Syllabus week in college is my favorite week every semester. Is that because it's the easiest week? To a degree, yes. However, the main reason is because I figure out where I need to focus my efforts for the next 16 weeks.

What Is the 80/20 Rule?

Vilfredo Pareto, an economist and guy with a really cool name, coined the “80/20” rule. You have probably heard of this in some context sometime in your life. The beauty of the Pareto principle is that it can be applied in almost any situation, whether it is productivity or even love. I am no expert in love, so I’ll stick to the productivity side of it.

Basically, 80% of our outcomes are due to 20% of our efforts. Of course this is a rough estimate, but the important part is that efforts and results are not balanced.

How Do I Apply It?

For example, during syllabus week, I find where 80% of my final grade is coming from. In a sea of assignments, quizzes, projects, and exams, 80% of my grades usually come from exams and projects. I could get more done and get better grades if I focused my energy on projects and exams, instead of running myself into the ground by trying to perfect every assignment and quiz. (Disclaimer: for the students reading this, an 80% is technically a B-, but if you are already putting in effort to study for a test from the get-go, you’re probably not bombing very many quizzes and assignments. You won’t end up with a B- if you start early, trust me!)

The 80/20 rule pinpoints where you are getting the least results, so you can let those tasks go and put more energy into what is getting the most results.

For those currently working, an example might be where 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. Instead of focusing on the difficult clients who never buy anything, focus your efforts on those who are loyal customers and contribute to approximately 80% of your sales. Let the difficult clients go and see your customer service improve.

The Flip Side of the 80/20 Rule

However, don’t let the 80/20 rule discourage you from pursuing new opportunities. The one downside of the rule is that a new path doesn’t always look like an effective option from the beginning. Making progress is about being productive on the right things, and the Pareto principle will help you decide what those “right things” are.

Have you tried the 80/20 rule in some area of your life? If so, how did it go? Let me know by leaving a comment down below!