Own the 80/20 Rule!

The Pareto Principle states that roughly 80% of one’s effects come from 20% of the causes, a common rule of thumb, especially in business. It’s the law of the vital few, that which with you devote much effort and time (80%) ends up to yield only 20% of the results. This spans all aspects of one’s life, in work, in health, in relationships, and in finances. How so? Here are a few examples:


You know all those annoying e-mails that really eat up your time and sanity? You know, the ones that just keep on flooding your inbox, never to let you have it empty, not even for a minute?

You end up then frustratingly responding to each and every one, trying hard to zip through them as quickly as possibly without missing any vital details. All in all, you spend the majority of your day (80%) or more doing tasks (e-mails) that only show for a small portion of your actual work (20%). Bummer. That really does suck, I totally get it.


So all those little calories you’re counting, from the creamer you put in your morning (and afternoon) cup of coffee to the child-sized frozen meal you call your lunch (seriously, how can one be full on that?!), you’re painstakingly counting each calorie (80% of efforts) to ensure you are under the 2,000 or 2,500 calories intake a day.

But then you completely bomb and give in to that delicious piece of over-sugared and over-processed chocolate cake from your coworker’s 20th work anniversary that takes milliseconds to destroy. I’ve seen it happen. Way. Too. Many. Times.

It’s gotta stop! All the little efforts (which really are quite great, it really is) totally do not make up for your catastrophe you call self-control. You’re spending 80% of your time counting the little things when you totally miss the biggest piece of the pie (literally).


You took out the trash every week now for the last 4 weeks and counting. He’s done the laundry each week. You’re doing the dishes. A lot of stuff is just maintenance, things we have to do in order to just live. At least, if you want to live semi-clean.

But these things we do, they end up taking the majority of our time together (80%) but don’t account for much value (20%). It’s the time that you can actually sit down and look the other person in the eye and really share what’s going on in your life that makes the relationship sustainable and strong.

Don’t forget about those times. If it’s less and less frequent, you might think twice about the stupid garbage that should be taken outside when your partner is really sad about being passed up for the promotion at work. The garbage can wait. It’s not going anywhere. Your partner? Not so much.


So all those coupons you’ve been scrimping and clipping and finally using just to save $0.35 off of a bag of Doritos, wow, congrats! Look at the big picture here.

First, do you even need a bag of Doritos? (I know, hard to say no to that, I understand.) Especially if you’ve been complaining of how fat you’ve gotten since college? That tempting bag of chips won’t help you reach your goal of flat abs and toned arms any time soon, I promise you that. Hey, it was my favorite snack too but even the favorites have to be let go in lieu of a bigger goal. Discipline, people!

Second, evaluate your efforts in saving money. Coupons are just a marketing tool to get you to buy a particular brand or product and to generate sales. It’s not to help you save money at all. You may think that (and that’s why the marketers have you totally hooked to the coupon section of the Sunday newspaper) but it’s totally not the case. You’re spending a lot of time (80%) to save not a lot of money (20%). Realize this.

So what’s all this 80/20 nonsense about really?

All this is in an effort to help you realize that a lot of what we spend our days on, including myself, is on really boring, stupid, little-to-no-value activities. Yup, even when it is considered part of our job description. Doesn’t make it more important just because it’s what you’re supposed to do.

We need to evaluate what we are spending our time on that yields less-than-brilliant results. Okay, it doesn’t have to be positively brilliant each time you do something (but wouldn’t it be cool if it were?) but if you could limit those tasks and activities you do that don’t bring in much value to you, your life, and a step closer to your goals, that would be a fantastic way to use your time!

Just think, no pointless and idiotic e-mails back and forth, with everyone carbon copied someone’s two-word reply of “thank you.” Just say thank you to that person!

No 2 hours wasted clipping coupons to save a few bucks when you didn’t need the Crest Whitening Strips anyways in the first place.

No counting every single little calorie every day of your life because you have a killer 75-minute kickboxing class at night that utterly drop kicks your ass if you even thought about eating that cookie at work, never mind actually eating it.

No fuss and worry about not cleaning the kitchen because you were so busy celebrating your partner’s birthday this week and enjoying the moment. The kitchen can wait.

Revel in the moment! Use your time to your advantage! It is, after all, your time. Make it what you will. Be fun, have fun! Own the 80/20 rule, don’t let it own you!

And seriously, don’t be spending 80% of your waking day doing silly things that account for only 20% of your productive and meaningful work. Don’t think I won’t karate size you upside the head if you do! Because I will.


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  • http://simplespaces.wordpress.com Simple Spaces

    This is one of my favorite posts to read from your blog. I never really think about these things and it is the first time I heard of the 80/20 rule. Reminds me of the commute to work from the suburbs until I decided to move to the city. Now I have more time to do more things.

  • http://castlesita.wordpress.com Castles in the Air

    I’m glad you enjoyed this post, Kiran! Yeah, commuting from the suburbs to the city or vice versa = nightmare and living hell. I wouldn’t do it again if I can avoid it! Glad you were able to find a place in the city. Freeing yourself up means you can do the things you love to do, more so than if that time were tied up in traffic.

  • http://tokyin.wordpress.com tokyin

    It’s so true that a lot of times, 80% of the work are done by 20% of the people – no matter it’s at work, at church, or any organization.

    Similarly, same principle may apply to -
    80% of crimes are done by 20% of criminals…
    80% of cell phone minutes are used by 20% of people in family plans…
    80% of accidents are caused by 20% of motorists…

    Remembering this 80/20 rule is very wise when it comes to managing our time and effort, as well as managing people (as employers) – especially when 80 percent of work is being done by 20 percent of your employees!

    Though, I have to say that, for a lot of people, at least 80% of the time/effort/money/mind that they spend are for the good of themselves and adding value to their own lives; only 20% they spend are for the good of others.

    Imagine, how we can change the world if we even up the ratio… and how we can turn the world up-side-down and become radicals we can reverse the ratio….

  • http://castlesita.wordpress.com Castles in the Air

    That would be so cool! We can start now, with ourselves and our lives, one day at a time. Adding value to others can only increase your own, not that there’s a value piggy bank and we’re adding value tokens in each time we do something good. Or is there? :P

    Owning this concept will only help us better manage our lives, keep out those areas in which it’s mundane, boring, or that someone else can do it for you (like hiring others to do work you don’t particularly enjoy or called outsourcing), in order to maximize the time to do what we love to do, whatever that may be. :)

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