The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. He developed the principle by observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas. In the 1950’s two of the early “quality gurus” Deming and Juran, noticed in their work that 80% of the defects came from 20% of the products, or 20% of the causes result in 80% of the defects.
It has subsequently been found that the principle can be applied to many aspects of human engagement; economics, management… and time. According to this principle:
1. A scant 20% of your time goes into activities that produce 80% of the results you get in your life.
2. You use barely 20% of your resources to generate 80% of your success.
3. Only 20% of your opportunities manage to catch you attention and they account for 80% of your achievements.
There could be a slight variation in the percentages. It is essential to keep in mind however, that it is the VITAL FEW that give you the biggest results. If you are in the habit of making TO-DO lists, you will find that if you do the Vital Few things in it, you will feel you’ve accomplished a major part of your work. The trick is only to pick up the correct Vital Few to get you to the place you want to reach.
Even if you don’t consciously choose your vital few, the principle will hold. The only difference is, you will have ended up choosing the vital few things that don’t really take you to the place you wanted to reach. They will still keep you moving forward and busy. This would be like spending years struggling to climb the ladder of success, reaching the top and then to realize that it was leaning against the wrong wall.
To fully take advantage of the 80- 20 rule, first choose the wall you want to prop your ladder against. Then go through your pending tasks to find those that align best to your long term goals.
Which things you do today will give you the maximum results in your chosen arena? Which are the few tasks that constitute a lion’s share of your workload? What are the vital few things you do today that will generate the major share of your satisfaction because it will move you closer to your dream? Identifying the vital few and making sure you get them done to your satisfaction will help you reach 80% of your goals. Would you be happy if you reach 80% of your goals everyday?
I know I would be more than happy. That way I won’t go to bed thinking I have wasted another day- which I absolutely hate to feel. A wasted day leads to another. Before you know it, you’ve wasted an entire week… then month… then year. I refuse to go beyond that because the thought of having wasted my life is too painful to bear. I am reminded of this story I read somewhere.
The secret to enough time isn’t more time; it’s prioritization.