Time Management and the 80/20 Rule

Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule)

The 80/20 Rule is among the most beneficial of all principles of time and life management. It is also known as the Pareto Principle after its founder, Vilfredo Pareto, the Italian economist. Pareto noticed that people in his society seemed to divide naturally into what he called the ‘vital few,’ or the top 20% in terms of money and influence, and the ‘trivial many’ the remaining 80%.

The Great Discovery

He later extrapolated his research and discovered that virtually all economic and non economic activity was subject to this Pareto Principle as well.

For example, this rule says that 20% of your customers will account for 80% of your sales, 20% of your products or services will account for 80% of your profits, 20% of your raw materials will be used in 80% of your products, 20% of you customers will cause you 80% of your problems, examples are only limited by your imagination.

Do the Most Valuable Tasks First

If we take the 80/20 rule and apply it to time management we can say 20% of your activities will account for 80% of your results during a given period of time, unfortunately the tasks that fall into this 20% are usually the hardest and most complex. But the rewards for completing these tasks efficiently can be remarkable. It is for this reason that you must stubbornly refuse to work on tasks in the bottom 80% while you still have tasks in the top 20% to be completed. Before you start work, always ask, “Is this task one of my vital few and so in the top 20% of my activities or is it one of the trivial many and so in the bottom 80%?”

Getting Started

Once you start work on an important task, you seem to be naturally motivated to continue. This happens because your mind loves to be made to work on tasks that can really make a difference, and so you must, continually develop this part of your mind by concentrating on the vital few things that fall into your 20%.

Managing Your Life

Time management is really life management or personal management. It is really taking control over what you do next. Regardless of your circumstances you always have a choice when it comes to choosing the task you will concentrate on next. The ability to choose between what is important and what is unimportant is the key determinant of your success in life and work.

Effective, productive people discipline themselves to start on the most important task that is before them, whatever it is. As a result, they accomplish a lot more than the average person and are much happier as a result.

Till Next Time

The Time Doctor – Mike Gardner


12 comments on “Time Management and the 80/20 Rule

  1. Great way to take the Pareto principle that so many just equate with quality improvement in organizations and apply it to our busy, busy lives. If we ALL did that, how much more could be accomplished! This would be a great principle to teach from the young years and going up so by the time one gets into high school or college it’s a part of one’s life.

    • The Time Doctor on said:

      Hi JL,

      thanks for your insightful comment, I have recently been into a school to talk to youngsters about the principle and how they can utilise it when revising for exams, the feedback was brilliant, a few parents are not convinced though :-)


  2. Dot Hurley on said:

    It also works if you produce a product or service to be 80% complete Sometimes that is good enough to get a product or service out there, and you do not then spend lots of valuable time making something perfect (the last 20%) and end up missingthe market opportunity

    • The Time Doctor on said:

      Hi Dot,

      You make a really good point, sometimes good is good enough, although I know a lot of perfectionists that would disagree


  3. Diane @ Me, Him And The Cats on said:

    I need to get better at time management! I spend way too much time on the things that aren’t that important!

    • The Time Doctor on said:

      Hi Diane, most people tell me they need to improve there time management, feel free to download my free tips booklet most people find it useful http://www.thetimedoctor.co.uk/20-top-tips/


  4. Absolutely true. And in today’s business world where there have been so many layoffs and everyone is doing the work of 3 or 4 employees, prioritization is critical. Thanks for sharing this concept.

    • The Time Doctor on said:

      Hi Liz, wherever you go everyone is working with a skeleton workforce, as you say prioritisation will only become more important both in work and life in general


  5. Robin on said:

    Mike – Thank you much for explaining where the 20/80 concept came from. We heard it alot in Juvenile corrections also. 20% of the kids did 80% of the crimes. I appreicate learning how to view this concept in a new way. Thanks!

    • The Time Doctor on said:

      Hi Robin, thanks for your comment, unfortunately the 80% who don’t do the crimes tend to get tarred by those that do


  6. Cathy on said:

    Nice post Mike. I definitely do better every day, week, month, year…when I get the big things out of the way first. It makes everything else so much easier. ~ Cathy

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