The 80-20 Rule

In 1906, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto created a mathematical formula to describe the unequal distribution of wealth in his country, observing that twenty percent of the people owned eighty percent of the wealth. In the late 1940s, Dr. Joseph M. Juran inaccurately attributed the 80/20 Rule to Pareto, calling it Pareto’s Principle. While it may be misnamed, Pareto’s Principle or Pareto’s Law, as it is sometimes called, can be a very effective tool to manage efficiently, especially in the area of time.

This same principle has been used by the most successful people on how to use our time wisely. If you were to ask a dying person how much he would be willing to give for one more day of a healthy life, I’m sure that he would give all that he owned. He would not just think of 1 day, he would see 24 hours, he would see 1,440 minutes, that for a dying person would represent so much. He probably would think about how much time he could spend with his family or on his knees talking to God or even learning something he never took the time to learn. Yet for us that are not dying, day after day goes by and 80% of that is just wasted.

Most of the time when we ask someone or someone asks us what we’re going to do tomorrow, we hear the words “I don’t know” or “whatever.” A little bit of planning and a little bit of appreciation for the time that God gives us would help us to live a more fulfilled life. I love to play and watch sports and the other day as I was watching the Heat beat the Thunder, I realized that I was wasting my time watching someone else accomplish something. The players on the court were actually accomplishing something but I wasn’t accomplishing anything at all. I spent 3 hours or 180 minutes of my life watching someone else accomplish their goals and desires.

Here is what I’m trying to say; the value of the Pareto Principle for anyone of us is that it reminds you to focus on the 20 percent that matters. Of the things you do during your day, only 20 percent really matter. Those 20 percent produce 80 percent of your results. Identify and focus on those things. When the fire drills of the day begin to sap your time, remind yourself of the 20 percent you need to focus on. If something in the schedule has to slip, if something isn’t going to get done, make sure it’s not part of that 20 percent.

Look at the things you have to do during the day whether at work or home, pick out the things that are really going to make a difference and dedicate most of your time to that and make sure it happens. Make sure that we don’t dedicate too much time to the things that don’t do much for us, like watching a game on TV or watching a movie. Instead, spend your time with God, or your wife, your children or even accomplishing a project that will actually bring in more income.

Pareto’s Principle, the 80/20 Rule, should serve as a daily reminder to focus 80 percent of your time and energy on the 20 percent of your work that is really important. Don’t just “work smart”, work smart on the right things.

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