The Pareto Principle is one of those weird statistical things that boggles the mind. It’s also called the 80/20 Rule and it essentially says that 20% of your actions produce 80% of the results. So, in business 20% of your customers give you 80% of your revenue. Or 20% of your product takes up 80% of your warehouse space. Or, most importantly, 20% of your time produces 80% of your results.

In 1906, an Italian man (Vilfredo Pareto) discovered that 20% of Italians owned 80% of the country’s land. In the 1940s Dr. Joseph Juran applied Pareto’s mathematical formula to business and found a strikingly similar correlation between the “vital few and trivial many”. The rule stuck. Though you can never have less than 100%, a certain part of your whole will do the majority of your work, seemingly regardless of what type of work it is.

How can we apply this to our lives today? A “vital few and trivial many” is an outmoded idea, especially in the context of such an empowering idea as the Pareto Principle. It implies that a certain section of the population (if we’re talking about workers) is irrevocably lost or ineffective. I want to focus on the side of the coin that says if you find the 20% that does the most for you and focus your time and energy on it, you will see improved results.

Thinking about the 80/20 rule is incredibly effective in terms of productivity. When we think about all the things we do during a typical day, and then start to identify which tasks do the most work for us, we are taking big steps in terms of setting priorities. Think of it as building a pyramid for yourself wherein the bottom, the foundation, is made up of your most important tasks—the 20%, with the rest of your daily tasks falling in line in descending importance, with the tippy top being things you can do when everything else is done and you have a little luxury time.

Think about this pyramid literally. A day where the tasks that make up the foundation of your pyramid get neglected will prove catastrophic for your productivity. Your success is ultimately grounded in initial success in a small number of key areas. What are they? If you fail to identify, or neglect these areas, the rest of your pyramid will come crashing down, and with it any likelihood of your dreams coming to fruition.

Draw your pyramid on a piece of paper. Identify which tasks should occupy what section of your pyramid. Fold this paper up and keep it with you at all times. You can alter the order and placement of tasks as you go throughout your days and weeks and start to discover what the most beneficial behaviors for your end goals are. If you don’t have clear goals in mind yet, start there! There’s no sense looking for improved results if you don’t know what ends you’re seeking them for.

Do you have any questions or comments for me on the Pareto Principle or anything else? Get in touch at or @DoubledareCoach on Twitter.

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