Leadership Laws

80/20

The 80/20 rule sounds like a mathematical formula and in some ways it is, but don’t worry, this isn’t a lesson on statistics.  The rule came from an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, who stated that 80% of the Italian income was earned by 20% of the Italian population.

Years of research has shown the 80/20 rule applies to almost any activity.  What this means is that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.  To put this another way, 20% of your activities equate to 80% of your fulfillment.

To prove this theory, consider your workplace.  Do 20% of your daily activities equate to 80% of your productivity?  Studies show that they probably do.  Think about the business sector as a whole.  The top earning companies in every industry are a small percentage of companies and yet they earn the largest portion of income.  And if you look at your own habits, you may find you spend a majority of your time watching television or participating in other activities instead of investing in your dream.

So how can you use the 80/20 rule to your benefit?  My mentor, John Maxwell talks regularly about the fact that he is only good at a few things.  So, he decided he wouldn’t waste his time doing things he couldn’t do or doesn’t want to do.   He focuses on doing the few good things he does well.  This maximizes his efforts.  It also helps him to improve his skills.

Malcolm Gladwell says that to become an expert, you should spend 10,000 hours perfecting your craft.  If you spread yourself across the board, become a Jack of all trades, master of none, then your efficiency rate decreases and no longer will the 80/20 rule work in your favor.

Take a moment and consider what you love and what you are really good at. Then list out those things that cause you to waste time and decrease your effectiveness.  You may not get it completely right the first time and it may take some time to sort out what your good at doing and what takes a lot of effort.  In fact, I am still revising my strengths and weaknesses on a regular basis to make sure I am using the 80/20 rule to my benefit.

Once you get a good handle on what you’re good at doing and those your not, consider ways to delegate to someone else those tasks that fall in the latter list.  Share duties with your children (Warning: they will complain loudly), spouse, roommate, significant other, co-worker, team members, etc.  Trade your time and skillset for theirs.  If you are able, maybe you need to hire someone to perform those tasks. (My wife and I hired someone to clean our house when we realized how much time we were losing versus the cost of paying someone else to do it.)  You will find that focusing on the 20% of tasks that provide 80% of the benefits will be worthwhile.

Michael