Apply the 80:20 Principle to your Life

The 80:20 principle or Pareto principle suggests that 80 percent of your outcomes come from 20 percent of your inputs. The principle can be applied to both business and personal life. Richard Koch (The 80/20 Principle: The secret of achieving more with less, 1997) suggests that applying this principle to our use of time can help us to make best use of the time we do have available.

  • “Most of any individual’s significant achievements – most of the value someone adds in personal, professional, intellectual, artistic, cultural or athletic terms – is achieved in a minority of their time. There is a profound imbalance between what is created and the time taken to create it, whether the time is measured in days, weeks, months, years or a lifetime.
  • Similarly, most of an individual’s happiness occurs during quite bounded periods of time. If happiness could be accurately measured, a large majority of it would register in a fairly small proportion of the total time and this would apply during most periods, whether the period measured was a day, a week, a month, a year or a lifetime.

Remember that these are hypotheses to be tested against your experience, not self-evident truths or the results of exhaustive research.

Where the hypotheses are true (as they are in the majority of cases I have tested), they have four rather startling implications.

  • Most of what we do is of large value.
  • Some small fragments of our time are much more valuable of all of the rest.
  • If we can do anything about this, we should do something radical; there is no point tinkering around the edges or making our use of time a little more efficient.
  • If we make good use of only 20 per cent of our time, there is no shortage of it.”