How Using The Pareto Principal Can Make You More Effective!
Generally speaking, having a balanced life or taking a balanced point of view makes good sense. However, there is a case where a little imbalance can be beneficial to our personal success and help to make us more effective.
In the early 20th century, an Italian economist's research formed the basis of what became one of the greatest universal principles of all time. Vilfredo Pareto was researching the distribution of wealth in England, and discovered that 80% of the wealth was owned by 20% of the population. Further research found that very similar proportions applied in virtually every country.
Many other researchers subsequently discovered that similar ratios applied to countless other areas of economics, business and management. In the 1930s and 1940s a American Quality Management pioneer named Dr Joseph Juran was researching production defects, when he observed that 20% of all defects caused 80% of all problems.
Juran went on to describe what he called the 'vital few and trivial many' and was the first to use the term Pareto's Law or the Pareto Principle.
This became the common name for one of the greatest of all universal principles. In a nutshell, the Pareto Principle says the 20% of anything is responsible for 80% of the results.
The Pareto Principle states that there is a natural imbalance between input and output, causes and consequences, and effort and results. It states that a minority of effort usually leads to a majority of overall results. A few things are important but most are not.
There are countless examples of the 80/20 Principle, including:
20% of staff will do 80% of the work.
20% of most projects take up 80% of the total time and resources
80% of sales will come from 20% of sales staff
20% percent of staff will cause 80% of problems
20% of customers will account for 80% of sales
20% of products or services will account for 80% of profits
80% of consequences come from 20% of causes
80% of output comes from 20% of input
The Pareto Principal has since been applied to most areas of business and economics, and can be applied to almost anything from the natural world to the science of management.
Here are a few more light hearted examples:
20% of your friends account for 80% of your enjoyment and satisfaction.
20% of the clothes in your closet are worn 80% of the time
20% of your carpet probably gets 80% of the wear
20% of streets account for 80% of the traffic
20% of beer drinkers drink 80% of the beer
You may be thinking this is all very interesting for researchers or economists, but be wondering what this has to do with personal development and success?
The short answer is plenty!
One of the most important and valuable applications of the Pareto Principal is relating to personal time and life management. We will all achieve a great deal more with our lives if we are able to more effectively manage our time and our day to day tasks. Most people who are serious about improving their lives will have many demands on their time pulling them in many different directions.
Consider these points:
20% of the tasks you complete will account for 80% of your results.
20% of your activities will account for 80% of the value of what you do.
This means that if you have 10 things to do, two of those things will be worth much more than all the others put together. Some tasks will be of 5 or more times value than others, even if they all take the same time to complete.
The value of the Pareto Principle is to remind us to identify and focus on the 20% that really matter. We should always try to identify and focus on the 20% that will produce 80% of our results. If something isn't going to be completed on any day we should always make sure it's not one of that 'vital' 20%.
It will usually be quite easy to identify our highest value tasks, although they will often be more difficult and demanding than other things on our list. It may take discipline to get started, but often a single task can offer great rewards and can even be worth more than all the others tasks put together. Concentrating on the results we will achieve, and the satisfaction we will feel by completing a demanding and high value task should help to keep us motivated.
It will often be tempting to start on things that you think you can complete quickly and hold off on the most important jobs. This is definitely not the way to get more done and to get closer to your goals. At all times before starting anything you should be asking yourself if this is the most effective and valuable use of your time. If you're not working on your highest value tasks at all times you are effectively wasting your time.
It takes discipline, but if you refuse to work on anything but your highest value tasks, you'll achieve more than you ever thought possible. We all have only so much time and energy on our hands. If we can work out how to make better use of both we will certainly enjoy much more fulfilling, productive and happier lives.