If you’ve been on the lookout for ways to boost your productivity and set your professional life for success, you’ve surely stumbled upon the 80/20 rule or the Pareto principle at some point.

While this particular rule can apply to pretty much any aspect of your life, it’s most popular with all those who want to boost their productivity, get things done with their to-do lists, or run their businesses more effectively.

What’s best, this tried-and-true principle isn’t too hard to apply to anyone’s timetable and once you give it a try it’ll grant you a whole new approach to your workload. Most importantly, you’ll figure out how to work smarter, not harder.  

So, before we get to the meat of the matter, let’s learn a bit about the 80/20 rule and how it can be beneficial to your professional life.

What is the 80/20 rule?

First published in the works of Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, the 80/20 rule, also referred to as the Pareto principle, is a statistical principle that states that for most outcomes, around 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. Released to the public in 1906, this principle was concerned with the fact that 80% of Italy’s wealth was in the hands of 20% of the country’s citizens.

Later on, the 80/20 rule would be applied to virtually all aspects of life from the world economy and the efficiency of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) to making (and keeping) New Year’s resolutions.

The crucial thing about the 80/20 rule is the idea that there’s a considerable imbalance between effort and end results. So, in terms of productivity that would imply that 80% of your results come from 20% of your overall efforts.

How is the 80/20 rule beneficial to your work day?

By applying the 80/20 rule to the way you carry out tasks, you could do more significant work while investing less time, energy, and effort to do so. While in a theoretically perfect world every minute of your time, every ounce of your energy, and every piece of your effort should be equally essential to your success, it’s far from being true in practice. 

In the real world of busy business owners, only around 20% of everything you do will yield results in the end and your best bet is to concentrate your efforts on that 20% that’s going to result in the biggest reward for everything you’ve invested. 

For instance, in marketing, the 80/20 rule says that 80% of all your sales are conducted by 20% of your loyal customers. So, one method of maximizing your sales would include focusing on the 20% that are bringing in revenue. 

However, that wouldn’t mean that the other 80% is irrelevant, since bringing in new blood is vital for the survival of any customer-critical business – you could see what you’re doing right with the 20% and find ways to repeat the formula with the rest and grow your loyal, revenue-essential customer base. 

The same rule applies to making the best out of your work day and the 80/20 ratio can help you master time management. According to the 2017 study, small business owners in the UK waste as much as 120 days each year on tedious admin tasks, which is an example of ridiculously poor time management. 

By applying the 80/20 rule to your workday you can become more efficient with your time and invest all this precious energy into activities that are actually critical for boosting your business. 

How to apply the 80/20 rule to your work day?

Track how you’re currently using your time

Before you can make any moves to improve your time management, you first have to track how you’re currently spending your time during work hours. If possible, scrutinize each work hour, each day, and each month. 

Take this as an opportunity to look at your work schedule and be as objective as humanly possible about how many tasks you are completing each day and then sort out your activities into categories.

If you’re investing too much time into activities that aren’t bringing in profit or boosting the popularity of your business (which can make a profit in the long run), something’s got to change – you need to manage your calendar to maximize productivity

For instance, if you find that every time you send a follow-up email to your customer you get an increase in sales – make that task one of your top priorities. And if you notice your follow-up emails have no effect on sales, skip that task and spend your time on something that does.  

Use automation to help  

One way to free up the time used on administrative tasks and promote productivity is to utilize a business management solution – vcita is one shining example of this.

With this sort of solution, you won’t only automate all those tedious tasks in your sales workflow, but also easily keep track of your time and activities, and organize your whole business on a single, simple-to-use platform that’ll automate scheduling, payments, billing, client management, email marketing and much more. 

Automation shouldn’t only prove useful to those who want to put all critical tasks on auto-pilot, but also to those who care to deliver superb customer support service, build long-lasting relationships with their clients and stimulate sales in the long term.

On top of all this, an all-in-one, cross-functional small business management software will allow you to create an automated environment where you and your team will have enough time, resources, and freedom to concentrate on less manual tasks and more on new ideas, strategies, and increasing sales – in short, being more productive. 

Hone in on key players and clients

If you’re in sales and the top 20% of your customers make up 80% of your sales – these are your key clients and you’ll want to take care of them first when you start your workday.

By identifying this 20% of clients who are purchasing most of your products or services you’ll get a clearer picture of what sort of customers these products or services attract, and come up with new strategies on how to draw in more like-minded customers.

So, check out your sales analytics (this is where a CRM software could be of use), find your key players and clients, figure out what brought your clients to your products or services, and start creating new marketing strategies.

Also, it’s always smart to prioritize your most results-driven tasks and set them up at the start of your workday – it’ll boost the success of your business.

Focus less on the 80%

While you wouldn’t want to forget all about the 80% less results-driven tasks, don’t give them too much time or effort – the 20% should stay your number one priority. However, what’s ‘too much time’?

The answer to this dilemma depends on how much work you have on your hands right now as well as how your workday is structured. If you have some spare time, implementing the 80/20 productivity rule into your workload shouldn’t be too complicated.

However, if you’re working on a large-scale project that’s also unsurprisingly time-consuming the answer can’t be as clear-cut as with smaller tasks. Sometimes, the more time you spend on a project, the bigger the chance of it performing at a lower scale.

So, does this mean you should make short work of any larger project? The short answer is no, but you should know when to call it a day and conclude a project before it becomes too time-consuming and keeps you from tackling more results-driven tasks.

Make it a habit

This might sound like a no-brainer, but there’s no point in implementing the 80/20 rule into your work once or twice and then forgetting the whole thing. To get the most out of this principle and boost your productivity in the long run, you’ll have to make a habit out of it.

Most of us have a mindset to accomplish everything at once and then end up doing almost nothing at the end of the day – this is why you’ll want to start with small but significant steps.

Take your time, let the 80/20 rule slowly become a constant basis in your work – track down that 20%, make it your priority, stay focused, and keep up the good work.

Examples of the 80/20 rule in action

There are plenty of ways you can put the 80/20 rule into practice in your workplace, but for the sake of convenience let’s focus on these three often-seen examples.

1. Building life-long customer relations

The 80/20 rule can help you find ways to communicate with your clients as best as you can and figure out how this impacts your business. For instance, if a contractor is searching for a way to grow their client base, they’ll find that 80% of their new customers were referred from 20% of their existing ones. 

This contractor can use this information to give special discounts, coupons, or a sneak peek into future content to customers who refer people to their site. This won’t only increase revenue but also strengthen their relationship with existing customers – it’s a win-win situation.  

2. Set and carry out career goals

By utilizing the 80/20 rule to streamline your job search, you can focus your attention on the best opportunities and create a powerful professional network that’ll show you the way to success.

Let’s imagine a person is re-entering the workforce after being a stay-at-home parent for a couple of years. They hope to find something that’s connected with their role as a parent but also with their passion for marketing.  

They can apply the 80/20 rule to their job search by spending 80% of their time looking for a job that combines their two passions (marketing products aimed at parents, for instance). The other 20% of their time can be spent on applying for other marketing positions in different sectors. 

This way they can streamline their job search tasks that are related to their career path of choice while keeping the other options open. 

3. Increase your productivity by mastering time management

Those who are working from home as freelancers are familiar with the challenges of procrastination, poor time management, and finding themselves working late hours to meet deadlines.

To break out of this vicious circle they can choose to utilize the 80/20 rule and identify what tasks have the most important impact to maximize their productivity for the most results. By finding out which 20% of tasks make up 80% of the day’s work, they can improve their task prioritization, increase their productivity, and stay on top of the much-dreaded deadlines.  

Let the 80/20 rule take your business to the next level 

By finding a place for the 80/20 rule and implementing it properly, you can boost your productivity and upgrade your business strategy at the same time. While it may seem surprisingly simple at first sight, it can serve as a powerful tool for transforming any sort of business.

So, find out how you can add the 80/20 ratio into your professional (perhaps even private) life, keep thinking outside the box, and don’t forget to celebrate the small wins because they’ll stimulate you for bigger successes.