggest challenge of the day, the right words in a difficult situation can show that you are a really good leader.

Need more inspirations? This article can help: The Simplest Ways To Inspire People And Change Their Life

2. Make a Wise Delegation Your Number One Priority

It is obvious that you can’t do everything by yourself. Moreover, you shouldn’t do that.

Your ability to delegate responsibilities shows that you trust your staff, you are sure in their competitiveness.

It is the best thing that you can do within a team environment. You’re able to kill two birds with one stone: you can reduce your own stress level and make the workplace more friendly showing confidence in workers’ abilities.

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How to delegate to the right person?

When you’re thinking about the person who will take some responsibilities consider three factors:

  • The relevance between the skills, experience of the person and the delegated tasks;
  • Working style (is he or she is a team player or independent performer; does he has goals which correspond with the responsibilities which you want to delegate?);
  • The workload of the person (does he/she has time to take new responsibilities or this delegation requires some reshuffling of responsibilities).

Check out Lifehack’s CEO advice on how to delegate: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

3. Stay Responsible and Don’t Blame

Failures always happen. You need to accept this fact and learn how to overcome them. Your job is not to find who is wrong but to take responsibility together with your staff.

Make your subordinates understand that all of them are accountable for the decisions they make. Remember that you are their leader, you should take a part of the responsibility for their actions.

Always give them a pat on the back if you see their good results but don’t blame in case of failure. Make an atmosphere in which everyone feels your support and willingness to realize mistakes together and work on their improvement hand by hand.

Taking personal responsibility for your company and everything that happens in it including failures will motivate your employees to follow you.

Don’t make excuses, better do this:

  • Take your personal responsibility for the failure;
  • Try to work on the problem to fix it;
  • Think about what you should have done before to prevent this mistake and what to improve in the future.

4. Encourage Creative Thinking and Innovations

What is the difference between the follower and the leader? The leader always looks ahead, he is not afraid of innovations, creative approaches to management and business processes.

Innovative and creative thinking are qualities which make you stand out from the crowd and enable your team to get 200%, not 100% of the result.

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Don’t forget to encourage your staff because the majority of people perceive innovations painfully and adopt new rules with reluctance. It is all about phycology, a good leader should take it into account.

Encourage creativity in your team:

  • Become a model for your staff, show your dedication to innovations;
  • Create a supportive atmosphere for creativity in a workplace;
  • Launch events and processes to find and capture creative ideas;
  • Reward fresh ideas, innovations, celebrate success with your team.

In short, ensure psychological safety in your team, this will encourage more innovative ideas. Learn more about psychological safety here: If You Want an Invincible Team, Make Them Feel Safe

5. Stay Positive in Any Circumstances

If you want to be a great leader, you should understand that you need to be positive and motivated despite any circumstances.

Even in the hardest situation, you should be an example to follow for your staff because you will be who leads the way, so stand firm and show a positive attitude.

Always keep the lights:

  • Create constantly friendly, open atmosphere in your workplace;
  • Remain positive when things go wrong;
  • Find the ways to keep your team motivated when the situation goes in a bad way.

Here’re more tips to help you stay positive: 11 Tips for Maintaining Your Positive Attitude

6. Develop Your Employees

Along with developing yourself don’t forget that without people around you and their skills the success may be not so bright.

Thanks to the staff development, not only employees will get new skills which they can use when they write resumes, your team can make tasks easier; besides, it will foster morale.

Use these tips to develop your staff:

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  • Turn your staff meetings into an instrument of learning;
  • Launch annual education/ training for employees with coaches, experts;
  • Encourage their willingness to develop their skills;
  • Share your own knowledge with your team

7. Remember Your past Experience When Making a Decision

Futuristic vision is good. But you can’t go far in business without your experience. You should make all management decisions taking into account not only your skills, statistics, ideas of key stakeholders or innovative approaches.

You should also consider your past lessons. The right decision made at the right time has a great impact on the masses.

Look ahead, think hard before making a decision. But after you make it, be firm and stand by it.

Improve your decision making:

  • Trust your management vision, intuition;
  • Try to connect your present-day challenge with the lessons which you learned in your career before;
  • Better to take notes when you make important decisions, write down the results both positive and negative so that you could get back to them in the future.

You can also take a look at this guide for making better decisions: Decision Making 101: How To Be a Successful Decision-Maker

8. Show Your Charisma and Confidence

As for charisma, everything is simple like wiping the window in the rain. People normally are more likely to follow the person who they like.

Let’s remember the best leaders. All of them are friendly, close to people, well-spoken, showing care and empathy.

If you behave in that way, your employees feel that it is not hard to reach you, they will show a willingness to follow you.

Make confidence your strength.

Believe in your success and your company’s prosperity, show it everywhere.

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A great leader exhibits confidence to everyone in any situation. (Take a look at the 5 Key Traits of a Charismatic Leadership.) This will inspire your employees and give them the feeling of confidence in the future, that’s exactly what you need for enhancing their achievements.

9. Sense of Humor Is Vital to Success

As a leader, you need to have a sense of humor. Show it when something goes wrong and you need to encourage, relax your employees.

The ability to laugh things off can make morale up which is so important for staff productivity in difficult situations.

How the sense of humor can save you in some situations:

  • Humor is able to humanize you. It makes your employees feel that you are all in the same boat, boost camaraderie;
  • It is a key component of a set of empathetic leadership.
  • Humor promotes a sense of shared culture, unity in a workplace.

10. Consider Failures as Challenges Not as Unrecoverable Mistakes

Even if you try the hardest in the world failures will happen. Your job is to cope with them and do it with honor.

If something goes wrong, realize that it has already happened and try to find the best solution.

How to manage failures:

  • Remain calm, think logically;
  • Don’t stay apart from your team because it may cause the negative morale;
  • Encourage discussion, communication within the team to find the root of the problem, design the best solution.

The Bottom Line

It is not easy to become a strong leader, you must have a lot of qualities and experiences. You should look ahead and go beyond the frames in your everyday tasks and responsibilities.

Moreover, you should be an example of intelligence, wisdom, honesty, commitment and dedication. And that’s why these 10 management skills are so important to master if you want to become a great leader.

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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