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Pareto principle or 80/20 rule: what is it and what is its usefulness?

Pareto principle or 80/20 rule: what is it and what is its usefulness?

May 10, 2021

On some occasion, you will surely have noticed that certain people manage to do things that look very difficult and also in record time .

So that you will meet some person who, working a few hours a day, earns a lot of money or who obtains academic results by investing little time in the study; or that in addition to studying works with a much higher performance compared to their peers and only devoting two or three hours to the study (not including weekends).

The Pareto Principle: a trick to understand success and failure

How do they do it? What is the trick? You must know one thing: you can also do the same as them, in what way ?, by applying the Pareto Principle .


The name of this method is due to Vilfredo Pareto, economist and sociologist of the 20th century. In Italy, at that time, 20% of the population hoarded 80% of the economic capital. This same phenomenon can be extrapolated, at present, to the rest of the world, however the pattern remains the same: few monopolize much while the majority has very little .

An example to understand the 80/20 rule

I will explain my personal experience applying this system. Previously, I spent a huge amount of time at work and the only downside was not only the hours invested, but also the effort involved. It could be said that he was the one who arrived first at the office and the last one left, I had no choice but to dedicate the night and weekends to work.


Despite my great daily effort, I did not stand out in terms of merit. The merit was obtained by others who apparently worked much less . This caused me a huge frustration, I said to myself that I was not trying hard enough, but even though I tried harder, if anything, the same thing happened, just like in the myth of Sisyphus, this carried a rock to the top of the mountain so that almost on arrival, it will roll down having to go back up every day one after another.

At that moment I realized that there was something that was not working . It could not be that using all that time and effort did not achieve the same achievements as other colleagues, even being equally intelligent. I thought, there is something that I have to change, and that's how it was, I started to look at this group of people. I began to notice how they did things and compare them with the way I did them. These people did only what they should, but not only this, but they also did it as they should. They did things well, efficiently.


However, I did it just the other way, I exceeded what I had to do and consequently what I had to do was not done as I should . For example, when making a report, he added innumerable details and adorned it so that it was pleasant to read. I noticed that this group of people did just the opposite, they stuck to writing down the strictly necessary without ornaments or frills in a way that saved effort and time.

I would like to continue with many more examples but this way it would never end. However, I do want to add that by applying the Pareto Principle my situation changed 180 degrees . In this way I entered this group of privileged. The Pareto Principle is not applicable exclusively to the workplace but also serves in studies and many other areas of our lives.

What exactly is the Pareto Principle?

This principle is also known as the "principle of the parsimony factor" or the "80/20 rule". It is not that the 80/20 rule applies on all occasions, sometimes it can vary to 90/10 or 70/30 ... In any case, we will take the 80/20 reference.

This is: 20% of what you use generates 80% of what you get and in the opposite direction, 80% of what you invest generates only 20%.

For example: with my neighbors in my neighborhood I played basketball, I took it very seriously, I wanted to be the best at playing, I trained very hard, I even spent extra hours alone. However, there were others who marked baskets and obtained success. I tried hard, I ran without stopping, I stole balls and made master passes, I was not a bad player but on the contrary, I would say that my level went beyond that of a neighborhood team. But in spite of everything, there were others who received ovations and always based on the many marked.

It happened that 80% of what I did when preparing was related exclusively to possession of the ball, assistance to teammates and fitness. And what did he get? then 20% of success. Why? Well, because I did not do baskets .

The difference between the gregarious personality and the leader

How did that person or couple do it to lead the team and take their laurels? They did not run too much and they did not try 120% like me when they trained. However, they made baskets and, in short, it was the score on the scoreboard that determines the victory in a competition. I do not come to refer to being an egoist and to monopolize the ball although this supposes to let escape a chance of basket for not wanting to pass the ball. What I want to say is I did not concentrate on what produced the results that I wanted . Almost always I thought about making good passes but not me being the one who scored the basket, and although making good passes is not a bad thing, I did not get what I wanted.

To finish I will say that In the last seasons that I played, I had a lot more fun than in all the previous seasons and I also became the player who scored the most goals . Not because I was the best of all but because I thought about making baskets and concentrated my effort on it. Not that he scored them all, but he did score a good number of points during each game. I did not focus on running more than the others or on making the most of passes but simply on looking for good positions to score. If I saw an opportunity I would go for it to the fullest. And so, running less, making fewer passes and getting much less tired, I got better results.

Daily examples of the 80/20 principle

  • You use only 20% of the functions of your smartphone, the remaining 80% is but you do not use it.
  • You invest 80% in surfing the Internet and you get 20% of the information that interests you or that you did not know about. Only 20% of your dedicated time is useful.
  • You only eat sweets before training because you think it is the fastest way to ingest carbohydrates and therefore energy, but after a short time this energy has disappeared, you feel tired and you must go back to eating sweets. According to the Pareto Principle, 80% of the cupcakes you eat only gives you 20% of the energy you need (80/20).
  • You invest 80% of your salary in buying new clothes and 20% of your wardrobe is what you use to get dressed.
  • When you drink a beer, 20% of what you drink is good for something, the remaining 80% is discarded by your body. Surely it would be better to apply a 95/5 ratio.

Taking advantage of the Pareto Principle in your studies

  • If meeting with the teacher, you can solve doubts at the same time that you make yourself known, showing interest in the subject ... Why are you not going to do it?
  • If in class you are recommended 10 books from which you can obtain the information necessary to obtain the maximum grade in a subject, but you know that in two of them you will find all the information to pass this subject, concentrate only on these two and in the case that you over time use it in others.
  • If you spend 4 hours running and doing weights every week, and with that you have enough to keep you fit and feel agile. Why not do it instead of joining the gym, going to the pool and taking vitamin complexes? Make yourself the idea that in addition to the time you spend in the gym and pool, you are investing a lot of time in going and then returning, this means 8 hours a week. This is what we mean.
  • 80% of the exam grade depends on a written text that you must submit, and 20% of the grade results from the four books recommended in the bibliography of the subject. Do not focus your efforts so much on books and dedicate yourself more to the document.
  • If you are going to invest your money in a garment that surely, for whatever reason, you will almost never use, why invest your money in this way?

How to apply this maxim adequately?

As we have seen, the Pareto Principle is somewhat similar to the law of least effort. It allows us to focus our efforts on what is really productive; it helps us optimize our time and our resources.

There they go three extra tips to correctly apply this principle :

  • Watch carefully how others do it to get those excellent results.
  • Observe in your interior, look at what gives you a good result, focus your efforts on this point and dispense with everything else.
  • Practice! Put into practice that which works for others and in the same way do the same with what works for you.

Now you just have to wait for the results to arrive by themselves applying this 80/20 rule!


The 80-20 Rule Explained (Pareto Principle) (May 2021).


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