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The 80/20 Principle

Vilfredo Pareto was a controversial Italian sociologist, engineer, philosopher and economist who lived from 1848 to 1923. He had a varied working career and added value across many disciplines but the one he is most famous for is the Pareto Law or Pareto Distribution. It is commonly known today as the 80/20 principle.

Pareto studied land and wealth distribution across society and his mathematical equation that was used to show the grossly uneven distribution (80% of the wealth was owned by 20% of the population) could also be found just about everywhere in many different applications. He noticed that 80% of the peas in his garden were produced by just 20% of the pea pods he had planted. When this concept was first introduced to me, I was challenged with the statement of you probably only wear 20% of the clothes in your cupboard 80% of the time. On reflection I had to agree with it. Other ways to contextualize the Pareto Distribution could be to say that 80% of your results are generated by 20% of your efforts and time. Or another context might be 80% of any business profits are created by just 20% of it’s products or services. Whichever way you look at it most of what we create or achieve in life is generated by far less of our effort than we actually think. The reason I mention the Pareto Law is, as a society, we have an addiction to “busyness”. Our days are filled with low priority activities that allow us to feel that we have accomplished something during the 9am to 5pm workday but in actual fact if we analyzed our day we would see that 80% of time is spent wasted on unimportant tasks. Our productivity (outputs) comes from just 20% of our efforts (inputs). At the beginning of the year I started to develop physical symptoms. I battled to sleep, had chronic neck pain, high blood pressure and had thoughts like “if I don’t wake up tomorrow that will be ok.” The past 2 years of clinic work, rugby coaching and life had finally caught up with me. I had filled my life with low priority activities that weren’t serving my overall life purpose and I had woken up to realize my burnout symptoms were just like everyone else’s coming into the clinic. Understanding Pareto’s Law allowed me to scale back my clinic working hours. I only work 4 days a week now (instead of 6) and I am just as effective. I prioritize quality over quantity activities and am protective of my time from people that don’t add value to my life. I realize if I prioritize important courses of action I can get more done without being distracted by tasks, people or situations that want to take up my time (the most precious non refundable commodity on earth). By applying the 80/20 principle to my life I got a handle on my health and life and made some positive changes that didn’t just benefit me but my family as well. If you find you don’t have enough hours in the day or time in your life, I encourage you to to apply Pareto’s Law to your situation. Do a quick life analysis and detox yourself of unimportant, low priority tasks, activities and people. Go all in on your 20% efforts and in doing so, maximize your 80% results. Chat soon

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