Albert Opoku

Life Lessons: 4 – Know the 80–20 principle

Life Lessons: 4 – Know the 80–20 principle


80-20-ResultsThe 80–20 principle is formally referred to as Parato’s principle, as he was the economist who propounded this theory. His studies had proved to him that 20% of the effort usually yields 80% of the results. Here is an example: 80% of the sales revenue made in a day comes from 20% of the customers who bought in large in quantities. The principle is not strictly 80–20; it could vary between 60–40 and 90–10, but usually one side is larger.

Now, you’re probably wondering “Why should this concern me?”  You will be surprised to find out that this principle cuts across all areas of our lives.  I sincerely believe that we will spend 80% of our effort to generate only 20% of the possible results while we could have done the opposite by exerting 20% effort to yield 80% of the results.

As a young man, I came to observe this principle play out in three interesting areas of life: in school, at work, and in marriage. In school, I had a few friends who would, from the very day school opened, spend only two hours a day studying (20% of their time). Then, there were those who only studied three weeks to exams and world spend their entire afternoons, evenings, and long nights trying to cram everything into their brains. The guys who studied two hours daily always came out on top.

At work, I realised that a lot of the interruptions and time thieves such as phone calls, requests from colleagues, and visiting clients happen after 11am. People who put the most effort between 8 AM and 11 AM (20% of the working day) usually got more done in those hours than in the rest of the day.

In marriage, I have seen couples spend 80% of their time arguing over why the other person was late for a date. It would have been a whole lot better if the offending party simply said “Honey, I am sorry I am late”. Those few words, the 20%, would have resulted in the rest of their time being peacefully spent.

There are more areas of life where the 80–20 principle applies. Try to find ways to apply the principle to other areas of your life.

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