Applying the Pareto Principle at Work and at Home

The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, is the idea that 20% of your efforts bring 80% of your results. The idea applies to many things in life.

  • You wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time.
  • 20% of your customers make 80% of the complaints.
  • 20% of your customers are 80% of your revenue.
  • 20% of the exercises you do give 80% of the results you receive.

It only makes sense to focus your attention on these most critical tasks at work and at home.  You can save a lot of time and make much faster progress by focusing on the most effective tasks.

Follow this process:

  1. Identify your work goals. What are you trying to accomplish at work? You may have more than one goal, and that is fine. However, it is imperative to be aware of your goals. If you don’t have goals that were provided by your boss, create your own. What are your goals?
    • Get a raise or a promotion?
    • Ultimately find a job with a new company?
    • Increase sales by 15%?
    • Decrease complaints by 10%?
    • Reduce payroll by 10%?
    • Get your quarterly report completed on time?
  2. Pick the most important goals. Not all goals are created equal. Think about which goals are most important to you, your boss, and your company. Maybe you can achieve all of your goals, but maybe you can’t. Which of your identified goals are most important?
  3. Identify all of the tasks that will help to achieve those goals. Think of every single task that can be done to achieve your goals. Write down every idea you can think of.

         For example:

  • What is every single thing you could do to reduce the payroll in your department?
  • What is every single thing you could do to boost sales?
  • Be open-minded and creative. The best idea might be something you normally wouldn’t consider.
  1. Prioritize those tasks. Every action has a different effect. Some actions accomplish a lot more than others. For example, making 500 cold calls each week will do more to boost your sales than giving yourself a morning pep talk.
    • Look at the goal and look at the proposed action. Which action will have the greatest impact on achieving that goal?
    • Put all the actions in order from most effective to least.
  2. Put your focus on those most important tasks. In theory, the top 20% of the actions you have identified are worth your time and effort. Most of the remaining 80% should be ignored.
    • Remember that in your situation, it might not be 80-20. It might be 90-10. Or it might be 85-15. It is simply a ratio of options to results. The point is that a few options matter much more than the others.
  3. Outsource what you can. The more time and effort that can be applied toward those tasks in the top 20%, the more successful you will be. Success will come quicker, too.
    • One person can do a lot, but five people can do a lot more. Look for help. In fact, sometimes the best help is outside the company. It might be worthwhile to hire additional help temporarily or permanently.
  4. Stay the course. The less important actions you can take are tempting because they are often less uncomfortable to perform and still give the illusion of making progress. Focus on those critical tasks and you will see great progress.

What about other areas of your life? Think about how you can apply the same 80/20 principle to other aspects of your life:

  • Health
  • Fitness
  • Intimate relationship
  • Friendships
  • Keeping your house in order
  • Building your fortune
  • Having the best lawn in the neighborhood
  • Mastering the violin
  • Being a good neighbor

What part of your life do you most want to change for the better? What are the most important actions you can take in each area of your life?

You can be pretty successful at many things if you identify the most important tasks and avoid wasting your time on anything else. Look for ways to apply the Pareto Principle to your life.


Sandy Chernoff
Sandy Chernoff
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.

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