80/20 Rule Explained – How to apply 80/20 Rule in Relationships, Work and Daily Life


The 80-20 rule Pareto principle

Do you ever wonder how to make your business, career, relationships, health and life in general more efficient, effective and endearing? The 80/20 rule or Pareto principle can help you discover the hidden path of success and contentment.

Pay attention to every event in your life, the choices you make and results that follow. Don’t assume that all the actions you take will give same results. Understand the difference between smart work and hard work. Focus on 20% of things that actually matters. Try to improve on issues that create 80% of hardships.

The Pareto principle or 80/20 rule explained by power law displays logarithmic and exponential tendencies of events that shapes our day to day life ranging from career and education to fitness and relationships. Understand 80-20 rule and leverage it in all aspects of your life to gain new perspectives, build your business and develop strong relationship bonds.

What is 80/20 rule?

The 80/20 rule is known by various names such as Pareto principle, principle of factor sparsity and the law of the vital few. The 80 to 20 rule states that, roughly 80% of results manifest from 20% factors.

Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto revealed the 80 to 20 distribution in 1906 when he observed that 20% of the population owned 80% of land in Italy. He further noticed the 80/20 rule in his own garden. He discovered that 20% of the pea pods had roughly 80% of the peas. Since, then the 80 to 20 distribution has been realized multiple times during various events and across different sectors.

The main idea behind 80/20 rule is that a small number of critical factors tend to produce the biggest results in almost all areas of life. If you can identify these causes and take advantage of them, you can tremendously benefit from increased efficiency and productivity.

Few Pareto 80/20 rule examples

  • 20% of food leads to 80% of weight gain
  • 20% of customers are responsible for 80% of the sales
  • 20% of your clothes are used 80% of the time
  • 80% of time is spent with only 20% of friends
  • 80% of crimes and committed by 20% criminals
  • 80% of time you commute on same 20% routes

What causes 80/20 rule?

Feedback loops are the primary reason for 80/20 rule. This is the reason a good head start and a proper schedule can make or break fortunes. A beneficial action gives you initial advantage over others, if this is followed by a healthy routine, you can set a feedback loop which enables you to take 80% of advantage from 20% of actions.

To observe the 80/20 phenomena, set up an aquarium and buy 3 equal sized goldfish. After a couple months you would notice considerable difference in the size and weight of 3 goldfish. Why did it happen? When you first fed the goldfish, one lucky goldfish ate a bit more fish food. This extra food allowed the goldfish to grow slightly bigger than the other two goldfish. The bigger goldfish thus had a little more advantage when it came to gobbling up food next time. Over time the difference between sizes becomes so much that other goldfish could barely compete to get equal amount of food.

You can replace the goldfish with big corporate or even personalities. Other factors are involved of course, but feedback loops is one of the primary reasons for the 80 to 20 ratio.

Habits and routine play an important role in formation of 80/20 rule as well. For example, if you have a routine to walk from your bed to kitchen, you take the same path and walk on 20% of your floor 80% of the time. Your sleeping, eating, bonding, exercise, and shopping habits also results in 80/rule in your daily life.

How to leverage 80/20 Examples for the real world

You can optimize your life with 80/20 mindset.

Apply 80/20 Rule in Fitness & Exercise:

It doesn’t matter if you work out 15 hours per week or 5 hours per week. You may spend less time yet achieve more results with 80/20 rule. Make a list of all your activities and spend majority of your time on those 20% actions that gives you 80% of results.

Want to look lean and muscular? then spend majority of your energy and time lifting weights. Do you need a long bout of cardio after each workout? Probably not. Of course cardio is important, but to develop muscle tissue and gain strength the main focus should be weight training.

Spend 80% energy and time on heavy compound exercises that can stimulate your whole body, high-intensity interval training, and proper diet that takes care of your macro-nutrient requirements. Rest 20% you can use on cardio. You would achieve your goals faster by working out 5 hours/week, compared to someone who works out 15 hours/week but with ill-defined approach.

Apply 80/20 Rule in your Business and Work:

Try to recognize and distribute the tasks that are most critical to your work. If you spend 80% of your working hours performing small tasks, such as making copies of documents, replying to every email and giving attention to everyone who comes at your desk, you would have only 20% of time to actually do critical tasks that would affect your and company’s performance. You might be working hard and doing everything the business needs, but you aren’t focusing on tasks that create actual results for your growth. It is therefore crucial to cut down or delegate unnecessary workload.

Spend 80% of your time on tasks that generate demonstrable results. You don’t need to immediately reply to emails low on priority. Use emails only to deal with potential clients and critical tasks. You don’t need to attend every meeting or conference. Have someone to take notes for you. You can chit-chat with co-workers in your spare time. Try to delegate non-critical to someone else. Client acquisition, data analysis, brokering deals, expanding your business network should occupy your 80% time. Your results will speak for themselves.

80/20 can rule help you gain maximum benefit to your business if you understand to prioritize critical factors instead of treating all factors with equal weighting.

Look out for customer acquisition channels that bring you 80% of customers.

What your top 20% best-selling products?

Who are the top 20% of clients you wish to build business relations with?

What is the persona of your top 20% customers?

How to invest 20% of budget to keep your 80% customers happy?

Apply 80/20 Rule in Your Relationships

Our most memorable memories are usually of 20% of best time that we spend with our loved ones. If you are in long term relationship or if you get the opportunity to meet your loved ones only once a week or month then try to make the most out of this precious time. Together, do something of significance, special and memorable instead of letting the time just fly.

Go on a bike ride, play games, go fishing or enjoy your time at an amusement park. To build strong bonds with your loved ones, understand how this 20% of these impactful things will form 80% of memories that your loved one can cherish for rest of their life.

Apply 80/20 Rule in your Education:

It would of course be impossible to study or remember everything that is in your syllabus. Study those 20% of things from each chapter that forms the most basic principles of your course. Look at the notes and previous year question papers to understand those 20% of questions and related principles from each chapter that are repeatedly asked in tests 80% of the time every year.

Struggling with a presentation? Only focus on the criteria of the assignment. Instead of making 100 slides boring presentation that takes 20 hours, prepare 10 slides presentations with engaging slides that quickly get to the point. If the structure of presentation, design of slides and presentation skills such as eye contact, tone of voice and body language matters the most, give them your 80% of attention. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how many slides you made, but the way you presented them and the impact they made on target audience.

Reverse 80/20 rule Also Holds True

You can also apply 80/20 rule in reverse. That is eliminating 20% of events, factors and habits in your life that causes 80% of problems and troubles for you. For example remove the 20% of redundancies that consume 80% of your resources. Tone down on relationships with 20% of people who give you anxiety and troubles 80% of time. Swiftly deal with those 20% of clients that cause 80% of increase in your workload. Apply 80-20 rule to identifying root causes of problematic issues in your life, and turn them around to achieve positive outcomes.

Double down on the winners and cut-short your losses with those elements in your life that drags you down.