You are probably saying – ok, tell me something I don’t know. We all know it exists, but how often can you see it actually working in your daily life?
Here are my statistics for the past 30 days since I have been sharing my blogs on Medium.Com
The 80/20 Rule, explained.
For many outcomes, roughly 80% of the consequences come from 20% of the causes.
You can see why the “Law of the Vital Few” has been used to describe this principle.
The Vital Few being 20% of the causes.
Brief History of the 80/20 Rule
An Italian born in Paris, Vilfredo Pareto attended the University of Lausanne. His field was microeconomics and socioeconomics and during his studies, in one aspect of his research, he noticed that 80% of land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.
His legacy as an economist was profound. As Wikipedia describes, his influence had the field of economy develop into a data-intensive field of scientific research and mathematical equations.
For the time, his textbooks were noted to resemble the more modern texts we might see today. Graphs, charts, signs and equations filled the pages of his notebooks.
He was also preoccupied with the problems of power and wealth. How it was obtained and how it was distributed around society?
This makes this principle still very relevant today.
Back to my stats.
For clarification, I have published 21 stories in total. Seven of those stories was where I achieved my reads, and four stories gathered me my fans.
Focusing on my “reads” which I will accept as being a consequence of my cause, applying the 80/20 rule, this translates to 33%.
Since the description of this rule mentions “roughly” I am going accept that the Pareto Principle is in play here.
Now, looking at my “fans”, the percentage which follows is 19%. Four of the 21 stories generated 5 fans.
We can’t get closer to the 80/20 rule in this instance!
Less really is more.
Tim Ferriss says in his book the 4 Hour Workweek, that we should be figuring out which 20% of our activities generate 80% of our results.
Taking into consideration my statistics, and in particular, for the topic that I am writing about, I can see which ones are gathering the most traction and where I can improve and continue to add value to my readers. I can understand where the reader is too and where my engagement is best, to further research and provide more in-depth content.
I get that keyword research does this. However, this 80/20 principle can now support my keyword strategy, and also help me focus on the amount of time I spend in general, researching a certain topic.
I might consider outsourcing some of my other writing and other aspects of my business that take me away from my vital 20%. This will give me a more focused approach to topics and activities within set criteria.
A modern-day application
Aside from my own statistics, we can see the application of the 80/20 rule in everyday life. Even in general and regular activities in our day.
I have adopted a very minimalist approach to my life. I have given away clothes that I don’t wear, I only have what I use in my apartment and I regularly assess that position to check whether I am hoarding.
In any event, I find that I generally wear my favourite t-shirts and running pants and will check for them in the (small) pile of clothes when I am dressing in the morning. A minimalist approach and the Pareto Principle can work nicely together when you are trying to achieve a more streamlined vision of your life.
It is by now a well-known fact that this rule has been applied by the Microsoft team. They discovered that by fixing the top 20% of bugs reported that they eliminated 80% of their work.
Similarly in sports. An effective set of training regimes has been noted to achieve better results for the sportspeople involved. Hence, doing everything achieves less, than doing the most effective things that specifically drive your outcomes.
For those of us who use busy roads, you will see that 80% of the traffic accidents are caused by 20% of the road users. I have read that is also been said that 80% of crime is caused by 20% of the criminals.
In any event, what a man saw so long ago, is still very relevant in this modern world we live in.
How can we use the 80/20 rule to our benefit?
For me, a busy entrepreneur, I can now see how this 80/20 rule affects my outcomes. I know where I need to focus more to boost my outcome. Also, I can use the principle to prioritise my day, and since I have a journal, I can now revisit that to revise my efforts.
I expect now that my problem-solving will be far more effective going forward. I certainly won’t be focusing on problems that don’t effectively drive my strategy.
Executives and leaders can use this principle to help with their decision making process.
Where will the business achieve the biggest impact and who is responsible for that impact, for example?
Which products are driving your bottom line?
I would hazard a guess that 20% of their workforce and their product line are responsible for 80% of their results.
I know when I worked in an Estate Agents office, around 20% of the sales staff were consistent in achieving their monthly sales targets.
An 80/20 Analysis
Since we have established the importance of this principle and how it can benefit productivity, let’s take a look at how we could conduct an analysis.
- Identify problems
You want to check where you are spending your time and make a daily list of the time you spend on certain tasks if time management is your problem.
Maybe you might have staff problems or product quality problems, and you can identify and list these into a common group, where similar problems are noted.
2. Cause of problems
Discovering why the problems exist is probably going to be quite an exhaustive exercise if you are an executive or leader in your organisation.
If you have a time management problem, as an entrepreneur that list of where you spend your time might highlight some bad habits you might have picked up. Be honest in your overall assessment.
3. Score the problems
Highlight those that need the most attention first, by giving them a score.
If this worked for the people at Microsoft, it is likely to work in many workplaces. In their assessment, they discovered that bugs and not just features caused their problems.
So assessing and scoring problems is fundamental to the overall analysis.
4. Take the appropriate action
Act on the most important or highly scored problem first. Even if the lower scored problems still exist, you will find that less time will be spent on resolving them.
From my own personal discoveries, I intend to support my daily process already in place with an assessment using the 80/20 rule.
If it is used in conjunction with established good habits, it seems very likely that time management and productivity will improve for me. I hope it will improve for you if it needs to.
Do you know what 20% of your work or effort drives your outcomes?