The 80/20 Rule
Get Disciplined, Get Productive
How to Take Advantage of the Pareto Principle for Better Results

Just because you do more doesn’t mean that you’re doing more.

Efficiency drives results. Not productivity. #sorrynotsorry Click To Tweet

Just because you can churn out piece after piece doesn’t mean the piece isn’t a…piece of shit.

This is echoing a time honored law – The Pareto Principle, or “the vital few over the trivial many”.

What is a Pareto?

Long story short, there was this guy named Vilfredo Pareto.

He was some whiz economist who said “80% of your results will come from 20% of your actions.” Again: vital few, over trivial many.

When I first heard that, I was like “lolwut”.

But then as I got older, I saw many instances where this was true.

  • 20% of the people make 80% of the money in an company (especially if you’re in sales).
  • 20% of the books you read will account for 80% of the impact in your personal or professional life.
  • 20% of the women (or men) you meet will be attracted to you.
  • 20% of your friends will be with you when you experience 80% of your most valuable memories.
  • 20% of your effort in the gym will produce 80% of your “gainzzzz” (for all you gym bros).

These are just a few small examples. In some cases, this shift even further to extremes, like 99/1! But that’s up for debate.

All that matters is… it’s real.

So is it still a “thing”? Yeah.

Is it important to know, understand, and apply? You’re damn right it is.

Focusing on the vital few over that of the trivial many is what separates good from great.

Your first step?

Stop majoring in minor things.

You know what they are.

Spending hours on Facebook.

Looking at listicle after listicle.

Endless internet.

TV watching for daaaaaaaaaays.

Surfing. Surfing. Surfing. Going nowhere.

A metric ton of time down the black hole, never to be seen again.

Is Internet fine? Of course it is. But you need to use it in moderation and you need to ask the question:

Will this activity help me reach a short or long term goal directly or indirectly?” If not…

Cut it out or minimize it.

Easier said than done. For most of us, spending time in the trivial many is a hard-wired habit.

These are the things that are easy and FUN to do, but produce minimal long term results.

The other 20%? Makes a MASSIVE difference and allows us to shoot up that slight edge curve towards greatness.

At this point, you may be asking yourself – “what is the 20%?” Awesome question.
Many people never get ahead because they major in minor things. Click To Tweet

Focus on key result areas

To focus on key result areas and the vital few over the trivial many, you have to be clear on your goals.

If I want a good social life, spending it inside is a waste of time.

If I want to be a millionaire, spending it on clothes I’ll never wear is another waste of time.

You figure out what’s more important to you and make that your chief goal.

Then, you start to rally your forces towards achieving that goal.

Let’s take an example: your job. You spend most of your day at work (another fine example of this rule), so it helps to be effective rather than just productive.

Why are you on the payroll?

What have you been hired for? What contributes to the bulk of your value?

If you’re a salesperson, your value is in closing sales with customers in order to generate revenue. You do this by making sales calls, qualifying leads, and then getting out in front of people who want to buy. Therefore, you focus most of your efforts on those activities.

As most of us know, sales is a very difficult field to succeed in, with most people washing out very quickly.

As a result, 20% of the salespeople take home 80% of the money.

You can apply this to any other field as well. In any pursuit – there are always people who are capitalizing on the lion’s share of time, money, and attention.

That’s why it doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you’re one of the best in the field.

Do you want to join the top 20%? You need to sacrifice.

You don't have time for everything, only time for the most important things. Click To Tweet

The Law of Three

In any given task, there are three or four key cornerstones that are essential to your success.

At your job, there are three or four things you do that account for 80% or more of your results.

Your job is to figure those out and do them for the majority of your working day.

This is why management exists. Their job is to allow you to do your work with minimal interruptions (no meetings, no office politics, etc). Or at least, in an ideal world, this is how management would work.

Think long term

I like to combine this with another economic theory known as “marginal gains” or “the slight edge”.

You are either getting slightly better or slightly worse as a whole every day.

That’s not the full side of the story, however. Over time, this will compound to an incredible degree.

Think of it like interest on a credit card or in a savings account.

Your next steps

Putting this to use isn’t really that hard. Just requires some practice and discipline.

I’m not always successful in this area either, but I’ve come a long way from when I used to major in minor things and focus on the trivial many over the vital few.

First, establish what it is that you want to achieve. Set it as a goal.

Second, break it down into steps. What do you have to do first? What do you have to do second? Can those be broken down into SMALLER chunks?

Third, start on it immediately. Don’t hesitate. The time is now.

Fourth, use the slight edge to your advantage. The slight edge is always in effect. Work on it as much as possible so you build up momentum.

Fifth, don’t stop until the task is finished. Don’t let up. Keep funneling more and more effort into it until you’ve reached your goal.

This is the REAL “secret” of productivity. It isn’t through reading books about productivity, it isn’t from reading articles (like this one, haha), it isn’t from hearing about it from “gurus”.

Focus on key result areas. Get results in those areas. Delegate or delay the rest.

I want to hear from you: how are you planning to focus on the 20% areas that will produce results? What will you cut out? What will you minimize?


  • Del

    August 15, 2016

    Great piece of writing. In addition to asking the “what do you want?” question, I think it’s equally, if not more important to ask the “why do you want it?” question? You might be hardwired to do something because of social media, the news, pop culture, etc. but inherently, it’s not really the right thing for you. Asking yourself “why” can help you gain clarity.


    • Sim Campbell

      August 15, 2016

      Definitely, Del. Never thought about it from this perspective.


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