In business and in life, you need every mental and phsyical edge if you hope to succeed.

The problem is, the amount of information you have to sift through, and the actions you can take, are often overwhelming. Then there’s the push for perfection always breathing down your back, put there by the influence of society.


That’s where the power of the “80/20 rule,” also called the Pareto principle, comes in. By simplifying what you’re doing to focus on the essential actions that provide the most results, you’re able to maximize your performance, productivity, and results.

Guessing what the pitcher is going to throw is 80% of being a successful hitter. The other 20% is just execution.

– Hank Aaron

So, what is the 80/20 principle?

Created by Joseph M. Juran and named after Italian sociologist and economist Vilfredo Pareto, the 80/20 principle states that, in most things, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Many natural phenomena have been shown to follow a roughly 80/20 distribution, so the applications are widespread.

In his book, The 80/20 Principle, author Richard Koch illustrates several concrete applications of this, such as the fact that in business, 80% of sales typically come from 20% of the clients.

Other examples include:

  • Marketing & advertising: Common advice for marketers is to find out what advertising method is really hitting it off and to focus on that while ignoring the other avenues that aren’t producing quality results.
  • Strengths and weaknesses: In anything you do, there is a collection of actions you can take. Some of those you’ll be strong at, and you’ll be weaker at others. Focusing solely on your strengths often produces considerably greater results than trying to patch up your weaknesses, or even putting focus into something you’re just not exceptional at (successful entrepreneurs often suggest focusing on your strengths and hiring out to cover your weaknesses).
  • Productivity methods: Different things work for different people. Typically, there are a few productivity methods that will work best for you, and some that people swear by that won’t really be useful to you. Trying a million and one strategies just results in reduced productivity, while focusing on the handful of tricks that work best for you will drive the lion’s share of your output.

The examples are limitless, as is the benefit of knowing about the 80/20 rule and applying it to various situations in your life.

By utilizing this rule, you can focus on what works best, taking your efficiency to another level while simplifying your process all at once.

Putting the 80/20 rule to work

That all sounds great, but how can the 80/20 principle help you succeed?

To make optimal use of the 80/20 rule, you need to find out what those 20% activities are for your craft or situation, and which efforts produce 80% of your results.

If you can figure this out, the rest is simple: double down on those efforts as much as possible and, if you have time for anything else (and only if), invest in the activities that will get you the remaining 20% of your results.