Process for Success: Focusing on Vital 20% of Pareto Rule:

Success or Failure are Consequences of a Process!

There are many applications to this principle, but simply put: 80 percent of what you do with your time will contribute to only 20 percent of your results; and 20 percent of your actions will critically impact 80 percent of the consequences in your life!  

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for most events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.

Business management consultant Joseph M. Juran developed the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population; Pareto also noted that 20 percent of the pea pods in his garden contained 80 percent of the peas.

What It Means

The 80/20 rule means that in any set of circumstances, a few factors (20 percent) are vital and most (80 percent) are trivial. In Pareto's case, it meant that 20 percent of the people owned 80 percent of the wealth. In Juran's initial work, he discovered that 20 percent of the defects caused 80 percent of the problems. Managers generally know that for any project, 20 percent of the work (the initial 10 percent and the final 10 percent) consumes 80 percent of the time and resources. You can apply the 80/20 rule to almost anything, from the science of management to the physical world. For example, during periods of stress or fatigue, the brain can function at over 80 percent of its capacity, with very few, if any, positive results…

Managing the Issue

This explains the general tendency we have to repeat the same things, in the same ways, to produce the same negative results, while utilizing the same system: the brain (hardware) and mind (software). Without a proper upgrade, it is impossible to make that quantum leap and “think outside of the box!”

Pareto's principle, the 80/20 rule, should serve as a daily reminder to focus 80 percent of your time and energy on the 20 percent of your work that is really important. Don't just "work smart," but rather work smart while focusing on the right things.

20/80 Rule for Business

The 20/80 distribution is manifested in several different ways that are relevant to entrepreneurs and business managers. For example:

  • 80 percent of your profits come from 20 percent of your customers
  • 80 percent of your complaints come from 20 percent of your customers
  • 80 percent of your profits come from 20 percent of the time you spend
  • 80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your products
  • 80 percent of your sales are made by 20 percent of your sales staff

Therefore, most businesses can dramatically increase profitability by focusing on the most effective areas and by eliminating, ignoring, automating, delegating, or retraining the rest, as appropriate.

20/80 Rule for Software

In computer science and engineering control theory (such as for electromechanical energy converters), the Pareto principle can be applied to optimization efforts. For example, Microsoft noted that by fixing the top 20 percent of the most reported bugs, 80 percent of the errors and crashes would be eliminated.

20/80 Rule for Occupational Health and Safety

The Pareto principle is used in occupational health and safety to underline the importance of hazard prioritization. Assuming that 20 percent of the hazards will account for 80 percent of the injuries, safety professionals can categorize and target the 20 percent of hazards that cause 80 percent of the injuries or accidents. Alternatively, if hazards are addressed in random order, a safety professional will likely fix 80 percent of the hazards that account for only 20 percent of the injuries.

Aside from ensuring efficient accident prevention practices, the Pareto principle also ensures that hazards are addressed economically, with resources allocated to prevent the most accidents.

This Approach is Very Effective for ADHD

Clients with ADHD have found this method particularly effective for two reasons. First, it reduces distractions that impede productivity. Second, it allows people with ADHD to maximize their ability to hyper-focus. Hyper-focus is the tendency to become absorbed in tasks that are stimulating and rewarding. Though they may have difficulty focusing, organizing, and completing certain mundane tasks, ADHDers frequently are able to focus intently on activities that interest them.

80/20 Strategy for ADHDers to Maximize Their Ability to Hyper-focus

The 80/20 rule states that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts. Conversely, 80 percent of your efforts don’t proportionately impact your company’s bottom line.

Although this rule sounds simple and may appear to have nothing to do with ADHD, its application is one of the most powerful productivity enhancers available and can be particularly effective for entrepreneurs with ADHD.

Because the 80/20 rule is counterintuitive, it is frequently overlooked.

As intelligent people, we pride ourselves on being logical. Therefore, we reasonably deduce that 50 percent of our results come from 50 percent of our efforts. Even worse, we conclude that if we work for twelve hours, it’s because there wasn’t an alternative. It’s hard to imagine that we could actually do more in less time.

Even when working with those who intellectually “understand” the 80/20 rule, I’ve rarely encountered a client who meaningfully applied the rule so as to more efficiently organize the work day.

Why? As a general rule, I’ve found it is easy for people to recognize when someone else is inefficient, yet it can be very hard to recognize this same tendency in ourselves. Accordingly, whether people “understand” the 80/20 rule or not, they tend to complain about not having enough time to get things done.

For Example

Let’s say that you work a typical eight-hour day. If it’s true that you get 80 percent of your results from 20 percent of your efforts, what would happen if you used laser-beam focus for 96 minutes each day (20 percent of eight hours)? To give it a try, get a timer and set it for 96 minutes. Without interruption, focus on your No.1 priority for the day.

Try this as early in the day as possible, before you get bogged down with e-mails, meetings, returning phone calls, or other distractions. Many of my clients told me they were amazed with how much they accomplished. Try it for one week and see how well it works for you.