The Pareto Principle—Does It Really Work?

The Pareto principle was suggested by a management consultant named Joseph M. Juran who named it after an Italian economist called Vilfredo Pareto. Basically, the Pareto principle states that human beings spend only about 20% of our time doing the things that really matter and that these are the things which have 80% of the results. The remaining 80% of our time is spent doing things that are unimportant because they lead to only 20% of the results.

Obviously it’s very difficult to actually sit down and calculate whether the Pareto principle is true because we don’t keep such exact track of the things we are doing. But most of us can agree on the fact that we spend very little time on the things that really matter and a lot of time on the things that don’t.

Aren’t You Working 80% of the Time?

You might want to debate the Pareto principle, especially if you work a 9-5 job with some overtime. That’s at least 8 hours of work a day which is about 50% of our waking time, on average. Plus, you might have work to do at home too—meals to cook, cleaning that has to be done etc. In fact, your downtime is probably just a couple of hours of TV in the evening. So it seems like about 80% of your time is spent working, and that’s what leads into the successful results you see in your life.

Evaluating the Way You Spend Your Time

If you stop to really think about it, you may find that a lot of the time you spend at work is wasted. How many times did you draft and redraft that email before finally send it out to your business associate? How often did you step out for a 15 minute coffee break with a friend and end up talking for much longer than that? How much time did you actually spend working on that important proposal which would get you a new client? The answer to the last question is probably only 2-3 hours in the day.

Using the Pareto Principle for Success

If you think about how much time you spend doing the really important things, you might find that the Pareto principle really works. And once you’ve evaluated how you spend your time, you can also figure out how to spend more time doing the things that really matter. Most of the time, the answer is just to seclude yourself and refuse to be distracted by people in your office or by your phone. If you start spending more than 20% (say 40% or 50%) of your time on achieving your aims, at work and in your personal life, you’ll find that your life will change for the better.