The 80/20 Rule: 11 Ways To Improve Your Life


The resources available to man are very limited. We have only 24hours in a day, our knowledge bank isn’t filled up, that’s why we read books and our bank accounts are never going to be fat enough for us to stop making more money. As a matter of fact, the reason why we use the word, “dreams” to refer to aspirations is because they cannot be actualized now due to the unavailable resources. This is where the 80/20 rule comes in.

The 80/20 rule states that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
– Vilfredo Pareto

This rule otherwise known as the Pareto principle was coined by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto and has been observed to be true in every works of life.

In simplest of words, it means that 80% of the results we achieve in life are often dependent on only 20% of our efforts; and 80% of the things that happen in life are caused by only a selected 20% of the world’s population. This means that to get maximum results in life, we must channel our limited resources to areas where there will be maximum productivity.

It’s noteworthy that the 80/20 is not rigid. At times, it can be 90/10 or 85/15 or something within that range. Nonetheless, the reality behind that rule holds true for every works of life. In this rule, the two dominant keywords are causes and effects referring to actions and results respectively.

General Guideline For Applying The 80/20 Rule

  • Arrange the activities (causes) that give you results (effects) in a particular area of your life in an order of importance–the most important ones on the top and the rest at the bottom.
  • Scale down the list in percentage. For instance, if there are 10 items, convert them to 100%
  • Get the percentage of each of item
  • Divide the list into two: The first part should be the 20% causes while the remaining part, the 80% causes.
  • Move resources (time, money, etc) from the least items in 80% list and channel them to the items in the 20%. By so doing, you are focusing your resources on the more productive area.

These guidelines can be practically applied through the following ways:

1. Identify Your Productive Time And Maximize It

Everyone is different. The earlier you realized that, the better productive you’ll be. Some are night crawlers, while others do very well in the day time. Stop struggling to be like someone who always work into the night. I know it’s good to develop stature in all areas, but just stop it. Identify the hours of the day when you are most productive and maximize it. If it is 5am to 10am, then ensure nothing distracts you during those hours because 20% of your work time gives 80% of the results.

2. Devote More Time To Read A Few Important Books

There is no point wasting your time reading every book published by every author. Come on, I know you want to gather so much knowledge, but for the sake of maximum productivity, channel more time towards reading certain kinds of books that will make you a lord in your niche. Reread the most important ones of them all. You can allocate the remaining 80% of your reading time to other books in diverse categories.

3. Read Only The Important Parts Of A Book And Skip The Rest

As an author, I shouldn’t be telling you this, but it’s the truth. Your time is limited, know what you want in a book and go for it–our usage of dictionary taught us that. You obviously won’t have to read the entire dictionary, would you?

4. Devote More Time To Nurture Your Most Important Relationships

You might have a cycle of 1000 friends. Bravo! That’s a good figure, but how many of them are really productive? On Facebook, I basically interact with less than 5% of my over 4000 friends, because I get the best results from them. Build relationships, network properly, but nurture the most fruitful ones of them all because 20% of relationships give 80% of the value.

5. Focus More On Creating Memorable Moments In Your Relationships

Think about your most cherished relationship. How many memorable moments can you remember in it? Juxtapose those moments with the remaining moments shared in the relationship and you will realize that the beautiful moments were just a minute fraction of the entire moments. What you did to create those moments. Focus more on those things and build the quality of your relationships drastically.

6. Pack Unused Stuff Or Simply Throw It Away

Have you discovered that there are some things in your home or office that you’ve not used for over a year or two? If those things truly exist, you’ll notice also that they eat up important space and can be habours for dust particles. To make your home and office more comfortable and less stuffy, pack those stuff and either throw them away, give them out or stash them somewhere safe until when needed; because 20% of the stuff is used 80% of the time.

7. Invest Time To Master The Tools You Use Most

Be a jack of all trade, but master of “some”. Depending on your niche, there are different tools–software, equipment, machines–that are used more frequently than others. Invest more time to master those tools because no one cares to know about any knowledge you have than can’t be put into use. Your performance will mainly be judged based on your efficient and productive usage of those tools.

8. Identify Unproductive Activities And Eliminate Them

Write out your daily routine on a paper and categorize the seemingly unproductive ones. I don’t’ need to preach about this, just eliminate them because your resources are too limited to waste on things with no productivity.

9. Focus On Your Strengths

In all these, the 80/20 rule teaches us to focus on our strengths. Why spend long hours learning geography when you can be a genius in mathematics by just devoting 30minutes daily? You know what you’re good at, and you know your weaknesses too. If you keep investing on your weaknesses, the growth of your strengths will be retarded. At the end of the day, you’ll become an average individual not being a master at anything.

It’s good to know a little of everything, but ensure you’re a lord at something; and never see it as a waste of resources to employ the services of others in areas where you’re aren’t good at.

10. Invest More Money On Major Expenses

Chart a scale of preference for your monthly expenditure. Invest more on areas that give high return in investment on short or long run basis. Starve yourself of certain things to ensure that the important needs are satisfied. Luxury is good, but not at the expense of the most important needs in your life.

11. Eliminate Unproductive Income Sources, Unless They Are Passive

Growing up, we were taught not to put all our eggs in one basket. The result of this school of thought is that you will spend energy and time going through the baskets one after the other to ensure their safety. Also, you may not really care if one egg breaks, because you have other eggs intact.

As popular as this ideology may be, I unlearned it when I got a better notion: put all your eggs in one basket and guard it jealously.

Although, it is good to diversify your sources of income, it is not productive move to be focused on several income streams at the same time. Your attention will be divided and you won’t give your best to all of them at the same time. The 80/20 rule proves that in a situation where you have a myriad of income sources, 80% of your income comes from 20% of your income sources.

Except in situations, where an income source is passive and doesn’t need your presence and significant resources to run, focus the resources on the fundamental 20%.

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