Productivity & Time Management: The Pareto Principle

May 24, 2016
The Pareto Principle

 “80% of results come from 20% of inputs”

This is the key theory at the centre of The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. But why should you care? Well, if you believe in the merits of working smarter rather than harder, then this little nugget of information becomes very valuable.

There’s Nothing Wrong with Hard Work, But…

When we have a lot on our plates, our immediate instinct is to find more hours of our day to devote to blasting through our to-do lists. But although this ethic is admirable, it is not necessarily the most productive.

According to an interesting article on, the Pareto Principle is a great way to make our working day more efficient. The theory is named after an Italian mathematician, Vilfredo Pareto, who noticed that 80% of Italy was owned by the wealthiest 20% of the population. Scaling this down, he applied the same mathematics in his garden, and found that 80% of the peas he grew came from just 20% of his pea plants.

Here are two of the most common ways you can apply the Pareto Principle to your working day, which many people believe will give you more results for less effort.

Finding the Core of Your Work

This is all about defining the core actions and roles that make up your day job. Forget about the daily to-dos you wrestle with, and think about the central tasks that define exactly what it is you do.

These core tasks will probably make up around 20% of your working day, but if you adjust the balance slightly more in favour of these core tasks, let’s say 25%, then you’ll likely find far greater than a 5% boost in results.

Cutting Out the Pointless Bits

Within the remaining 80%, there’s probably a lot of dead wood. Things that feel necessary and important, but that really wouldn’t hurt to cut out.

The idea here is not to necessarily cut massive chunks out of your task list, but rather, prioritising your task list at any given time to make sure that the most important 20% of your work is done first, and ensuring you don’t get too caught up on the least important parts of the 80%.

It Doesn’t Just Help at Work…

If you find that applying the Pareto Principle is working for you at work, then why stop there? Many people claim that the 80/20 rule helps them with productivity and time management in their free time, too, such as dealing with bills, social calls, responsibilities and more.

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