By: Alcides Alvarado
The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. … Pareto developed both concepts in the context of the distribution of income and wealth among the population. Management consultant Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who noted the 80/20 connection while at the University of Lausanne in 1896, as published in his first paper, “Cours d’économie politique“. Essentially, Pareto showed that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population; Pareto developed the principle by observing that about 20% of the peapods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.
It is a common rule of thumb in business; e.g., “80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.” Mathematically, the 80/20 rule is roughly followed by a power law distribution (also known as a Pareto distribution) for a particular set of parameters, and many natural phenomena have been shown empirically to exhibit such a distribution.
Here are a few examples:
There are many economic conditions, for example the distribution of wealth and resources on planet earth, where a small percentage of the population controls the biggest chunk, which clearly demonstrate the 80/20 Rule. There are business examples such as 20 percent of employees are responsible for 80 percent of a company’s output or 20 percent of customers are responsible for 80 percent of the revenues (or usually even more disparate ratios). These are not hard rules, not every company will be like this and the ratio won’t be exactly 80/20, but chances are if you look at many key metrics in a business there is definitely a minority creating a majority.
At a micro level just by looking at your daily habits you can find plenty of examples where the 80/20 Rule applies. You probably make most of your phone calls to a very small amount of the people you have numbers for. You likely spend a large chunk of your money on few things (perhaps rent, mortgage payments or food). There is a good chance that you spend most of your time with only a few people from the entire pool of people you know.
Here is what you can do to put in practice this principle:
1.Focus On Your Passions, Not Material Possessions
The simple fact is not everyone can be a famous artist. Not everyone will start a million dollar business. I’m not going to tell you stop striving for those goals, I’m working on them myself, however you can work smarter TODAY to find greater fulfillment, and that is what living an 80/20 lifestyle is all about. Best of all, your likelihood of becoming one of the famous artists or entrepreneurs is enhanced if you tweak your life to follow the 80/20 Rule because you tap into what you do best more often.
The first thing you must decide, and this is often the hardest step, is to determine what it is exactly you have passion for. Some people can answer this question easily – “I want to be a famous pianists/singer/poet/author”, “I’d like to run my own real estate agency/coffee shop/advertising company” etc. Others may have a general idea “I don’t want a day job” or “I want to run a business” but the specifics are not sorted yet. If you are not sure what your passions are all I can suggest is test yourself. It’s usually easy to determine what you DON’T like so keep doing that until you find what it is you DO like.
To start living 80/20 today you have only to do one thing – focus your energies on what you enjoy.
Part time work – Part time passion
Many people work a full time job and work after hours on a business or hobby or creative talent. If this is you I suspect your ratio is not 80/20 and probably closer to 20/80. You spend way too much time at a job you don’t like, you are probably not very motivated to do it well so you don’t fall into the vital 80/20 employees for that company, and by the time you get home you are too exhausted to spend time on your passion. You feel like you are getting nowhere fast. This lifestyle is not good for anyone since all the relationships fall into the 80 percent that produce 20 percent of the value. You get very little from it and the people you work for get very little from you.
If this currently describes your situation what you need to do is start changing those ratios. Reduce the amount of time you spend at a job you don’t like and increase the amount of time you spend on your passion. You may say you can’t do that because you need the money but I suspect you don’t really need as much as you think you do (I don’t know your necessities, but I’m sure you can work around them and choose what’s best for you). Most people can live off part time work but choose to work more because they want more things. You may see your peers enjoying material goods which creates desires in you. Your wants start to outweigh your needs, which is probably the biggest pitfall in our modern, advertising driven, materialistic society.
I’m not saying you have to live like a pauper but I know that your real happiness comes from spending time doing things you enjoy the most, not from earning more money. Chasing the dollar for the sake of the dollar does not work. Chasing passion often leads to a greater income because the quality of your output is so much higher. Focus your energy on increasing investment in your core strengths and you will reap rewards.
Drop your working hours to three days per week and spend more time attracting more clients, booking more singing gigs, finding more time to write your novel or to develop your invention or code your software or find investors or whatever it is you really want to do.
For those of you who have no intention of turning your passions into money generating enterprises this is still a good option. If money isn’t your primary concern but your music is, why do you spend so much time working to earn more money than you need? Yes you need to plan for the future and build assets, but clearly for your musical soul it’s not something that needs to take the majority of your time and energy. You can be happy without that mansion by the sea and you never know, if you spent more time on your music the eventual album sales may one day lead to that mansion by the sea. If not, at least you will be a lot happier for following your enthusiasm rather than the dollar.
If financial freedom is important to you and a big part of your plans look at this step as phase one and work to convert your passions into income generating propositions. Grow your business client-by-client, gig-by-gig or sale-by-sale. keep adjusting your work vs passion time ratio as your business grows to support you and you no longer need your job income. Look for 80/20 activities in everything you do and drop any inefficiencies as soon as you can.
2.Don’t Let Fear Stop You
The biggest factor that stops most people from chasing their dreams and working towards their real goals is fear. Fear of the lack of security, the reduced paycheck and of the unknown future keeps people locked into routines that are not satisfying. That path leads to sadness, depression, poor health, low income and ultimately an early death. Who wants that!
Don’t let fear be the reason for not achieving your goals. Stop, reassess your real passions, remove the money equation long enough so you can think without worrying about finances, and make plans to move towards your 80/20 lifestyle activities. Maximize what you are good at. Find the activities that produce the most results for you and your business and put your energy where the big rewards are.
3.Managing Your Life
Time management is really life management, personal management. It is really taking control over the sequence of events. Time management is control over what you do next. And you are always free to choose the task that you will do next. Your ability to choose between the important and the unimportant is the key determinant of your success in life and work.
Effective, productive people discipline themselves to start on the most important task that is before them. They force themselves to eat that frog, whatever it is. As a result, they accomplish vastly more than the average person and are much happier as a result. This should be your way of working as well.
Make a list of all the key goals, activities, projects and responsibilities in your life today. Which of them are, or could be, in the top 10% or 20% of tasks that represent, or could represent, 80% or 90% of your results?
Here is great book that I recommend about this topic that you will learn much more: The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less
Resolve today that you are going to spend more and more of your time working in those few areas that can really make a difference in your life and career and less and less time on lower value activities.