Many people think that being successful is about working harder. Actually that’s not true. The secret is to work smarter.
Think about it this way. If you look at your sales, the majority of your sales probably come from a few clients (or a few sales staff). On the other hand, there are also a few people or clients that cause the majority of your problems!
This is the 80/20 rule of productivity. Twenty percent of your staff will cause 80% of your problems, but another 20% of your staff will provide 80% of your production. Eighty percent of decisions come from 20% of meeting time. And roughly 80% of your biggest business losses are caused by just 20% of your problems.
1. What is the 80/20 Rule?
The 80/20 Rule simply means that for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. It is known by other names—the Pareto Principle, the law of the vital few and trivial many, and the principle of least effort. Business management thinker Joseph M. Juran thought of the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 20% of the Italian population owned 80% of the country’s wealth. Pareto’s Principle can be applied to many things—from quality control and computer science to more mundane matters like the clothes you wear (20% of your favored clothes are worn 80% of the time) and your social life (you spend 80% of the time with 20% of your acquaintances). It is particularly useful in business and management because it helps you achieve more by doing less.
2. Using the 80/20 Rule in your Business
Look at your sales figures. Let’s say 80% of sales time is spent on 20% of the customers. But who are those customers? You may be spending the majority of your time on accounts that don’t generate significant income.
Look at your business opportunities. If we assume that 80% of your future business comes from 20% of your customers, or that 80% of your growth comes from 20% of your products, then go and write down what areas have the most potential.
If you have a sales team or have an affiliate program, look at how much profit each person brings. Focus on the 20% who give you 80% of your income and reward them. In advertising, identify the few ads that really pull and the few places where you run them that are most effective. Polish your winning ads and run them in those few places that give you the best results.
This is especially important for business start ups where resources are very limited. It’s okay if you have a small budget—just spend it on what matters most!
3. Using the 80/20 Rule for Time Management
Say you have a long to-do list for the day—identify and focus on the 20% that matters which will produce 80% of your desired results. Only 20% of tasks really matter anyway, but we’re so busy doing everything that time runs out on the vital few activities that lead to the greatest results. If something in your schedule should get cut out, make sure it’s not part of that 20%. A great advantage of this is that you’ll be more productive without feeling harassed.
4. Using the 80/20 Rule for Job-hunting
Chances are, 80% of what you’re doing to find a new job is producing only 20% of your results. Much time is wasted and you won’t get hired sooner. Job seekers spend 80% of their time looking for job postings online and newspaper ads, but it’s better to spend 80% of your time expanding your network–talking to friends, colleagues, family, and new contacts about the job you’re seeking and what you can offer.
The numbers don’t have to be 80/20, but the point is that most things in life are not distributed evenly—some contribute more than others. The Pareto Principle is an observation and a helpful technique, but it’s not a law of nature. Richard Koch, author of the 80/20 Principle, notes, ‘The few things that work fantastically well should be identified, cultivated, nurtured, and multiplied.’ With 80/20 thinking, you can save time and energy and yet be able to accomplish a lot.