Best Kept Secret To Time Management – The Pareto Principle

Often in life, regardless of your profession, you will struggle to find the balance between all your responsibilities/obligations/interests/hobbies. Too much to do. Too little time.

As a university student, here are things I see all too often. Some study too hard, so their social life takes a hit. Some work long hours at their part-time jobs to earn money, so their academic life takes a hit. Some spend way too much time with friends, so their finances/academics both get screwed over. You get the picture.

I have often found myself in situations where everyone around me would be studying for hours on end for an exam whereas I would be doing something entirely different. I would spend half the time on revision, yet still come out with similar results, was I smarter than the others? No. I was on to something. As I was flicking through some of my management textbooks earlier today, it turns out that there is a name for that “something”:

The Pareto Principle.

This principle put simply, states that for many events roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In other words, most of the results you achieve are due to a small minority of your actions. Here are some real world applications of the Pareto principle that I’ve come across after some research:

  • 80% of your knowledge for an exam is likely to be gained from 20% of your total time spent on revision
  • 80% of your improvement in a sport will likely be achieved from 20% of your time practicing/training
  • 80% of your weight loss/muscle gain will be achieved by 20% of the time of you spend in the gym
  • 20% of your clients may give you 80% of your revenue
  • 20% of product defects/computer bugs cause 80% of the problems
  • 20% of your employees are likely to be the cause of 80% of the company’s total results/profitability

The rule can be applied to almost anything in life. The key is to identify, and really focus, on that 20% and ditch the rest to make space for other things in life. If something isn’t going to get done, something on your to-do list must slip, make sure it’s not part of that 20 percent. Work smart, not hard.

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