How to Apply the 80/20 Rule of Time Management to Your Own Life

80/20 rule of time management

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Most people are familiar with the 80/20 concept, although you may know it by its official name: the Pareto principle. The phenomenon is named after the Italian economist who discovered it.

The 80/20 rule states that, in many circumstances, 20 percent of the causes lead to 80 percent of the results. One useful way to apply the 80/20 rule is time management.

How Does the 80/20 Rule Relate to Time Management?

Imagine you have 10 items on your to-do list. The 80/20 rule states that two of those items will account for 80 percent of the total value of the results.

There’s no need to go to the effort to calculate exactly 20 percent of your tasks. The key point here is that a minority of tasks matter most in terms of helping you reach your goals.

Applying the 80/20 Rule

Before you start applying the 80/20 rule to your own life, you need to have clear goals for what you want to achieve. The best kinds of goals to set are SMART goals. Once you have these defined, you can start improving your time management.

1. Think About Why You’re Doing Something

When you sit down to work at the start of the day, where do you begin? The majority of people start with the tasks that are the most appealing.

It’s true that you do need to complete these tasks eventually, but pushing back your higher-priority work will ultimately mean it takes longer to see results and you’ll likely need to work longer hours just to meet your deadlines.

It’s important to remember that just staying busy is not enough. In fact, if you’re always busy, this could be a sign that you’re not managing your time in accordance with the 80/20 rule. When your focus is just on that 20 percent of critical tasks, you should find that you have much more free time.

Think of it like this: it’s more challenging to start a project than to brainstorm ideas with your team. However, taking the leap to put one of those ideas into action will mean you finish sooner and start seeing results that push your business forward.

2. Prevent Distractions

Another way you can unintentionally waste your time if you give into distractions. Whereas it’s impossible to prevent distractions entirely, it’s up to you whether you succumb to them.

When a task is difficult or unappealing, it’s extra easy to give in to distractions. You can even justify that whatever is distracting you matters as well — or at least you could if you weren’t following the 80/20 rule.

If you know a distraction is less important than whatever you’re working on, leave it until later. You may need to employ some strategies to ensure you do this.

For instance, if something pops into your head and you’re worried you’ll forget about it, write it down and continue working. If you find that you cannot help looking at your phone when you receive a notification, turn off notifications for all but the essential apps.

Whatever the reason for your distractions, there’s a way to work around it.

Of course, you may be unsure what is distracting you the most, which will make it difficult to take the right course of action. An easy way to figure out your main sources of distraction is to take detailed notes of how exactly you spend your time over the course of one week. A time-tracking tool is ideal for this purpose.

You’ll likely find that around 20 percent of all your distractions lead to 80 percent of your wasted time. Focus your efforts on mitigating just these.

3. Rewrite Your To-Do Lists

Scrap the to-do lists you currently have and create a new one with the 80/20 rule in mind. Think about how every item relates to your SMART goals and how much impact these individual tasks will have.

Put everything that has only a low impact at the bottom of your list, even if you could complete many of these items quickly and easily. In fact, it is especially important to put those easy items lower down your to-do list, as it can be tempting to check off as many items as possible to feel like you’re making progress — in reality, though, you’ll be achieving little.

4. Focus Your Efforts on 20 Percent of Your Clients

The 80/20 rule also applies to clients. Dedicating 80 percent of your time and attention to 20 percent of your clients will increase sales, improve retention rates, and ultimately grow your business.

Plus, there’s no need to wait for a user to convert into a client before you apply this rule — it is equally relevant to leads.

Identifying the 20 percent of leads that are likely to become valuable customers is a far better use of your time than trying to convert everyone who meets the bare minimum qualification criteria.

5. Analyze Your Progress

It may be difficult to know what makes up the 20 percent of your most valuable tasks when you start out with the Pareto principle.

Figuring this out is an ongoing process: you’ll need to monitor how much time you spend on different types of tasks and what results they bring. Keep adjusting your strategy to make improvements.

6. Keep Finding New Ways to Apply the 80/20 Rule

Once you’ve experienced for yourself how the 80/20 rule works, keep searching for new ways to use it. For instance, you could unsubscribe from 80 percent of the journals you currently read and stick to the 20 percent most valuable.

You could identify the 20 percent of tools that make your job easier and consider if the remaining 80 percent are worth keeping.

You could even evaluate your hobbies — 20 percent of them likely contribute to 80 percent of your sense of fulfillment. It may be worth dedicating your free time just to these hobbies to improve your motivation at work and beyond.

7. Delegate

One final way to apply the 80/20 rule of time management is to the tasks you delegate.

You should aim to delegate as many as possible of those 80 percent of tasks that lead to only 20 percent of the results and handle just the important 20 percent yourself. In particular, anything that doesn’t require your expertise is ideal for delegating.

A great way to delegate is to contract a virtual assistant. Receive a virtual assistant for a vast array of tasks — ranging from admin and social media to graphic design and marketing — from MYVA360. Schedule a consultation to discuss your needs and to receive 10 percent off all our services.

Laura Holton

Laura is a professional writer specializing in content aimed at small businesses and entrepreneurs. She has helped countless startups find the information they needed to take their ventures to the next level.

Laura Holton

Laura is a professional writer specializing in content aimed at small businesses and entrepreneurs. She has helped countless startups find the information they needed to take their ventures to the next level.


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