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The 80/20 Rule

We wake up every day facing many decisions. These decisions range from utterly trivial to, sometimes, being of significant impact.

A simple explanation of Pareto’s Principle.

Of course, our first conscious decisions happen in the morning. Mornings are carefully laid out — a tradition of hygiene rituals, breakfast of some sort, and preparing oneself for the upcoming day — the usual “morning routine”. We often waste time during this routine, otherwise best spent doing something else of greater benefit — perhaps reading the news, spending time with family, or clearing one’s mind. However, if we take this concept to a macro-scale, we can find greater amounts of wasted or lost time.

Instead of spending time on trivial tasks like selecting what one should wear, plan, and select only the absolute best items that you would like to wear. Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama, and Tom Ford — all different walks of life, careers, and mindsets — all dress the same every day. This isn’t because they are robots, but instead because they realize their time is better spent on other tasks than selecting morning attire. Economist Vilfredo Pareto, who spent his life studying income distribution and the analysis of individuals’ choices, developed the aptly named Pareto Principle, which ties into these leaders’ logic. Pareto’s principle specifies an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs, stating that 20% of the invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained.

Following Pareto’s process, the British NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement found that 80% of innovations come from 20% of the staff, 80% of decisions made in meetings comes from 20% of the meeting time, 80% of your success comes from 20% of your efforts, 80% of complaints you make are from 20% of your services; etc.

Ask yourself, What are the 20% or fewer useless decisions that are taking up 80% or more of my time?” Those are the decisions you should attack first.

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