Probably better known as the 80:20 rule.
A long time ago an Italian Economist by the name of Alfredo Pareto observed that 20% of Italy’s population held 80% of the wealth. Intrigued by this discovery he went on to look at other economies and found similar distributions of wealth.
It wasn’t until the sixties that a Quality Expert by the name of Juran took this principal and applied it Quality Control. He observed that 20% of products caused 80% of defects. It was he who coined the principal after Pareto.
The Pareto Principle
The Pareto Principal is widely used in business and sales, where the sales experts have observed that 80% of Revenue comes from 20% of their clients and 20% of Product ranges tend to give 80% of profits. When it comes to the world of Productivity we can often see that 20% of what we do gives us 80% of our results. Before Juran coined this as the Pareto Principal he first called it The Law of the Vital Few and the Unimportant many. As we can see when we analyse what we do each day, a lot of what we do is trivial. We spend hours each day replying to emails, sitting in meetings, trawling through social media sites in case we have missed the fact that Suarez has a biting problem. What if I didn’t know this, would my life be complete?
The reality is that a lot of what we spend our time on is not adding value to the bottom line. We can pimp up our website but if we have no clients what is the use? All of these administrative tasks or supporting roles are not paying the wages!
That’s not to say they don’t have a purpose, we can’t all have a Four Hour Work week. Maybe if we could afford to pay someone to do our job we could but for now we have to be content with working almost a full week and doing the best we can. Juran also realised that although the unimportant many were just that, unimportant, they were tasks that need to be done but just demoted to lesser priority!
Focus on the 20%
So how do we know what our 20% is? What tasks are your value adding tasks? which ones pay the wages?
It’s easier than you think. Get a pen and paper, (if you still own some) and write down the top 10 tasks you do each day. Then put a percentage on how long you spend on each task “mas o menos”. Then from those 10, pick the two tasks that really matter. The top two tasks that mean you have a job, what do you see? Are you spending enough time on the right things?
Let me guess, are email and meetings taking up more time that they should? If so what can you do about it?
Well because I’m in a good mood I’m going to give you the solution to one of those problems….. drop me an email and I will send you a copy of Email Zen for Free. I will tackle meetings in an upcoming blog post.
So whatever you are focusing your time and attention on, make sure it’s on the things that will make your life, career or job better, happier and more successful.
Photo Credit: Pareto eighty twenty principle by CoryCCreamer via Flickr