The 80/20 Rule of Time Management: Stop Wasting Your Time

You might have heard of 80/20 rule or Pareto principle either in textbooks or on the internet. Believe it or not, it is one of the most helpful techniques for time management and most effective mental models used to analyze tasks, buy groceries, and manage workload.

What is 80/20 rule

Also known as the Pareto principle, it got the name from an Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who happen to stumble upon the concept while working in his garden. He observed that about 20% of the peapods in the garden contained 80% of the peas.

In the larger sense, the technique is more of an observation than law or something that tells us that most things in life are not evenly distributed. Different people came with different interpretations of it. The most famous and relevant ones include:

  • 80% of Italy’s wealth belonged to only 20% of the population
  • 20% of the input creates 80% of the result
  • 20% of the workers produce 80% of the result
  • 20% of the customers create 80% of the revenue
  • 20% of bugs caused 80% of crashes (reported by Microsoft)
  • And so on….

It can be simplified as,

80% of the output or results will come from 20% of the input or action.”

Note: Don’t assume that the numbers 20 and 80 add to 100. They don’t! The actual thing is that they 20% could create 5% or 30% or even 100% of the result.

What I love about this rule is that it helps you put the focus on the right thing whether it’s work, productivity, goal-setting, studies, or just anything in this world. Once you learn how to deal with it, you can change your life and achieve great heights both personally and professionally.

How 80/20 rule declutters life and gives clarity

You can also apply Pareto’s principle in your personal life to eliminate unproductive things and make way for more productive things in life. Here’s how to do it:

  • We spend a lot of time using our smartphones. Instead of opening one app to another, figure out the 3 apps you use the most and delete others. You would be amazed at the time you’d end up saving.
  • On the professional front, look for the 20% of tasks that are super-important and bringing 80% of the results. It will help you prioritize tasks better.
  • Most of us wear the same clothes or like to wear those same five shirts and dresses on a regular basis. Give your wardrobe a break. Donate the clothes you don’t wear and free up your cupboard and mind.
  • Only a number of television shows and video games account for the 80% of our time. Choose your favorites that you really enjoy watching so that you stop spending time jumping from one show (or game) to another.
  • Oftentimes, 80% of the money is spent on things which are neither useful nor fulfilling nor healthy.

These are just some common scenarios, there are many more. Just imagine how simpler and fruitful life would become if we could just focus on 20% things that matter the most.

How to apply 80/20 rule for setting goals

If you’re into goal-setting, you can reap many benefits by applying the 80/20 rule effectively. You don’t have to make big changes out of the blue, little changes in the lifestyle and habits will suffice. If you are confused about how to go about it, below are some tips to apply 80/20 rule and make kickass goals.

  1. Eat that frog first

Oftentimes, people are working all day and seem super-busy. However, they don’t end up achieving something productive in real. It happens when people do unimportant or low-priority tasks than doing something that is actually going to add real value to their work.

Eat the biggest frog first which means start with a task that seems most complex and the hardest. The thing about the biggest frog (a difficult task) is that they might consume some time but the payoffs can be great. No matter how tempting it might seem to do simple and small things first, always do the difficult tasks first.

2. Keep your eyes on the main goal

If there’s one thing that differentiates ultra-successful people from others is their attitude. Whenever it comes to setting goals, they set one big goal and work on it all the time. In fact, all the sub-tasks and short-term goals revolve around that main goal.

They are intentional about their time and how it’s being utilized. Instead of indulging in side-talks, gossips, and distractions, they are absolutely focused and never lose track of their progress. If you want to be wealthy and successful, keep your eyes on the main goal and use the Pareto’s principle wisely.

3. Identify what distracts you the most

It’s hard to stay on task when you are surrounded by distractions all the time. You’re not alone when it comes to distractions as most of the employees find distractions the biggest roadblock to being productive. That said, there’s always a friend or colleague who has his way out with distractions. The question is: If they can, why can’t you?

Everything boils down to effective time management. When work items have a deadline, you can’t afford to be distracted. The first thing you have to do is to keep your phone on silent so that the notification sounds don’t break your focus. Also, we tend to get distracted by different things and sounds, identify what distracts you the most to keep them away.

On an ending note

You need 100 percent while seeking top quality and achieving your goals. Learn to identify and focus on the critical 20 percent that could turn things to your favor and save some hours as well.

There are many time management tools that could help you manage time effectively. I personally love and endorse ProofHub and how it helps me to make the most of my time — both personally and professionally. It could be the perfect ally for 80/20 rule of time management that could help you big time to best utilize your time.

About Author:

Vartika Kashyap runs the marketing team at ProofHub — a project management software for teams of all sizes. She is a seasoned marketing professional who is an expert in digital marketing and entrepreneurship. She’s been featured among LinkedIn’s Top Voices for the year 2017 & 2018. Connect with Vartika on LinkedIn, Medium and Twitter.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +418,678 people.

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