Have You Got Your 80/20 Focus Right..?

"Pareto Principle", "Gordon Bryan",
Written by gordino

I’m looking at another of my quote images for this article, and this time around I had to get my slide rule out…

“Are you spending 80% of your time on ‘stuff’ that only has 20% impact? Or not.”

Since I created the image to cover the 80/20 rule, I thought I’d split the image 80/20. I *think* I got it right!

Ah, the old 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle. That was coined by a management consultant called Joseph Juran, who named it after an economist called Vilfredo Pareto, who had noted that 80% of the wealth in his native Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

When researching this article, I was interested to see that he also noted in his garden that 20% of the pea pods contained 80% of the peas! That made me giggle (but only around 20%)

It’s taken hold as a principle, because it’s easy to remember, and easy to understand – but (and it’s big ‘but’) – because it started via an economist and management consultant, it is often dismissed as no more than mumbo jumbo, management-speak jargon of the worst kind.

This is compounded by its use in just the kind of management presentation that turns people off instead of engaging them, and the principle is left to be ridiculed and laughed at.

That’s a shame, because the value to be gained from the message is *huge!*

It can be seen in pretty much any walk of life. You can see it in people at the top of their field, and you can see it in people at the bottom. You can see it in successful people, just as you can see it in ‘failures’.

I can see it in my life, and it’s there to be seen in your life too – if you look!

So, since I’ve been banging on about powerful the principle is, let’s take a closer look at how it works, and how you can use it to your own advantage…

The Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule, says that 80% of the results come from 20% of the work. That also means that 80% of the work only produces 20% of the results.

That’s the key part for me, which is why I phrased it the image as 80% of your ‘time‘ only producing 20% ‘impact.’

Answering this question will need you to look at a couple of key drivers in your life’s results and direction –

1. The impact. If you’re going to be analysing the impact of how you spend your time, you need to know what has meaning for you, and what doesn’t. If you have a set goal, and a plan to work towards it, you’ll know what has impact, because impact means taking action on the immediate next step in front of you. You can gauge where you are and what you do against where you want to be.

2. The time. The 2nd part of answering this question needs you to know how you *are* spending your time. You have the same 24 hours in the day as everyone else in the world. No-one has any more, no-one! I have no idea how you spend your 24 hours, do you?

Does your time drift by, filled with ‘nothingness’, trivialities which don’t move you forward at all. Or more than that, do you not even know what moving you forward means or looks like?

Once you’ve answered these question, it can change everything, if you decide to let it.

"Pareto Principle", "Gordon Bryan",

If you come to the conclusion that you have your goals set, so you know what it means to have impact towards them, and in turn you think you are spending enough time on the ‘right’ actions, then great! Onwards and upwards! I’m not saying no-one does this, I fact quite the opposite – many people fall into this category, and they are the ones moving forwards, whatever ‘forwards’ means to them individually.

If you think that you’re not moving forwards, that you are on the wrong side of the Pareto Principle, then you are at a crossroads, and it’s up to you which way you go…

You can make the conscious decision to carry on as you are, frittering away 80% of your time on low 20% impact activity. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, as long as you accept that’s it’s your choice, and take responsibility for that choice.

Or, you could make the decision to switch, to get the principle working for you.

You can look at your results and direction, and decide to change it. You do this by working out where you want to go, and then working out what you need to be doing to get there. Then, you decide to spend more time on the things that matter.

For this to work, for you to make the swing, you’ll need to free up time for the ‘impact’ actions, by stopping the ‘non impact’ time wasters. This may sound a real wrench, and indeed it can be awkward to change long-standing habits, but it could as simple as reducing TV watching time, and reducing time spent in the social media vacuum.

Oh, the internet, and social media in particular, have become the single biggest time suckers in society today. This is where huge chunks of the non impact time can be clawed back to be made better use of.

Am I saying you should stop going online at all?

Oh no, not at all, but you can *ration* it. Literally you can set blocks of time, using a timer that we all have on most devices. Doing this means that even your social media time will become more focused, and because you’re spending less of it, your time to do other things increases.

The principle is a game changer, and it can be surprisingly simple to put it to work in your favour, rather than against you as it currently may be.

So, look to your results, your direction, and I ask again – are you spending 80% of your time on ‘stuff’ that only had 20% impact? Or not!

Ok, as ever I’d love to hear what you think – do leave a comment!

‘Til Next Time,
Health & Happiness,
P.S. If you feel you’d like you move more towards the impact time, and you’d like a hand, go and grab my free 8 step goal achievement formula, it’ll definitely help!

Do leave a comment!

Leave a Comment


  • Hi Gordon,
    Thank you for another great post. What I notice is that people know about the power 80/20 but don’t use it. It seems it’s easier to create long to-do lists and cross the majority of tasks that accomplish one meaningful thing.

    • Thanks Irena,
      Yes, you make a powerful point there, about the perception that a long to-do list *must* have more value than just one thing, when it’s that one thing that can have all the impact.