“The 80/20 principle works everywhere in life. It’s surprising and amazing. It’s not what we expect. There is a big imbalance between causes and results”. ~ Richard Koch
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I have often heard about the 80/20 rule but did not really know the true meaning behind it. After a bit of exploring, mainly around Richard Koch’s work, it turns out that the meaning behind the 80/20 rule is more relevant than ever. In our society of abundance amidst an environment of depletion, we need to look at ways to live more simply with less.
Dr. Jessica Otte, one of my physician colleagues, is a pioneer in the ‘Less is More’ principle in healthcare. I couldn’t agree more as when it comes to patient care in medicine, more investigations and treatment does not always lead to more positive outcomes – often less is in fact more.
‘Less is more’ is also a principle that we can apply to life in general. One way to get started involves the 80/20 rule.
What is the 80/20 rule?
The 80/20 rule is also known as the Pareto Principle. The latter is named after an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto who noticed that every year, 20% of the pea pods in his garden produced approximately 80% of the peas. In turn, the 80/20 rule is based on the mathematical concept that 20% of the items hold 80% of the value. This is a well established concept in business that can be applied to many other areas of life.
The principle is based on two universal laws: 1) the law of focus (less is more) and 2) the law of progress (we can create more with less). As Koch indicates, the paradox is that people continue to give more instead of less, leading us into the ‘fast lane’ trap. Essentially, this is the ‘busy trap’ of life where we spin our wheels without making any true personal progress.
Applying the 80/20 rule
As Koch illustrates, personal time management is one of the best examples of the 80/20 rule – 80% of what you achieve takes just 20% of your time. At some point, we have all experienced getting into the ‘zone’ or ‘flow’ where both our productivity and passion runs high. In order to get in the ‘zone’ more consistently, Koch suggests a few ideas:
- Look at when you think of your great new ideas and engage in those activities more often
- Engage your mind in creative thinking as you go about your day
- Develop a ‘not to do’ list to reclaim lost time – focus on what matters
- Live mindfully and fully in the present moment
Koch goes on to identify five key areas to use the rule to enhance personal productivity:
1) self: as indicated above, focus on what matters most to you.
2) work: consider that success is often linked to passion, where it counts to know more about less.
3) money: consider the fact that 20 % of the population owns 80% of the money, but this is based on a compound effect. As we know, money does not buy happiness but saving and investing allows you to have money to spend on what does matter.
4) personal relationships: 80% or more of the satisfaction we derive from relationships will be generated by 20% or fewer of your relationships. Ergo, if you put the most energy into these relationships, you will be happier.
5) simple, good life: think about how you can get by with less – adopt the concept of ‘less is more’.
Starting an 80/20 plan of action
This aligns with a time management strategy of looking ahead at your goals and how to reach them. Koch talks about looking at the destination, routes and actions.
For instance, under ‘self’:
Destination ⇒ I want to write a book
Routes ⇒ start a blog based on a theme that can eventually be compiled into a book; find a mentor and role models
Actions ⇒ take a ‘how to blog’ course; set aside time weekly to write
Can you think of an area of your life that you would like to apply the 80/20 rule in order to focus on ‘less is more’? If so, what routes and actions would you take?
Before I sign off, I just want to wish you all a Happy Easter. No matter what your beliefs, Easter is a sign of hope for humanity that we all need.
Koch, R. (2014) Living the 80/20 Way: work less, worry less, succeed more, enjoy more. Business News Publishing.