Five Steps to Apply the 80/20 Rule to Life

Five Steps to Apply the 80/20 Rule to Life

What is the 80/20 rule?

The 80/20 Rule, or the Pareto Principle, states that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes.

Where did the 80/20 rule come from?

The Pareto Principle was coined by business management consultant Joseph Juran.  He named it after famous economist Vilfredo Pareto who noted that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by just 20% of the population.  Juran applied the notion to business management by noting that 80% of sales comes from 20% of clients. 

This means for every five clients you have, that you are spending equal time on, one provides four times as much revenue as the other four combined!

Using this principle a client service firm might increase revenue without increasing workload by identifying those top 20% of clients, dropping the other 80% and finding more clients like the top 20%. 

One client produces four time as much as the rest combined!

Why the 80/20 rule?

I bet you aren’t in a client service firm though.  So why would you care?

Because the 80/20 concept can apply to many cases, and specifically to improving aspects of our lives.  

Like most time and life management advice, it is not an exact science.  The value is in considering the relative contribution of various things to an overall goal. Stating 20% of something gives 80% of what is wanted makes you start to think about the relationship between the two things and how to become more efficient.  We create awareness to help us focus on what’s important. 

Let’s look at some examples:


Do you wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time?  Why?  Do you not like your other 80% of clothes?  Do you need to keep them?  Do you need to be more like Steve Jobs and only buy the things you know you like to wear?  Would having a closet filled only with clothes you actually wear be worth the effort of purging your closet?

Do you spend 80% of your time in 20% of the rooms in your house?  Should you downsize?


Do you make the same 20% of your recipes for 80% of your dinners?  Do you eat the same 20% of types of food 80% of the time?  In this case, you might want to double down on the healthiness of those recipes.  If they are your go to foods, are they the healthiest they could be?  Is there a way to add healthier foods into your 20% standbys?


Do you spend 80% of your time with 20% of the people you know?  Why?  Are they the people that you get the most enjoyment being with?  Do they energize you?  Should you focus on finding more people like them?

Do the things with the greatest impact on what you want to achieve.

Five Steps to apply the 80/20 rule to life

With just a few simple steps you can improve your life using the 80/20 rule:

  1. Identify an area in your life that feels overwhelming or frustrating.
  2. List the tasks, things, people involved in that area.
  3. Identify the 20%.  Note which tasks, things, people that are contributing to the 80% of progress or enjoyment.
  4. Schedule time for those 20%.  Put the tasks on your schedule first, make appointments to spend time with those people.
  5. Delegate or eliminate the 80% as much as possible.  What you can’t delegate or eliminate should be scheduled only during periods of low energy or perhaps combined with other things.

Examples of 80/20 application

Are you still not quite clear on how this works?  Here are two examples from my life:

Blog post writing

I’m new to this whole blog post writing thing.  I actually thought I was okay at writing until I started this blog and I had to come up with things to say.  The posts were taking FOREVER,  between writing, editing, rewriting, coming up with images, sharing on social media, etc.  Worse was that by the time I hit publish my thoughts on the topic were so jumbled that I wasn’t sure if what I wanted to say was actually what you would get out of it.  I knew I needed to examine my whole blog post process.

Since the whole point of this blog is to actually be helpful, I knew that really clarifying my thoughts BEFORE I started to write was vital.  So my 20% was writing the outline.  Once I started dedicating specific outline time – well before my writing time – in my schedule for each blog post, everything became easier.  Other parts of the blog post process like image creation are now scheduled in my week all on the same day.  By the time I hit image making day I have a list of images I want to create for each blog post and I just crank through them!

Clean house

If you’ve read much of what I write you know that cleaning is my least favorite household chore.  But I really like having a clean house!  I had a good long think about what made me most feel like I had a clean house.  These 20% areas are clean kitchen, clean bathrooms and clean floors.  I naturally keep the kitchen clean every day.  On cleaning day, I start with bathrooms and floors.  The 80% things like dusting and windows and woodwork and porch cobwebs happen if I have a little extra time (i.e. not very often).  All cleaning is combined with listening to an audiobook or podcast.

Where will you apply the 80/20 rule?

Are you liking how everything is going in your life right now?  Are there some areas where you could try the 80/20 rule to reduce some frustration or overwhelm?  Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Thanks for your blog, nice to read. Do not stop.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! Glad you liked it.

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