How to Use the 80/20 Rule in Everyday Life

Use the 80/20 principles to become productively happy - MYnd Map MY Journal

Do you ever feel as though you spend all your time working just to be able to enjoy the fraction of precious spare time you have? We go to work to earn money so that we can not only survive but get to enjoy life. Perhaps 80% percent of the population feel this way. So what about the remaining 20%? Well, it’s likely they are making money doing what they enjoy, or are lucky enough to only be working 20% of the time. What are they doing differently to the rest of us? They are probably applying the 80/20 principle to their working and personal lives.

“Focus on being productive instead of busy”

Timothy Ferris

The 80/20 prinicle is also known, thanks to the management consultant Joseph M Juran, as the Pareto Principle – named so after Vilfredo Pareto, and Italian economist who observed that about 80% of Italy’s wealth belonged to around 20% of the population. What this translates to us is the idea that 80% of effects, outcomes, products are the result of only about 20% of causes. In other words – 80% of what matters is being achieved by 20% of what is being done, and this means that if we focus on the 20% we could become significantly more productive, fulfilled and even happy than we were before.

It’s not difficult to apply the 80/20 principle to your everyday life,  it is all about quality rather than quantity. There are some things you do, certain activities, in fact around 20% of the things you do, that account for the majority, around 80%, of what makes you happy and satisfied – so why are we giving more time to other activities?

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do”

Steve Jobs

Start applying the 80/20 principle to your life by breaking down and analysing your daily activities, score them 0-5 depending on how happy they make you.Create a productivity planner, You’ll soon see the 80/20 ratios appear. Unfortunately, we may come up against a problem if we find that our day jobs account for one of the things that do not make us happy. Most of us have bills to pay, families to support and unavoidable overheads and working 20% of the time just may not be an option. What analysing your daily life according to the 80/20 rule can help you do, however, is really find where your passions lay, and may help you open your eyes to what you would like to be doing for work, help you set some goals and start going out to achieve them.

How else can you apply the 80/20 principle to your life – particularly if you don’t have the option of working less or changing jobs? Productivity blogger Scott H. Young has imaginatively curated a list of twenty unique ways you can apply the rule to your everyday life – including at your day job. He suggests writing down the broad categories of tasks you do at work and spending some time working out how long you spend on each task. Then against each task write down a value estimate for what percentage you think it adds to your productivity – you will then have in front of you a clear to-do list of tasks that you should focus on to become more productive.

Blogger Rosie Leizrowice demonstrates that it’s not just productivity at work that can be achieved through applying the 80/20 rule. She writes that despite having to sit a long exam and arrive home after a 4-hour journey – partly walked in the pouring rain – she still felt happy. Why? Because she dedicated some time, 2 hours in fact, early in the day to what makes her happy – practicing self-care. The result being a whole day of feeling content and happy, despite the day’s events. The message she wants us to go away with is this: it is often the small things in life that we get a lot of our happiness from and by active mindfulness exercises, focusing more of our spare time outside of work and school on these things – we become happier as a result. 

“Happiness inspires productivity”

Shawn Achor

It's important to remember that productivity is not just getting stuff done, making money or achieving goals but rather achieving the intended at a significant rate and being in the right headspace. It is about being efficient and using our time smartly. So why not apply this mind-set to happiness too? Use the 80/20 rule to find out what really makes you happy – and focus your energy on those things. You’ll soon find your happiness productivity rates soar!


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