The 80/20 rule, the Pareto principle, the law of the vital few. Whatever you want to call it, the implications of bringing this theory into your daily living practice is a powerful tool to simplify.

What is the 80/20 Principle?

In the late 1800s, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto found an interesting pattern while studying the pea pod plants in his garden. He had assumed that the amount of pea’s being grown would be evenly distributed across the pea pods. However, it turned out that consistently about 20% of the pea pods where growing 80% of his peas. Amazed by his findings, he tried looking at other scenarios. Not long after, he did another study found that 20% of the families in Italy, owned 80% of the land.

The concept of the 80/20 principal was born. The theory is that 80% of the effects are created by 20% of the causes. 

Since those initial studies by Pareto, case after case of this same pattern has been found in business, sociology, software development, sports, biology, and more. It appears to be principle that is not just true in human behavior, but in many natural patterns as well.

Simplifying with 80/20

Not long after I learned about the 80/20 principle from a business book that I was reading, I thought about ways I may be able to apply this to the rest of my life. What are the 20% of other areas of my life that provide the most value?

I looked for both the positive and the negative things that could be discovered with this perspective. From an organization of my closet standpoint, what 20% of my clothes do I wear 80% of the time? Or if I’m looking at how I waste time on the computer, what 20% of websites do I find myself spending 80% of my internet browsing time on?

Very quickly it became clear that the 80/20 principle was a powerful tool for simplifying my life. Once I identified the 20% that provided the most value, I was able either eliminate the rest, or at the very least, make better decisions going forward in that area of my life.

Material Items – Electronics, books, furniture, children’s toys, you name it, the 80/20 rule can be applied. Before simplifying my life, I had a near addiction to always needing the latest and greatest electronic. After identifying the 20% of the devices I used most, I was able to reduce my existing electronic stash, and knowing what I actually used, purchase less gadgets going forward.

Clothing – One of the most fun areas of your life to apply the 80/20 rule is with your clothing. You probably already know that you have some “favorite” items to wear. But if you watch the patterns, you almost certainly have about 20% of your clothes that are your go-to’s. You can drastically clean up your closet by donating many of the items you don’t usually wear, as well as have a better sense of what style you prefer for future clothing purchases.

Relationships – Best friends are not just best friends, they are 20% friends. Knowing that you spend a majority of your time with a small subset of your friends is important, so make sure that you appreciate who you are around most often.

Spending – Where does all your money go!? With some consistency, the 80/20 rule can be applied to personal finances as well. We tend to spend a majority of our hard earned money on a few areas in our budget. Identifying these areas can allow you to make better purchasing decisions.

Productivity – 80% of your productivity comes from about 20% of your effort. This principle can be useful both at work and at home. As a sales manager for our business, I use this principle to determine what activities, clients, and projects lead us to the most profitable outcome.

The Power of Less

By focusing on less, you can do more. More time, money, and better results. Understanding and implementing the concept of 80/20 to your life allows you to focus on that extra valuable 20%. If you strive for a more minimal life, you can also selectively eliminate the non-20% components that don’t provide as much value.

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