How The 80/20 Rule Applies To You

It’s not rare to find that 80% of your sales are generated by 20% of your customers, or that 80% of your time is spent handling 20% of your chores.

This skewed outlook on life and business was first observed by the great Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who lent his name to the theory.

Pareto established, in the early twentieth century, that 80% of Italian land was owned by just 20% of the population. He later famously observed that 80% of the peas in his garden came from 20% of the pods. Spurred on by the unusual correlation, his work continued and the Pareto Principle became lodged not just in economic folklore, but in business minds alike.

By running a business that is effectively a one man show, I have become a great believer in the Pareto Principle.

I’m convinced it can be applied to productivity. The principle is a great marker for ensuring I don’t become bogged down in tasks that waste my limited time.

I don’t think I’m alone in confessing that when I look at my to-do list, I can easily find tasks that satisfy my need to appear busy; tasks that contribute very little to my bottom line.

As an Internet Marketer, I often find myself profiting from one particularly lucrative advertising campaign. On a good day, it makes my other efforts look like a complete waste of time. If the lucrative campaign earns more than the rest of my work combined, why would I insist on wasting 80% of my time chasing those dead ends?

Probably because seeing the skewed reality is one thing. Acting on it is completely another.

The desire to appear busy is something that has been ingrained in us since childhood. Can you imagine the uproar at school had you refused to go to 80% of your classes? Or the backlash from your employer if you only worked 2 hours of your contracted 8?

Where our productivity is concerned, we are highly trained animals. To stay busy is better than to look lazy, even if the results are not always as we’d expect in doing so.

Sometimes it’s a welcome relief to step back and analyse where your success is coming from. What work is bringing in the bacon? Which tasks are you splurging blood, sweat and tears over for little reward?

These may seem like stupid questions. But I believe there’s much more potential in becoming a specialist, somebody who plays to his strengths, than a jack of all trades who couldn’t see his skill-set if it slapped him in the tits.

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About the author

Finch
Finch

A 29 year old high school dropout (slash academic failure) who sold his soul to make money from the Internet. This blog follows the successes, fuck-ups and ball gags of my career in affiliate marketing.

7 Comments

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  • cool, I got my own little 20-80 thing; I always say to my clients that the work we do is 20% intellectual-the part that defines the quality and then 80% of the effort is just work …

    cheers,

    Michiel

  • Very wise words indeed. I’ve actually sent a link to this excellent blog post around our entire team 🙂

    I know I’m particularly ‘bad’ at doing 1001 tasks, often to keep others happy by replying to their queries in detail etc., but many of those tasks generate zero return.

    I’ve noticed the most successful and profitable companies make it almost impossible to get hold of them for customer service. Despite what they officially preach, they will do everything they can to avoid having to give you customer service or if they do it’s template replies, because that is the 80% of tasks that don’t generate profit when customers don’t want to pay extra for quality support.

  • Thanks for sharing about the Pareto Principle. Reading this post made me really well informed. With too many works lying around we forget to keep ourselves happy. We have to be involved in whatever work we have undertaken.

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