The 80 20 Rule Explained
The 80 20 rule is one of the most helpful concepts for life and time management.
Also known as the Pareto Principle, this rule suggests that 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results.
This being the case, you should change the way you set goals forever.
What is the 80 20 Rule?
As I just mentioned, the 80 20 rule is also called the “Pareto Principle.” It was named after it’s founder, the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, back in 1895. He noticed that people in society seemed to divide naturally into what he called the “vital few,” or the top 20 percent in terms of money and influence, and the “trivial many,” or the bottom 80 percent.
Later, he discovered that virtually all economic activity was subject to this principle, in that 80 percent of the wealth of Italy during that time was controlled by 20 percent of the population.
We can take Pareto’s 80 20 rule and apply it to almost any situation. Understanding the principle is essential to learning how to prioritize your tasks, days, weeks, and months.
In business, it’s essential to strategic planning, which is one of the leadership qualities shared by the world’s most important leaders.
For the purpose of this article, we will discuss applying it specifically to goal setting and productivity.
Download my 14-Step Goal-Setting Guide to put the 80 20 Rule into action!
How Does the Pareto Principle Work?
The Pareto Principle is a concept that suggests two out of ten items, on any general to-do list, will turn out to be worth more than the other eight items put together.
The sad fact is that most people procrastinate on the top 10 or 20 percent of items that are the most valuable and important, the “vital few,” and busy themselves instead with the least important 80 percent, the “trivial many,” that contribute very little to their success.
How to Apply the 80 20 Rule to Goal Setting
Here’s what you should do in order to effectively apply the 80/20 rule to setting SMART goals which will boost your overall productivity.
First, take a piece of paper and write down ten goals. Then ask yourself: If you could only accomplish one of the goals on that list today, which one goal would have the greatest positive impact on your life?
Then pick the second most important goal. What you’ll find is, after you complete this exercise, you will have determined the most important 20 percent of your goals that will help you more than anything else.
You should continue to work at those goals that you’ve chosen as the most valuable all the time.
Eat the Biggest Frog First
You often see people who appear to be busy all day long but seem to accomplish very little. This is almost always because they are busy working on tasks that are of low value while they are procrastinating on the one or two activities that could make a real difference to their companies and to their careers.
The most valuable tasks you can do each day are often the hardest and most complex, but the payoff and rewards for completing them can be tremendous.
Before you begin work, always ask yourself, “Is this task in the top 20 percent of my activities or in the bottom 80 percent?”
The rule for this is: resist the temptation to clear up small things first.
If you choose to start your day working on low-value tasks, you will soon develop the habit of always starting and working on low-value tasks.
Using the Pareto Rule to Achieve Success in Life
The starting point of great success and achievement has always been the same.
It begins with you dreaming big dreams.
There is nothing more important, and nothing that works faster than for you to cast off your own limitations than for you to begin dreaming and fantasizing about the wonderful things that you can become, have, and do.
As a wise man once said, “You must dream big dreams, for only big dreams have the power to move the minds of men.” When you begin to dream big dreams, your levels of self-esteem and self-confidence will go up immediately. You will feel more powerful about yourself and your ability to deal with what happens to you. The reason so many people accomplish so little is because they never allow themselves to lean back and imagine the kind of life that is possible for them.
Theory of Constraints
A powerful principle that you can use to dream big dreams and live without limits is contained in what Elihu Goldratt calls the “Theory of Constraints.” This is one of the greatest breakthroughs in modern thinking. What Goldratt has found is that in every process, in accomplishing any goal, there is a bottleneck or choke cord that serves as a constraint on the process. This constraint then sets the speed at which you achieve any particular goal.
What Goldratt found is that if you concentrate all of your creative energies and attention on alleviating the constraint, you can speed up the process faster than by doing any other single thing.
Let me give you an example. Let us say that you want to double your income. What is the critical constraint or the limiting factor that holds you back? Well, you know that your income is a direct reward for the quality and quantity of the services you render to your world. Whatever field you are in, if you want to double your income, you simply have to double the quality and quantity of what you do for that income. Or you have to change activities and occupations so that what you are doing is worth twice as much. But you must always ask yourself, “What is the critical constraint that holds me back or sets the speed on how fast I double my income?”
The 80 20 Rule in Action
A friend of mine is one of the highest-paid commission professionals in the United States. One of his goals was to double his income over the next three to five years.
He applied the 80 20 rule to his client base.
What he found was that 20 percent of his clients contributed 80 percent of his profits. He also found that the amount of time spent on a high-profit client was pretty much the same amount of time spent on a low-profit client.
In other words, he was dividing his time equally over the number of tasks that he does while only 20 percent of those items contributed to 80 percent of his results.
So he drew a line on his list of clients under those who represented the top 20 percent and then called in other professionals in his industry and very carefully, politely, and strategically handed off the 80 percent of his clients that only represented 20 percent of his business.
He then put together a profile of his top clients and began looking in the marketplace exclusively for the type of client who fit the profile; in other words, one who could become a major profit contributor to his organization, and whom he in turn could serve with the level of excellence that his clients were accustomed to. And instead of doubling his income in three to five years, he doubled it in the first year with that one simple time management technique!
Identify Your Productivity Constraints
Most people can typically identify a few things that stand between their time and their goals. Sometimes they are learned feelings of helplessness. Sometimes they are simply excuses.
So what’s holding you back? Is it your level of education or skill?
If you’re goal is to be a published author and you learn how to write a book with a proven system, then what else is in your way?
Is it your current occupation or job? Is it your current environment or level of health? Is it the situations that you are in today? What is setting the speed for you achieving your goal?
Remember, whatever you have learned, you can unlearn. Whatever situation you have gotten yourself into, you can probably get yourself out of. If your real goal is to dream big dreams and to live without limits, you can set this as your standard and compare everything that you do against it.
The 3 Keys to Living without Limits
The three keys to living without limits have always been the same. They are clarity, competence, and concentration.
#1: Clarity of Your Desires, Goals, and Vision
Clarity means that you are absolutely clear about who you are, what you want, and where you’re going. You write down your goals and you make plans to accomplish them. You set very careful priorities and you do something every day to move you toward your goals. And the more progress you make toward accomplishing things that are important to you, the greater self-confidence and self-belief you have, and the more convinced you become that there are no limits on what you can achieve.
Having clarity of your desires and a clear vision for your future will help you stay focused on your goals everyday. Focusing on your goals daily is actually one of the most important habits of successful people in my opinion.
Goal-oriented people tend to have more clarity and more success in life than those who do not set goals regularly. They are also most likely to be mindful of their time management and tend to be interested in productivity techniques, such as the Pareto Principle.
# 2: Competence in Your Key Areas
Competence means that you begin to become very, very good in the key result areas of your chosen field. You apply the 80/20 rule to everything you do and you focus on becoming outstanding in the 20 percent of tasks that contribute to 80 percent of your results. You dedicate yourself to continuous learning. You never stop growing. You realize that excellence is a moving target. And you commit yourself to doing something every day that enables you to become better and better at doing the most important things in your field.
# 3: Concentration
Concentration is having the self-discipline to force yourself to concentrate single-mindedly on one thing, the most important thing, and stay with it until it’s complete.
The two key words for success have always been focus and concentration.
Focus is knowing exactly what you want to be, have, and do. Concentration is persevering, without diversion or distraction, in a straight line toward accomplishing the things that can make a real difference in your life.
When you allow yourself to begin to dream big dreams, creatively abandon the activities that are taking up too much of your time, and focus your inward energies on alleviating your main constraints, you start to feel an incredible sense of power and confidence. As you focus on doing what you love to do and becoming excellent in those few areas that can make a real difference in your life, you begin to think in terms of possibilities rather than impossibilities, and you move ever closer toward the realization of your full potential.
Always Work Towards Your Main Goal
Finally, I want to tell you about a study that has just been done about the attitudes of rich people versus poor people in regard to goal setting. What they found is that 85% of rich people have one big goal that they work on all the time.
So, if you want to be wealthy, do what wealthy people do. Pick one big goal and work on it all the time, and if you do, it will change your life.
Before we wrap up, I’d like to leave you with a thought to share with your friends and followers:
“When your goals are clear, you will come up with exactly the right answer at exactly the right time” @BrianTracy Click here to Tweet This
Those are my strategies for applying the 80 20 Rule.
“Do you use the 80 20 Rule for goal setting, and if you do, what changes have you noticed in your life?
To learn more about goal setting and time management, download my free 14-Step Goal-Setting Guide PDF here.
Bonus Tip: Read inspirational quotes and motivational sayings every day to stay focused and productive.
About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.