The Pareto Principal - Focus on 20% of Life for Exponential Success

Do you find working 50 and 60 hour weeks exhaustive and depressing? We each enjoy success at work, but desire more time away to spend with family, friends, and other interests.

Would you believe, research on the Pareto Principal supports completing 20% of your current workload and still achieving 80% (and exponentially more) of the results? 

In this article, we will discuss how to recognize and leverage small inputs that produce valuable results. As managers, if we do nothing more daily than focus on achieving this critical 20% of tasks, our organizations and lives would thrive, and we would waste less of our most valuable resource, time. 

What is The Pareto Principle?

The Pareto Principle (or the 80/20 Rule) states that 80% of your results are generated from 20% of your efforts. Sometimes it varied slightly (85/15; 75/25; 90/10) but always the ratio averaged around the 80/20 range. 

The main idea is that small numbers are often critical and tend to produce the biggest results in most areas of life.

The Pareto Principle was introduced by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto in 1896. He noticed that people in society seemed to divide naturally, in terms of money, land, and influence, into the “vital few”, the top 20%, and the “trivial many”, the bottom 80%. Through a multitude of studies, it has been discovered that a vast majority of activities are subject to this same principle. Here are a few examples:

  • We wear 20% of the wardrobe in our closet 80% of the time
  • 80% of traffic is carried by only 20% of roads. 
  • In the software industry, it has been found that fixing the top 20% of reported bugs corrected 80% of related errors and crashes.
  • Occupational health and safety professionals find that 20% of hazards account for 80% of injuries, and by categorizing hazards, safety professionals can target the 20% of hazards that cause 80% of the accidents. 
  • 20% of customers account for 80% of complaints
  • 20% of our employee's produce 80% of production
  • 80% of sales come from 20% of clients. 

How to Leverage 80/20 to Increase Success

Utilize the 80/20 principle in managing your energy. We only have so much we can contribute daily. Start focusing on the most profitable investments of your time and you will see your success grow.  

Utilize the below steps to recognize and fully commit to your most impactful 20% of tasks:

Step 1.) Eliminate - Let us first agree that tasks, when complete, are not of equal impact/value. Thus to maximize your efficiency in life you must always be searching for that 20% of activities that will provide 80+% of results

Simply put if your daily to-do list consists of 10 items statistically only 2 of those will move you, your life, and/or your organization forward. 


  • Personal Time: If you have goals like running a marathon, receiving that promotion, or going on a trip. The realization that TV, social media, video games, obligation events...etc will absorb your time and contribute little to these aspirations is important. Elimination of these distractions will be huge in allowing key contributing tasks to your goals to be realized/prioritized. 
  • Work: Instead of responding to every email sent to your inbox (or even opening them) give these a lower priority later in your day when your mental calories are spent. To place them first thing in the morning is literally placing each of those individuals' requests above your own and your organization's.
  • Health: Instead of working out for an hour or more a day isolating each individual muscle group, focus on complex exercises and diet. You will work out for a fraction of the time and gain 80% or more of the same results.

Start looking for the 20% daily in your lists, in your time, and in your activities. Work smarter not harder. As you locate these 20% items, try to not only deprioritize the other 80%, but get rid of them all together.

"I'm as proud of what we don't do as I am of what we do." - Steve Jobs

Step 2.) Delegate - After you have eliminated unnecessary tasks, it is time to delegate the remaining 80% of items that still need attention.

This will require you to realize that your time is of value and that you should hire any activity out that is below your hourly value. If you make $50/hr and it takes you 2+hours to mow your lawn, consider hiring someone to do it for $100 while you work on the areas in life that you produce real value.

Pride will really hold back managers here, but it is important that we realize that we are not only affecting ourselves but our organizations and further our personal lives when we keep holding on to every little facet of our days. 

Step 3.) Double Down - The more that you clear away the 80% and double down on the 20%, you will find that your effectiveness grows exponentially. Keep completing the loop of steps 1 through 3 in all facets of your life and the math could look like this:

1st loop --- 80% of results come from 20% of your inputs

2nd loop --- 64% of results come from 4% of your inputs

3rd loop --- 52% of results come from .8% of your inputs

You continue to retain a large percentage of your desired results with a much smaller percent of your own effort.


As managers, there are two sides to the coin daily that we must choose between. 20% of our employees (you know which) produce 80% or our production, and 20% of our employees produce 80% of our complaints (you definitely know who they are). These will not be the same individuals. We choose daily which group to provide our time and attention.

Choose to devote your time to cultivating that small percent of employees, tasks, customers...etc that are producing your desired results and not allowing "squeaky wheels" to dictate your future. 

Action Step:

1.) Start the process of merciless elimination in your life. Test eliminating different time-consuming tasks/obligations that have low returns. Look at the results if they are not large, it is likely that was an 80% item in need of elimination anyway. 

2.) Ask yourself daily, if I can do only ONE thing today that would make the rest of my day/tasks easier or obsolete what would that item be? FOCUS ON THAT TASK FIRST! Ignore the rest brutally until it is complete.

Blessings In Your Endeavors,

Ruben Watson

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