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The 80/20 Rule of Productivity Boosting

March 17, 2020

Go Pareto and make the most of your time with the 80/20 rule to reach your goals more effectively by improving your productivity.

Also known as the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 Rule was created by the 19th century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto after he discovered, in 1896, that 80% of the Italian land belonged to 20% of the population.


This principle was highlighted in 1992 by a UN Development Program report that showed roughly the same conclusion the Italian economist had reached, and thus this rule became a guideline for both business and personal life alike. Many businesses have reported that 80% of their sales come from 20% of their customers. Microsoft itself adopted the principle after realising that if they fixed the top 20% of their most reported bugs, they would eliminate 80% of the issues in their software.


But what does Pareto have to do with your productivity? Let’s get straight into it.


The 80/20 rule can be applied in the sense that 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts. The trick is to find out what that 20% is exactly, so that we can focus most of our effort on those areas and eliminate the remaining 80% which doesn’t produce the results we’re after. As for tips on how to get there…


Be clear on what you want to achieve


Most people lack clarity on what they want to achieve and, as a result, get sucked into working on things that don’t deliver much on their goals. Ask yourself what the outcome you want to achieve is.


Before beginning any project, make a list of all the tasks needed to take it to completion and then flag which tasks possess the biggest ‘pay-offs’. Those are the tasks that you should focus on.


What are your majors and minors?


This question was coined by Jim Rohn and it essentially means that there are parts of the work you do each day that have a direct contribution to your end goal, while other tasks are definitively not useful.


Look at last week’s calendar and identify which tasks contributed most to your goal and plan to do more of them next week. This will ensure that you’re focusing on the 20% that really needs your attention.


Get things done!


There’s one saying that’s familiar to everyone: stop thinking, start doing! This will go against the trend of focusing on the 20%. Instead, we’ll be focusing on the 80%.


If you spend 80% of your time doing something and 20% of your time planning it, you will see positive results. It all comes down to proactiveness and your own desire to reach your goal. Everything must be planned when it comes to success, but sometimes we just need to take a leap of faith to start getting things done.


Ask yourself what you can do today that will give you the 80% of results that you’re searching for.


Review how you spend your time


Your calendar or planner is the most powerful tool in your arsenal when it comes to figuring out how you’ve been spending your time each week.


After writing down the tasks that give you 80% of results, review your calendar and make whatever changes you need to focus on those tasks if you haven’t already. You should have dedicated timeslots each day to focus on those most important tasks and try to eliminate the ones that don’t bring in the results.


You need to be aware of where you’re allocating your time if you really want to take advantage of the 80/20 rule!


A quick summary


Long story short, here are the four things you need to keep in mind if you want to adapt an 80/20 mindset to boost your productivity:

  • Know what you want to achieve and identify the 20% of actions that you need to get you 80% of the way there.
  • Identify your majors and minors. What are the tasks you do that will propel you towards your goals? Focus on them!
  • Reduce the time you spend thinking about what to do and spend more time actually getting things done. You need to spend 80% doing and 20% thinking.
  • Identify which tasks took you one step further last week and do more of those next week. Schedule these tasks in your calendar and make sure you allocate some of your time to them each and every day.


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