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The 80/20 Rule - Pareto Principle - Explained

The 80/20 Rule - Pareto Principle - Explained

Definition: What is the 80/20 Principle?

The 80/20 principle states that 80% or more of the value of anything is contained in the 20% or less of its content.

The 80/20 rule expanded its meaning to suggest the following is also true.

  1. 80% or more of the crime in any town, is committed by 20% or less of the population.
  2. 80% or more of the traffic, is on 20% or less of the road network.
  3. 80% or more of the questions, come from 20% or less of the class.
  4. 80% or more of the value of a newspaper, is contained in 20% or less of the content, etc

The 80/20 rule means that 80% or more of the value of something is contained in only 20% of its content.

How to use the Pareto 80/20 principle in your work

You can use the 80/20 rule at work by understanding that 80% of your value to your organisation is contained in only 20% (or less) of what you do.

Putting the same point in another way, 80% of what you do in a weeks' worth of effort, contributes very little value to your organisation.

A much smaller portion of what you do in a week is where you earn your salary.

The assumption is that there are usually between five and nine activities that will account for 80% of your value to your organisation.

If you do these activities well, then this is what you are paid for. All the other things you do, sitting in low value meetings, reading trivial emails, arguing with the manager, complaining about the system; none of this adds any value and could theoretically be dispensed with.

Let us assume that there are about six tasks that constitute the Pareto 20%. Only six tasks that, if you did first and did well, would mean that you could go home early; safe in the knowledge that all the things that your job description demands, has been done, and you have earned your wages.

What would those tasks be? For instance, my list is as follows. It contains only four items.

  1. Website search engine optimisation work.
  2. Sales calls.
  3. Preparation for training.
  4. Delivery of training.

That is my Pareto list. If I do these things well, then I am earning my wages. Every task that takes me off these things is relatively a waste of time; or even counter-productive.

Does the Pareto Principle apply to everything?


What list of items, constitutes your list of Pareto 20% activities? What are the six activities that, if you did first and well, would mean that you could go home safe in the knowledge that you have done all the most valuable things and you have earned your wages?

Once you know your Pareto 20% list, then your mission is to spend as much time as you can on those items and perfect them.

Keep away from doing things that take you off your Pareto 20% list. These other tasks are relatively trivial, and they are not what you are paid to do.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it is to......

Take a card and make a list of six Pareto 20% items. Then stick it to your PC and spend your time primarily doing the things that are on that list.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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