Understanding Pareto’s Principle

Back in the early 1900’s there was a guy by the name of Vilfredo Pareto. He, upon studying the distribution of wealth in the country that he lived, realized that about 20% of the people living in his country owned 80% of the wealth. The truth is that when we think of Pareto’s Principle today we are not talking about the distribution of wealth. In the 1940’s, another doctor inaccurately named the 80/20 rule of time management to Pareto – and rightfully so – the rule had been applied and misapplied to a number of industries and professions ever since it was discovered.

So what does Pareto’s Principle have to say about time management? The concept is simple. A mere 20% of your efforts are responsible for 80% of your results.

So what does this mean to you?

It means you have to figure out which 20% of your time matters. Usually it’s the first 10% and the last 10%. Only 20% of your day is going to have a direct impact on the end results. If that’s the case, what parts of your day can you cut out – which parts are time wasters – and which should you focus on most? Can you turn the other 80% of your day into something more productive as well?

There’s another theory that interprets Pareto’s Principle as saying that 20% of your people do 80% of your work. If this is true, will you focus on increasing the abilities of that first 20% or will you try to make the other 80% of your team better?

In the end, the results are still the same. Only a small portion of the time you spend leads to direct results. Make sure you’re splitting your time accordingly.

Thanks again,


Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training   | Image courtesy of Big Stock Photo

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Originally published: 26 March, 2010

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