Improve Your Life With the 80/20 Rule


Mar 17, 2013
Keeping my overhead low, and my understand high


How to Use the 80/20 Rule to Improve Your Life​

Every person I have known who has taken the 80/20 Principle seriously has emerged with useful, and in some cases life-changing, insights. —Richard Koch
Like I said, once you understand the 80/20 rule, you start to see it everywhere.

About 20% of my contacts make up about 80% of my texts.

About 20% of the companies I do business with get about 80% of my expendable income.

About 20% of the people in my social network cause about 80% of my personal problems.

Koch argues that by recognizing the 80/20 rule in your life, you can start making decisions to maximize utility and minimize pain.

In implementing the rule in your life, keep these two overarching principles in mind:

  • If 20% of causes/inputs/efforts create 80% of the good things in your life, increasing the amount of time/energy/attention you give to that 20% will have a disproportionately large effect on increasing the positive quotient in your life.
  • If 20% of causes/inputs/efforts create 80% of the bad things in your life, minimizing the time/energy/attention you give to that 20% will have a disproportionately large effect on minimizing the negative quotient in your life.
Here’s how to put these principles to work:

Time management. You can see which activities provide the most bang for your buck by tracking how you use your time. You’ll likely find that just 20% of your work tasks generate 80% of your results. So, spend more time on that 20% which gives you the most ROI while reducing the time spent on other, superfluous stuff.

Decluttering. Just a few of your possessions likely get the lion’s share of your use. Pay attention to what you use the most, and chuck the rest. For example, only a handful of items in my wardrobe get used regularly. So once a year, I’ll go through my closet and ask myself, “Have I worn this piece of clothing in the past year?” If not, it gets packed off to Goodwill.

Money. Start using a money tracking service, like Mint. After a month, review it. You’ll likely notice that a small percentage of businesses/services get the majority of your money. Find ways to reduce expenses on those “vital few” to dramatically reduce your overall expenditures.

Personal finance expert Ramit Sethi calls this going for “big wins.” Instead of worrying about trying to shave pennies off every.single.purchase, find ways to shave big chunks off the few categories creating most of your expenses. Eliminate credit card debt, look for ways to save money on rent and groceries, cancel subscriptions you don’t use anymore, etc.

Relationships. I bet if you were to do an inventory of your relationships, you’d find that just 20% of your relationships produce 80% of your overall happiness. Spend more time with these vital few.

I bet you’ll also discover that 20% of your relationships cause 80% of your interpersonal headaches. Spend less time with these annoying stress-stimulators, curbing your contact not only with people you actively dislike, but those you feel ambivalent about as well.

Leadership. If you lead people at church or in some other community, you’ll see the 80/20 rule in play: about 20% of the members of a group will do about 80% of the overall work. Knowing that, make sure you take care of those vital few. Appreciate them. Publicly recognize their efforts. Check in on them regularly to ensure that they’re not burning out or feeling resentful about the disproportionate load they’re carrying. If you can’t do away with the necessity of that load, at least try to lighten its weight; that is, if a task needs doing or a role needs filling, a 20%-er is probably going to have to do it, but is there a way to make that task/role simpler, easier, and less time-consuming and stressful?

When you’re part of an organization, you’ll likely also notice that about 20% of its members cause 80% of its problems. Do what you can to mitigate their influence on the community, but don’t spend too much time on them. Spending 80% of your time strengthening and encouraging the 20% of awesome go-getters will yield far greater fruit than spending 80% of your time cajoling slackers and putting out fires.

Mike Nasty

Nov 19, 2016
At my job it's always 20% or 2 or 3 people who account for 80% of mark offs. Even when they eventually leave there's always 2 more people to fill the spots.