The Pareto Principle, or often called “the law of the vital few”, is an observation of nature that things are not distributed equally. There is a small proportion of workers that do all the work. There is a small proportion of customers that generate all the revenue. There is small proportion of athletes that win all the games.
The normal distribution of the Pareto principle is 20/80. For instance, 80% of readers read 20% of the articles. Or 20% of the bugs in a program cause 80% of the crashes. The law of the vital few extends into all area of life, 20% of readers read 80% of the books. 80% of squash balls are hit in 20% of the court.
What can we gain from this insightful observation? How can the Pareto Principle improve our lives? To make use of the Pareto Principle you must couple it with two things, focus and prioritization. The Pareto Principle tells us that some things need to be focused on, while others need to be prioritized.
It’s important to note that, in attempting to utilize the Pareto Principle to improve your life, you must take into careful consideration the fact that this is an observation. This isn’t a law, but an observation of how things are distributed in nature. You can run into problems if, for example, you observe that 80% of points are won in 20% of the court, and you then proceed to hit every single ball to that area of the court, that isn’t going to help you. What will likely happen in that situation is your opponent will start noticing the limited area you are hitting to and adjust accordingly. Thus leading to some rough and confusing losses for you. No, don’t do this, instead, think about how you can utilize this observation without changing it. For instance, if you want to win more matches and you know that 80% of the points are won in 20% of the court, then focus on getting better in those areas, not hitting more balls to that area. Thus, you are changing the quality without affecting the statistic.
If 20% of the exercises lead to 80% of the progress, then focus on those exercises. If 80% of points are won in 20% of the court, focus on getting better in those areas. If 20% of customers are generating 80% of the revenue, then make those customers happy! Remember, don’t try and make those 20% of customers generate 100% of the revenue by shoving more products their way. You want to improve quality, not change the Pareto Principle.
If 20% of the bugs cause 80% of the crashes, then fix those 20% first. If 20% of customers generate 80% of the revenue, get products to those customers first. If 20% of time spent on a project creates 80% of the project, focus on getting the 80% done first, doing so will make you feel like you are making rapid progress, and being 80% done the project you will be more motivated to complete the finishes touches.
Focus and Prioritization, there is a reason why they are so useful. It’s because things aren’t distributed equally. The Pareto Principle is quite an interesting find, and it can in fact make your life better. Someone spending their time fixing the 80% of the code causing 20% of the crashes will inevitably feel like they aren’t being very efficient, thus losing motivation. But the person focusing on the 20% of the code which causes 80% of the crashes, will undoubtedly feel like a progress machine. It is a subtle difference, but it can make your perception of the world, and your overall emotional health, better.
Hustle it up!