The Pareto Principle

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.

Focus

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.

Prioritization

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!

4 thoughts on “The Pareto Principle”

  1. Do you have any kind of ideas for composing articles?

    That’s where I constantly struggle and also I simply end up staring vacant display for very long time.

    1. Hi Fabian, the best ways I’ve found to guard against writer’s block are: (1) Keep an idea journal. Every time you have an idea relative to what you are writing about write it down, you can refer to this if you’re ever stuck. (2) Relax, don’t take your writing too seriously or you end up anxious, but at the same time, you want to make sure the quality is good enough that you are understandable. (3) There is no writer’s block. Each time you sit down and stare at the screen, it means you don’t have an idea, which means you have to go come up with one. I think to be able to write daily about interesting topics you need to earn it. Which means immersing yourself in literature, articles, news, conversations, and writing down your ideas. Having nothing to write about is an indication that you haven’t thought about your idea enough, or maybe at all.

      Hustle it up!

  2. This seems like a helpful life hack to keep in the toolkit! Trying to think about where the 80%/20% applies in the life of a mom.

    1. Maybe 20% of parenting results in 80% of the child’s character? Maybe that 20% of parenting is being a good example?

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