Living smarter, not harder: the power of 80/20

I tend to play this constant balancing act in life – from times of extreme productivity (where satisfaction levels are high and life seems to flow easily and effortlessly, with great results) through to times of feeling like I’m doing all the right things, but not actually achieving big-ticket tasks and living life to my full potential.

And then I remember the 80/20 rule. I take some time to reapply the thinking to my world and Voila! – I’m back on track to optimising my life (and my experience of flow and satisfaction).

So what exactly is the 80/20 rule?

As the numbers so simply state, the 80/20 rule implies that 80 percent of your results in life will come from just 20 percent of your efforts. In its broadest sense, this means that 80 percent of your happiness and fulfillment in life comes from just 20 percent of causes (we’ll return to this thought…).

For a bit more background, here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule and the law of the vital few) states that, for many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.

The principle was suggested by management thinker Joseph M. Juran. It was named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of income in Italy was received by 20% of the Italian population. The assumption is that most of the results in any situation are determined by a small number of causes.

Yet somewhere along the path of life, many of us are taught to associate fulfillment and self-worth with a the-more-time-the-better-the-outcome strategy.

This has lead many of us to working pointlessly just to say we filled the day. I call this buffer activity – where we create so many layers of stuff (buffer) that we lose sight of the core of what we desire to achieve. Here’s some ideas for using the 80/20 rule to dissolve buffer activity and get to the heart of what you most love.

80/20 in Life

Applying the 80/20 rule to your lifestyle means thinking about smarter ways to find greater fulfillment.

What are the activities or moments that create your greatest sense of fulfillment in life?

For example, 80 percent of your social support and enjoyment likely comes from just 20 percent of your connections and family/friend base. The key then is to nurture your relationships with these family members/friends – those who lift you up and foster the greatest sense of happiness.

When applied to health and wellness, 80 percent of your physical gains likely come from just 20 percent of your workouts. Again, the key is thinking about how to best leverage this 20 percent to optimise your results.

80/20 in Love

As humans, two of our biggest priorities are to move towards pleasure and away from pain. When we apply this thinking together with the 80/20 rule in our relationships, we ask ourselves:

What are the activities or moments that create your greatest sense of fulfillment in love?

When Hayden and I explored this question (together with the most magical memories within our relationship) many of them were connected with times of travel, adventure and new projects (our 20 percent). For us, we know that these things are important for creating the most pleasure in our relationship (our 80 percent). We therefore ensure we get to experience these things more often – and we always have our next holiday penciled in.

80/20 in Business

In business, the 80-20 rule is used to identify opportunities and determine which operating factors are most important and should receive the most attention based on an efficient use of resources. Resources should then be allocated to addressing the factors that have the most effect on your bottom-line results.

What are the activities or moments that create that have the biggest impact on organisational goals?

80 percent of sales in your business likely come from just 20 percent of your input/clients. There is huge opportunity when you start to focus on what exists in this 20 percent.

How to apply the 80/20 rule

To apply the 80/20 rule:

1. Pick an area in your life where there is an imbalance in results.
Ensure it is an area where you want to achieve higher levels of satisfaction.

2. Identify the inputs that are creating most of your results.
Determine the percentage of your time focused on this area.

3. Find ways to then increase the time spent on your most leveraged inputs.
Place them as the highest priority in your in your schedule and invest your time in these areas more often.

4. At the same time, find ways to downplay (or outsource) the other elements with lower payoff.
Work smarter TODAY to find greater fulfillment.  That’s what living an 80/20 lifestyle is all about!

For more on applying the 80/20 rule to your world, also see Richard Koch’s book on Living the 80/20 Way.

Happy 80/20 optimisation!

Aleisha xo