The 80/20 Rule of Time Management: The Pareto Principle


“Doing the right things is more important than doing things right”

Randy Pausch, Time Management Lecture


Vilfredo Pareto(1848-1923) was an Italian economist who in 1906, observed that 20% of the people in Italy owned 80% of the country’s wealth.

Over a period of time this observation became known as the Pareto Principle. Pareto’s theory of predictable imbalance has since been applied to almost every aspect of modern life including ‘time management’. Given a chance, it can make a difference in yours.


Recognizing your 20 percent

Simply put, the 80/20 rule states that the relationship between input and output is rarely, if ever, balanced. When applied to work, it means that approximately 20 percent of your efforts produce 80 percent of the results. Learning to recognize and then focus on that 20 percent is the key to making the most effective use of your time.

80 percent or 20 percent?

Gain more control over your time and your work by taking one small step right now. Simply begin to look for the signs that will tell you whether you’re in your 20 percent or your 80 percent. This increased awareness of what’s vital may be all you really need to start using your time more effectively.

Here are some signs that will help you to recognize whether you’re spending your time as you should:

You’re in your 80 percent if the following statements ring true:

  • You’re working on tasks other people want you to, but you have no investment in them.
  • You’re frequently working on tasks labeled “urgent.”
  • You’re spending time on tasks you are not usually good at doing.
  • Activities are taking a lot longer than you expected.
  • You find yourself complaining all the time.

You’re in your 20 percent if:

  • You’re engaged in activities that advance your overall purpose in life (assuming you know what that is —and you should!).
  • You’re doing things you have always wanted to do or that make you feel good about yourself.
  • You’re working on tasks you don’t like, but you’re doing them knowing they relate to the bigger picture.
  • You’re hiring people to do the tasks you are not good at or don’t like doing.
  • You’re smiling.
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