boost productivity with the pareto principle

Are you looking to ramp up your productivity and efficiently tackle that expansive to-do list? One principle you should consider adopting is the Pareto Principle, also referred to as the 80/20 rule.

In today’s blog post, we’re covering the basics of the Pareto Principle and exploring a few ways you can apply it to your everyday life.

What is the Pareto Principle?

The Pareto Principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule, law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity, is one of the most reputable time management concepts.

The principle states that 20 percent of all activities account for 80 percent of results. However, it’s important to note that the Pareto Principle is not a mathematical law set in stone. It’s a concept.

The key takeaway from the 80/20 rule is that approximately 20 percent of your actions or most productive tasks will lead to the most success. This concept can be observed in economics, as well as business, and can be applied to both your professional and personal life.

The Idea Behind the 80/20 Rule

The Pareto Principle was developed back in 1896 by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto.

It all began when Pareto observed that only 20 percent of his pea plants yielded 80 percent of the peas.  Based on this observation, the economist then went on to calculate that 20 percent of the people in Italy owned 80 percent of the country’s wealth. Following this discovery, Pareto surveyed several other countries and found that this principle also applied abroad.

The term Pareto Principle though was not coined by Pareto, but by psychologist Joseph Juran. During the 1950s, Juran began applying Pareto’s observations to his management techniques.

Juran helped businesses improve production by highlighting that 80 percent of their product defects were caused by only 20 percent of their production methods. With this information at his disposal, he helped businesses focus on reducing production problems, which ultimately led to an increase in their production quality. Juran termed this concept the Pareto Principle and popularized the notion that we should focus on the “vital few” and ignore the “trivial many” to ensure success.

Over time, other organizations and individuals made further developments and enhancements to Pareto’s Principle, which led to its widespread use in several fields, from healthcare and agriculture to business.

Advantages of using the Pareto Principle

Applying the Pareto Principle offers a multitude of benefits. It allows you to understand and take advantage of the things that will bring you great success while also identifying key issues that may be impeding your lack of progress.

Additional benefits of applying this principle in your work and personal life include:

  • Increased daily productivity and self-confidence
  • More effective leadership
  • Stronger problem-solving skills
  • More efficient use of resources
  • Offers clear priorities for you and your team
  • Allows you and your employees to portion work into more manageable segments
  • Provides a more focused strategy

Disadvantages of using the 80/20 rule

Although there are several benefits to applying the 80/20 rule in your work or personal affairs, it does demonstrate some disadvantages.

A common misconception regarding the Pareto Principle is that with only 20 percent of effort, you can achieve 80 percent of the results. This isn’t quite what Pareto was trying to teach us… The goal of this concept isn’t to minimize the amount of effort, but rather to highlight the areas that will allow for a larger impact.

Another downside of the 80/20 rule is that it may lead team members to become too focused on some tasks and neglect others. If you focus only on the tasks that you consider most important and push other less important ones, like email, under the rug, things will inevitably become lost. Finding the right balance between using the 80/20 rule and sifting through all your tasks is key.

Examples of the Pareto Principle

To better understand how the Pareto Principle works, let’s take a look at a few ways it can be applied.

Pareto Principle and Time Management

We often associate long hours on the job with success, but according to the Pareto Principle, this is simply not the case. In fact, over time this type of mindset can lead to a skewed work-life balance, which can become unhealthy and lead to burnout and decreased productivity.

To avoid this, it’s better to utilize the Pareto Principle and identify the 20 percent of tasks that can elicit the highest payoff, both now and in the future. Doing so will also provide you with more time to take care of yourself, which can make a huge difference in overall productivity and performance.

For example, at the start of each day, you could spend some time planning out what you’re going to focus on by identifying the tasks that are most important. While this may feel like a waste of time, in the grand scheme of things it can help you focus your time sensibly and prevent working after hours.

Pareto Principle and Business Management

If you manage a business, team, or project, it’s possible that 80 percent of the work is completed by 20 percent of those involved. By using the Pareto Principle, you can determine who the most productive people on your team are and use this information to better your results. For example, task them with the most important items on your to-do list and put them in leadership positions so that they can teach others to follow suit.

Pareto Principle and Relationships

Many of us want to have as many friends as possible, but it can be difficult to maintain these relationships over time, and you might find that some are lacking in quality. So how do you decide which ones are most important? Put your faith in the Pareto Principle.

By using the Pareto Principle, you can analyze your relationships and work out how much time you spend with each and compare that to the amount of value they provide. Through this analysis, you can determine which 20 percent of your friendships offer the most value.

The Pareto Principle can also be used to navigate problems in relationships. By understanding that 80 percent of the problems faced in the relationship are caused by 20 percent of your and your partner’s actions or behaviors, you can work to identify the root causes of conflicts, communicate them, and work on improving them together.

Pareto Principle and Goal Setting

Does it ever feel like you have an endless list of goals or tasks? Just looking at a massive to-do list can make you feel discouraged and unmotivated. Focus on what really matters with the Pareto Principle.

Begin by writing down the goals you wish to complete on a given day. Ask yourself, ‘If you could accomplish just one of the goals on this list today, which one would have the greatest positive impact on your life?’ It’s also important that you consider the consequences that may come as a result of not completing that task. Once you’ve nailed down your most important goal, move on to the second, third, etc.

By the end of the list, you will have determined the 20 percent of your goals that carry the most weight. Focus on completing these goals before moving on to the rest of the list.

Pareto Principle and Problem Solving

Problem-solving is an essential skill, both in our professional and personal lives. And while problem-solving may come naturally to a select few, for the rest of us it can be a daunting task. Thankfully the 80/20 rule can help guide us toward the appropriate solution. All you have to do

is follow these steps:

  • Create a list of problems you are currently facing
  • Identify the cause of each problem
  • Assign a value to each of the problems based on their importance. Those that are impacting your progress the most are the most important ones to solve first
  • Organize problems by causes
  • Add up the scores in each group. The group with the highest score should be your priority
  • Start brainstorming solutions for the problem group and take action

5 Ways you Can Apply the 80/20 Rule

Now that you know what the Pareto Principle is and how it can increase productivity and transform your business, let’s take a look at a few ways you can make this powerful tool work for you in your everyday life.

5 Ways you Can Apply the 80/20 Rule

Now that you know what the Pareto Principle is and how it can increase productivity and transform your business, let’s take a look at a few ways you can make this powerful tool work for you in your everyday life.

Track your time

The 80/20 rule only works if you can pinpoint which 20 percent of your efforts are producing 80 percent of your results. The best way to identify these efforts is to analyze how you’re spending your time.

The best way to do this is by completing a time inventory. This allows you to develop a clear understanding of how you’re spending your time each day, and most importantly, which tasks are producing the greatest results.

So, how do you do complete a time inventory? Well, there are countless apps on the market that can help you and your team track your time, many of which are free! Toggl Track is one such resource that can help you effortlessly track your day’s work.

After a week of tracking your time, you should begin to develop an understanding of where your time is going, specifically what time is well spent and what is time wasted.

Embrace Automation

During your time inventory, you may find that there are some tasks that are not producing results but cannot be eliminated. For these tasks, consider automation. Automation is a great way to simplify mandatory tasks that don’t produce a ton of results. For example, social media posting. Social media is a necessary part of most marketing plans. It’s where your brand is recognized and gains popularity.  But spending 15+ hours a week manually posting isn’t the best use of your time.

That’s where automation comes in. You can optimize a scheduling tool to publish posts, use chatbots to respond to queries from followers, or use a notification manager to prioritize messages from followers. This is just one example of how you can use automation to save time on lower-priority responsibilities and use it on tasks with more reward.

Focus on key clients

A small percentage of your customers are often responsible for a huge percentage of your profits. Thus, if you want to take your business to the next level, you need to identify those clients and ensure that they are among your top priorities.

To find these clients, review your finances to see where the majority of your revenue is coming from.

Be wary of the flip side of the 80/20 Rule

The Pareto Principle states that 20 percent of your efforts produce 80 percent of your results, but the opposing side of this can also be true.

If you notice that there is something in your business or life that is taking 80 percent of your time, energy or resources but is only producing 20 percent of results, it may be time to say goodbye as spending time and energy on these types of tasks will only lead to a drop in productivity and burnout.

Think outside your business

Not only is the Pareto Principle a powerful tool for transforming your business or job, but it can also change your life! Consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • What 20 percent of your day is producing 80 percent of your joy?
  • What 20 percent of activities are producing 80 percent of your energy?
  • What 20 percent of your friends and family are producing 80 percent of the love and support in your life?

The answers to the above questions will help you identify what’s important and where you should be focusing most of your attention in your everyday life.

SWS Warning Lights and the 80/20 Rule

As a company that’s been around for more than fifty years, SWS Warning Lights knows a thing or two about the importance of productivity.

Throughout the years our team of talented engineers and customer service professionals have applied the Pareto Principle to understand which areas required their utmost attention in order to drive maximum efficiency.

Contact us today to learn more about our story and why you should choose SWS Warning Lights for your construction and heavy-vehicle fleets. Tom Chopp is Managing Partner at SWS Warning Lights Inc. He can be reached at 905-357-0222 or

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