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8020 Principal: How to use the Pareto 80/20 Rule to Prioritize Your Tasks

How To Use the Pareto 80/20 Rule to Prioritize Your Tasks

Having trouble making effective use of your time?

How do you maximize your time?

Do you plan ahead and stay on top of your schedule?

Do you prioritize your tasks?

Try the 80/20 rule for time management and with some adjustments, it might just be your ideal solution.

What Exactly Is the 80/20 Rule?

The 80/20 rule is also known as the Pareto Principle. The concept originated with Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. He noticed that 80 percent of the country’s land was owned by just 20 percent of the population. This led Pareto to examine this imbalance further and how it related to other areas.

Years later, an economist named Joseph Juran applied this concept to business and dubbed it the Pareto Principle.

According to Investopedia, this means that:

- 80 percent of sales volume comes from 20 of products in the product line.

- 80 percent of a company’s revenue comes from 20 percent of its customers.

- 80 percent of a company’s production comes from 20 percent of its employees.

Time management is the most common use for the Pareto principle, as most people tend to thinly spread out their time instead of focusing on the most important tasks.

80/20 time management means that 80 percent of your output could come from just 20 percent of your time, but how do you accomplish that?

Here are four things that you can do.

1. Frequently Evaluate Your Tasks

If 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of effort, then it stands to reason that 80 percent of impact will come from 20 percent of your tasks. So identify the 20 percent of your tasks that will yield the 80 percent of results you seek.

When reviewing your tasks, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is every task on my list labeled as urgent?

  2. Are the tasks on my list within my purview or do they belong elsewhere?

  3. Am I spending too much time on certain types of tasks?

  4. Are there tasks that I should delegate?

  5. Are all of these tasks really necessary to the overall outcome?

2. Continually Assess Your Goals

Think about your goals and the activities needed to accomplish them. Remember that 80 percent of those goals will be achieved with just 20 percent of the necessary activities.

Check out these few examples and see if you can relate:

  1. If I work late today (20 percent activity), I can finish the item on my task list, make the boss happy, AND take tomorrow off (80 percent goals).

  2. If I make a salad to eat at my desk for lunch today (20 percent activity), I can work on that task, beat the deadline, AND get closer to my weight loss goal (80 percent goals).

  3. If I schedule regular meetings (20 percent activity), I can increase team communication, have a more successful project, AND be a better leader (80 percent goals).

3. Determine Your Prime Time

Everyone has specific times during the day when they are the most productive. You may do your best work between 9 AM and 11 AM. Or you might get more done between 3 PM and 5 PM. When do you feel the most energetic, focused, and productive?

Determine when your prime time is and use it to tackle the 20 percent of the tasks and goals that you have identified. This will ensure that you are spending your most productive time of day on the tasks and activities needed for the best results.

4. Identify and Eliminate Distractions

Whether you travel to the office each day or work from home, distractions are everywhere. Those nasty, little interruptions can cause loss of focus, delayed tasks, and an overall reduction in your productivity.

80 percent of your distractions comes from 20 percent of sources.

To take on those distractions and eliminate them, you must first identify them.

Your list may look something like this:

  1. Flurries of emails

  2. Incoming phone calls

  3. Unplanned visitors

  4. Thirst or hunger

  5. Social media notifications

After you have your list of distractions, review it and see which ones interrupt you the most. You will likely find that only two or three (20 percent) are the bulk (80 percent) of the problem. Then incorporate ways to eliminate those interruptions.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Block specific times to work on emails.

  2. Let non-urgent calls go to voicemail.

  3. Close your office door.

  4. Have a drink and snack handy.

  5. Stay away from social media during work.

You definitely don't want your schedule to look like the below image.

Photo Credit: Tom Fishburne


Pareto Principal is a Hong Kong-based Strategic Marketing Agency that focus on results. Our mission is to help company owners and senior executives focus and optimize marketing efforts by using the 80-20 Pareto Principle.

We are serial entrepreneurs, business consultants, brand strategists, graphic designers, marketers, publicists, content writers from different industry backgrounds. We back up every strategy with hardcore data for solutions that make a measurable difference.

For more information, please go to or email us at

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