Routines are effective in helping us compartmentalize our time. However, how do we know if the way we divide our time is productive? If you are looking to restructure your time usage, perhaps the 80/20 Rule could be a go-to.

What is the 80/20 Rule?

According to John Reh from, the 80/20 Rule refers to ensuring that 20 percent of one’s inputs or activities translates into 80 percent of outcomes or results.

On one hand, it is a pattern of conversion we see at the workplace. Project Managers know that 20 percent of the work (the first 10 percent and the last 10 percent) consume 80 percent of the time and resources. Other examples also include 20% of customers generating 80% of revenues or 80% of complaints. The ratio is uncannily common in our world.

On the other hand, it is also a principle that will ensure optimal results. It is a useful construct for us to analyzing our efforts and outcomes, and a priceless guide in how we approach our agenda. How can we leverage on it?

Applying the 80/20 Rule to Work

Focus on the few, larger items on your To-Do list that will generate the most significant results. Dealing with the big tasks might mean your list will not grow much shorter, but this is effective prioritization.

Mitigate the top risks in your projects that pose the highest potential for damage (given the probability of occurrence) and focus your monitoring and risk planning activities on those items. Without ignoring the others, distribute your focus proportionately.

If you are in sales, understand the attributes of the 20 percent of your customers that make up the majority of your revenues and invest your prospecting time on identifying and qualifying similar customers. At the same time, regularly evaluate the 80 percent of your customers that generate approximately 20 percent of your business and identify opportunities to shed those customers for those that drive better results.

Entrepreneurs, soloists, and independent professionals should evaluate their workloads and assess whether the gross majority of their time is spent chasing small value activities, including administrative work that is easily and inexpensively outsourced.

Caveats to the 80/20 Rule:

While wonderfully relevant, there are limits to the application of the 80/20 Rule.

For instance, it would be misguided to focus on just the 20 percent of top performers on your team at the expense of the other 80 percent. You are accountable for increasing the number of top performers as well as assessing and potentially eliminating those who are consistently poor performers.

The 80/20 rule might suggest reducing the level of diversification in your investment portfolio. Careful attention must be paid to your overall portfolio mix and adjustments made if only 20 percent of your investments are driving 80 percent of the results.

Finally, details of a project cannot be ignored even if 20 percent of the time invested in a project through planning and execution might generate the majority of the results or progress.

This post was originally published here on in August 2017. takes no credit for the work of the author.

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