Achieve More With Less In Life Using 80/20 Principle

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80/20 principle

This is part 1 of a 3-part series on achieving more with less in your life using the 80/20 principle.

“Conventional wisdom is not to put all of your eggs in one basket. 80/20 wisdom is to choose a basket carefully, load all your eggs into it, and then watch it like a hawk.” – Richard Koch, The 80/20 Principle


Today, I am going to share with you the power of applying the 80/20 principle to your life. Even though I initially applied it at work, I have come to witness its presence in virtually all aspects of life (relationships, goal achievement, emotions, time management, etc) and how much value it can bring to all of us through its application.

So, what is the 80/20 Principle?

Imagine you are the CEO of a company and you have a sales force of 100 people. In a world where everything is equal and the same, you will naturally assume that each person contributes to your sales proportionately; i.e. 20% of the employees contribute to 20% of the sales, 50% contribute to 50% sales, and so on.

However, what if instead of a 1-1 relationship, you found out 80% of your sales is actually contributed by 20% of your staff?

What the 80-20 Principle Is About

80-20 chart

This is what the 80/20 rule is about – it says that 80% of the effects in situations are from 20% of the causes. This was first discovered by Pareto, an Italian Economist who found that 20% of people in Italy controls 80% of the wealth and land. 80/20 is also known as the ‘Pareto Principle’ or ‘Principle of Least Effort’.

Examples of 80/20 Principle in Action

Below are just a few of the tens of thousands of examples where 80/20 principle can be observed:

  • Population: 80% (25.8 million out of 32.3 million) of the population in England is contributed by 20% (53 out of 263) of its cities
  • Resource Consumption: 70% of the world’s energy, 75% of its metals, and 85% of its timber are consumed by 20% of the world’s countries (with far fewer than 20 percent of the world’s population)
  • Natural Resources: 80% of Earth’s mineral wealth is produced by far less than 20% of the Earth’s surface
  • Wealth: 85% of the total global assets is accounted for by 10% of adults (Source: Guardian)
  • Crimes: 80% of crimes is committed by 20% of the criminals
  • Books: 80% of the value in a book can be gleaned from 20% of its content
  • Accidents: Majority of road accidents is by 20% of the motorists
  • Clothes: Majority of the times you wear 20% of the clothes in your wardrobe
  • Divorces: Majority of the divorces is by 20% of married individuals
  • Weather: 80% of the rain is by fewer than 20% of clouds
  • Consumption: Majority of the world’s consumption is on a small portion of the products (think Coca Cola, Microsoft, Ipod, etc)
  • Daily Life: Majority of the times you eat out, you dine at the same 20% of the restaurants you know
  • Smoking: Majority of the cigarette consumption is by 20% of the smokers (are you one of them?)
  • Relationships: 80% of the value you get from relationships is from 20% of the people you know
  • Goal achievement: 80% of the effects and value you get in goal pursuit will be from 20% of the things you did (the key pillars of success)

….And the list goes on.

Applying 80/20 Principle into Our Life

However, people have quickly found the ubiquity of this law to practically all aspects of our life. Today, the rule has come to represent that a large majority of effects are due to a small portion of causes, rather than specific emphasis on 80/20 equation. 80/20 is really synonymous with two themes, which Richard Koch shared in Living the 80/20 Way as well:


1. Focus: Understanding that Less is More

80/20 is about being able to see the big picture, identifying the 20% activities that truly matters and focusing on them. Focusing on the 20% activities that are most important lets you achieve more out of your life, rather than focusing your energy on everything – thus, ‘Less is More‘. This is the same as being ‘effective‘ which I shared in ‘Become the Master of Your Time‘.

Some aspects of ‘Less is More’ include: How can you remove the tasks that do not contribute as much to the situation? How can you reduce your energy in activities that do not bring you as much value? How can you focus your attention instead to cultivate and expand upon activities which make you happier, better off, more abundant (not just in financial terms)?

2. Progress: Achieving More with Less

The current mentality of our society is a ‘More with More’ mindset. Everyday, we straddle ourselves across multiple responsibilities, thinking that it is all for the better good. We stretch ourselves to fit all the demands that come in from all sides of our life. But are we really getting more results by putting in more effort? Or is it the same or even less results? At the end of the day, we end up becoming more hagged, more jaded, more disillusioned. Our health wanes, our social life suffers, and all additional money we earn goes into more bills and loans. For the investment of energy we are putting in, we do not seem to be quite well receiving the equivalent level of fulfillment in return.

80/20 allows you to get the most out of living. When you scale back on the activities that are not important, you end up getting more energy which you can invest back in what’s important. When you cut away tasks that are zapping your time with no seeming return, you have more time for what matters to you.

In the end, 80/20 allows you to achieve more results, with less energy. It gives you extraordinary results with little action. With 80/20, we can achieve more with less. In the next part, we will discuss the 6 common misconceptions people have on the 80/20 principle and why why you should not resist the principle.

This is part-1 of a 3-part series on achieving more with less in your life using the 80/20 principle.

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