Apply the 80/20 Rule to Everything
November 03, 2001
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by Brian Tracy
The 80/20 Rule is one of the most helpful
of all concepts of time and life management. It is also called
the Pareto Principle after its founder, the Italian economist
Vilfredo Pareto, who first wrote about it in 1895. Pareto
noticed that people in his society seemed to divide naturally
into what he called the "vital few," the top 20%
in terms of money and influence, and the "trivial many,"
the bottom 80%.
He later discovered that virtually all
economic activity was subject to this Pareto Principle as
For example, this rule says that 20%
of your activities will account for 80% of your
results. 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 tasks will account for 80% of
the value of what you do, and so on.
This means that if you have a list of ten items to do,
two of those items will turn out to be worth as much or more
than the other eight items put together.
Here is an interesting discovery. Each
of these tasks may take the same
amount of time to accomplish. But one or two of
those tasks will contribute five or ten times the value as
any of the others.
Often, one item on a list of ten things
that you have to do can be worth more than all the other nine
items put together. This task is invariably the one that you
should do first.
Most Valuable Tasks
The most valuable
tasks you can do each day are often the hardest and most complex.
But the payoff and rewards for completing
these tasks efficiently can be tremendous. For this reason,
you must adamantly refuse to work on tasks in the bottom 80%
while you still have tasks in the top 20% left to be done.
Before you begin work, always ask yourself,
"Is this task in the top 20% of my activities or in the
The hardest part of any important task
is getting started on it in the first place. Once you actually
begin work on a valuable task, you seem to be naturally motivated
to continue. There is a part of your mind that
loves to be busy working on significant tasks that can really
make a difference. Your job is to feed this part of your mind
Time management is really life management,
personal management. It is really taking control over the
sequence of events. Time management is control over what you
do next. And you are always free to choose the task that you
will do next. Your ability to choose between the important
and the 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. They force
themselves to eat that frog, whatever it is. As a result,
they accomplish vastly more than the average person and are
much happier as a result. This should be your way of working
a list of all the key goals, activities, projects
and responsibilities in your life today. Which of them are,
or could be, in the top 10% or 20% of tasks that represent,
or could represent, 80% or 90% of your results?
Resolve today that you are going to spend
more and more of your time working in those few areas that
can really make a difference in you life and career, and less
and less time on lower value activities.