What is the 20% of what you do, that accounts for 80% of your results?
As we enter a new year, it looks like being another challenging time for self-employed small business owners and the wider economy.
So, we are kicking off this new year with a series on ‘Business Hacks’ you can use to streamline processes and give you an edge over your competitors.
We start with the 80-20 rule: a powerful business productivity hack that can help small business owners focus on essential tasks and prioritize efforts to get the most out of your valuable time.
In this article we will discuss why the 80/20 rule is so important and how you can use it to maximize your productivity.
The 80-20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Principle (named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto), is a popular concept advocating that roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. In other words, it suggests that a small percentage of ’causes’ overwhelmingly affect results.
In the late 19th century, Vilfredo Pareto observed that 20% of the people in Italy owned 80% of the wealth. On further study, he discovered that it was the same in most countries. Believe it or not, he then realised that 80% of the peas from his garden came from 20% of the pea pods.
It was actually a psychologist named Dr Joseph Juran who developed this idea further in the mid-20th century and suggested it is a “universal principle” that can also be applied to business management. He named it ‘The Pareto Principle’.
This idea is helpful because it can help you identify which initiatives to prioritize to make the most impact. Mathematically, the rule is roughly described by a power law distribution (also known as a pareto distribution). Put simply, the rule states that 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results.
Some view the Pareto Principle with an amount of skepticism as they believe it is more likely the result of statistical manipulation than a universal law. Indeed, it is not an exact mathematical law. Instead, it observes how certain things tend to be distributed and provides an approximate guideline.
It doesn’t apply to everything, and the numbers are not exact. For example, it might be 75-25 or 82-18, or similar. It has been called the 80-20 rule because it is a catchy, descriptive, and reasonably accurate phrase.
In my experience of over 30 years in business, the concept generally holds true.
The concept is essential to understand as it can help you identify which initiatives to prioritize and give you the most bang for your buck. As a self-employed business owner, this is critical because of the overwhelming demands on your time, as it enables you to focus your energy and resources on the activities that will significantly impact your desired outcomes and increase your efficiency. You can also use it to identify areas where you can optimize or streamline processes to maximize your results.
Identifying the 20% of activities that lead to the most successful outcomes allows you to focus your efforts on the activities that will have the most significant benefit and help you reach your goals more quickly. For example, Joseph Juran observed that 20% of production methods caused 80% of the problems, and that quality could be improved by focusing on eliminating or reducing the 20% causing the problems. Another example is that 80% of sales often come from 20% of customers. So, if a company wants to increase sales, it should focus on the top 20% of its customers who generate 80% of its revenue. By targeting these high-value customers, perhaps with loyalty programs or other incentives, the company can maximize its profits.
You can also apply the Pareto Principle to your personal productivity. For example, if you want to get more done in a day, you should focus on the 20% of tasks that will generate 80% of the results. By prioritizing these tasks, you can make the most efficient use of your time. For example, if you have a list of 10 tasks to complete, chances are that 2 of them will account for 80% of the results.
By spending your time and energy on the most productive activities, you will achieve better results with less effort.
The 80/20 principle can also be a powerful tool for improving your life. It can help you focus on the few activities that will have the most impact and allow you to achieve better results with less effort.
For example, if you want to get in shape, you don’t need to spend hours at the gym every day. Instead, you can get 80% of the benefits from just 20% of the effort by working out for a short time each day and eating healthy most of the time.
You can apply the Pareto Principle to almost any area of your life, from your career to your relationships. It can help you focus on what’s important and make the most of your time and resources.
The 80-20 rule is a powerful principle you can apply to many areas of life, and it’s easy to find examples of it in action. Here are some business examples taken from an article by The Langel Firm:
The Pareto Principle is a potent tool for business owners to use. By focusing on the 20% of activities that will give you 80% of your results, you can become more efficient and maximize your profits.
To implement the 80/20 rule in business, you need to identify the 20% of activities that will bring in the most return on investment (ROI). This includes optimizing resources, identifying key growth areas, and prioritizing tasks in all areas including sales and marketing, product fulfillment, customer service and administration. Once you have recognized these activities, you can focus your time and resources on them to drive better results.
You can also use the 80/20 rule to help identify potential areas of improvement in your business processes. By understanding which activities yield the most results, you can focus on improving those activities to drive even better results. With a consistent focus on the 20% of activities that will produce 80% of your desired results, you can maximize your profits and reach your goals faster.
The 80/20 principle offers a powerful way to optimize your work and maximize your results. By harnessing the power of this rule in your life, you can make better decisions and reach your goals faster. But implementation is not always easy. Nevertheless, some strategies can help you maximize your results and use the rule to its fullest potential.
One way to do this is by focusing on your most important activities. You should identify the few tasks that will have the greatest impact and prioritize those. This will help you avoid distractions and focus on the most critical tasks.
Another strategy is to break down complex tasks into smaller chunks. This can help you make progress on tasks that seem overwhelming and intimidating. You can also create systems and processes that will make it easier to complete tasks more efficiently.
Finally, measuring your results is essential to determine whether you’re getting the desired outcome. This will help you identify what is working and what needs to be adjusted. By tracking your progress and making necessary improvements, you can ensure that you’re utilizing the concept most effectively.
The 80/20 rule is a helpful tool for understanding how to make the most of your resources, but it’s important to remember that, like any tool, it has both advantages and disadvantages.
On the plus side, the concept can help you identify where to focus your efforts to get the most out of your time and resources. It can also help you prioritize tasks and activities so that you’re able to get the most out of your productivity.
On the other hand, there are some drawbacks. For example, it doesn’t consider that some tasks are more complex than others and require more intensive effort to complete. It can lead to a lack of balance in your life if you focus solely on the top 20% of tasks and ignore the bottom 80%.
Ultimately, it can be a powerful tool for understanding how to make the most of your time and resources. However, it’s important to remember that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution and should be used in conjunction with other strategies and approaches.
A common misconception is that the principle is a formula for success. That is not the case. It is simply an observation about how certain things tend to be distributed, and can be used as a guideline for understanding how to make the most of your resources. However, it is not a guarantee of success and should be used in conjunction with other strategies.
The 80/20 rule is a powerful productivity tool that can help you maximize your results with minimal effort. By focusing on the 20% of activities with the most considerable impact, you can make the most of your time, resources, and energy. This can be especially beneficial in small businesses where resources are limited, and results are key. It can also be a great way to achieve better results in your personal life, as it can help you prioritize the most important activities. The 80/20 rule can help you make the most of your efforts and get the best outcomes possible with the right strategies.
This article is part of our series on Business Hacks. Other articles in this series include:
How to Transform Your Business With 90-Day Goals
Unique Selling Proposition: Why Your Small Business Must Have One
Online Hacks for Local Businesses
Marketing Magic: Use a Marketing Calendar to Boost Your Results
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Ed Carey, AMG, LLC