Viflredo Pareto was a famous Italian economist who happened to uncover one of the great productivity secrets there is – the 80/20 Rule.
He discovered it while observing, of all things, the pea yield in his garden. He noticed that not all pea plants yielded the same amount. He estimated that 20% of the pea pods produced 80% of the yield. That also meant that 80% of his pea pods yielded just 20%.
He later applied this same logic to the land distribution in Italy and found that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the population.
In the years since people have applied it to nearly every aspect of life with surprising success. Take clothes, for example, 20% of our clothes are worn 80% of the time. I found this fascinating when I first learned about this concept 15 years ago. I admit I couldn’t believe it. That meant 80% of our clothes are worn just 20% of the time. Naturally, I did what any good skeptic would do, I went upstairs and into my closet to prove it wrong.
Well, blow me down. Turns out it was very close to the truth.
I couldn’t escape the 80/20 rule. Chances are high, you can’t either.
So what does this mean? It means that rather than fight it, we must learn to work with it.
Here are the two most valuable applications of the 80/20 Rule.
1. The Weakest Link
My wife has worked for three multi-billion corporations. One might think corporations that big have got it all worked out. You’d be wrong. Executives spend a lot of time each day putting out fires. Despite all the systems they have in place, there is always a bottleneck. Someone somewhere grinds things to a halt. It’s not uncommon for projects running in the millions to come to a standstill because of one person.
I refer to this as “the weakest link.” The key is learning quickly where those links are; and finding ways to deal with them. Sometimes that means bypassing them entirely, other times it means replacing them. In doing so, you will reduce your stress by half.
While no project goes 100% according to plan, our ability to limit the effect the weakest links have will determine just how quickly and smoothly it can be done.
2. The 1%ers
Productivity expert, and ex-editor of Success Magazine, Darren Hardy, was taught a valuable lesson when he interviewed a very successful centenarian. In preparation for the interview, Hardy had asked him to write down all the lessons and concepts that he attributed to his success.
Hardy had expected him to have a journal filled with all the ideas that had helped build an empire. However, when they met, the only thing the centenarian had with him was a single piece of paper.
What was written at the top of the page was this – “Small causes create big results. Find and focus on the key, small causes.”
We all have a few unique strengths. We also have those things we absolutely suck at. Our goal is to focus our energy on those things that reap the biggest rewards. Most people do simply do what they like or feel comfortable doing, end of story. As a result, the results are small.
We all know what it’s like spending time on tasks that yield very little or things we aren’t very good at. It’s frustrating. Instead, we need to find those 1%ers. Those small things that pay off big.
Let’s face it, there will never be enough time to do it all. That’s a given. There’s just too much to do. Therefore, we must figure out where to invest our most valuable asset, time, into things that have the best ROI.
Personally, I discovered at an early age that I had a talent for education. I started out as an English teacher, but today educate businesses and individuals on how to maximize their time. Same field, different results. If you want to multiply your income, finding your 1%s and going to work on them makes all the difference.
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