The Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle is a general observation that most things in life aren’t distributed evenly. The 80-20 rule or Pareto principle as it is known today came about after an Italian economist Vilfred Pareto, made the observation that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. More generally, it can be viewed this way-that in many cases, 80% of the outcome is determined by 20% of the causes or that a major part of the output comes from a minor portion of the input :). The rule is generally used in management, and Business and marketing, but can be applied to daily life too. While the percentages needn’t always be precise, it certainly is true in most cases that-

20% of input creates 80% of the result.

20% of the activities you do give you 80% of the satisfaction.

By reading 20% of a book, you can sometimes get an idea of 80% of it.

20% of the employees of an organization contribute to 80% of its growth.

20% of the people we know give us 80% of happiness and support.

We use only 20% of what we own on a regular basis (meaning the rest of it just lies around and adds to the clutter :D).

So how can we use the Pareto Principle to streamline our lives?

I found this one hard to accept initially but it is very true- Spending time with 20% of the people in your social circles gives you 80% of satisfaction and happiness-So as a first step, identify these people and keep them close. Certain relations may be doing more harm than good and some may be a waste of time-Chuck these so that you can spend more time with the people you’d like to spend time with :).

Take a look at your desk or cupboard or clothes and you’ll surely notice(I did :D) that you don’t use more than half of it most of the time-Some of the stuff was used in the past and some we keep as we think we may need it in future; Give it some thought and clear the unnecessary clutter.

When it comes to studying, Rather than sitting and reading through 3 full topics purely for the sake of saying you’ve read through them, take a look at ten topics in the first one hour, and read through the two that you like and think you’ll understand.

20% of your activities give you 80% of the contentment-So don’t waste time on pointless stuff, Make sure you like what you’re doing.

Travel light-Take only what you think you will use, don’t give in to all the ‘what if i need this’ questions in your head, you’ll end up carrying a lot of unwanted stuff.

20% of input can help achieve 80% of the results-make sure you work on this part of the input first, and during the more productive parts of your day :).

Remember this 80-20 rule of thumb needn’t always be true, but it holds more often than not. The Pareto principle tells you to focus on the key 20% to achieve 80%, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on achieving 100% (Like one of the examples I read, a bridge can be used as a bridge only when it is 100% complete). It is as important to do things right as it is, to be doing the right things :).
I read about this somewhere and thought I’d write a post on it. 80-20 is a good way of looking at some things-I haven’t thought about them along these lines before. I should now try implementing more of it, wherever possible.

Have you observed the effect of this rule anywhere? Let me know what you think!


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