The 80/20 Principle

Today I’m going to tell you about an interesting phenomenon you may or may not have heard of before: the 80/20 rule, or the Perato principle. It states that roughly eighty percent of the outcome will be the result of twenty percent of the effort. This rule takes effect in way more aspects of life than you would think.

In the twentieth century, an Italian economist realized that eighty percent of the wealth and land was held by twenty percent of the population, so upon further study the world realized how big a discovery it really was. (His name was Vilfredo Perato. Isn’t that hilarious? It sounds like the name of a company that makes microwave Italian dinners.)

Eighty percent of the problems with products are caused by twenty percent of the production defects. Twenty percent of a company’s customers will generate eighty percent of the company’s sales. Twenty percent of a project’s effort will yield eighty percent of the results. Twenty percent of the population experience eighty percent of the populace’s suffering. Twenty percent of all language is used in eighty percent of our daily use of it. Twenty percent of your carpet will experience eighty percent of the wear. You generally wear about twenty percent of your clothes eighty percent of the time.

Most of these statistics aren’t strictly eighty to twenty ratios, they’re just the rough estimates. But in any case, you get the point.

So, my first thought upon hearing about this is that it would make for a much more efficient world if we just cut out that eighty percent input to twenty output, but that doesn’t work. If you’re making a car, eighty percent of the work may be the chassis, but if you don’t put in the rest of the car it won’t exactly function the way you want it to. It isn’t to say that the other eighty percent of your work isn’t important or necessary, but that the good twenty is vital. You should focus a lot more on what yields the most results where you can. Sweeping and vacuuming the house really doesn’t take up a whole lot of time, but it makes the house look a lot cleaner. You don’t have to wax the windows every day, but it if you’re trying to do something really quickly, think about what small things you can do that will yield the biggest results and focus the majority of your efforts there.

You may not have a whole lot of time to relax, if you’re out of the house over fifty hours a week. But find what makes you feel relaxed, and make sure you spend time doing it at least once every other day, even if its just for a little bit. Maybe you like reading or doing crosswords or Sudoku puzzles but don’t really have time to do anything on your way to work. But maybe you can spend five or ten minutes doing something you enjoy just before you leave or during a lunch break. It may not seem like much, but it can improve your whole day.

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