How to Use Pareto’s Principle to Feel Happier and More Fulfilled
Today I’m really excited to get to talk with you all about a work and life principle that has made a pretty significant impact on my life. You’ve probably heard of it, especially if you are in the business world. It is called the 80/20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Principle.
Vilfredo Pareto was an italian engineer and economist (1848-1923) who observed a couple of important facts that changed the way he viewed the world.
- First, he discovered that roughly 80% of the land in Italy was owned by just 20% of the population.
- Second, he noted that 80% of the peas in his garden were produced by just 20% of the pea plants.
Effectively, the 80/20 Rule states that:
80% of results are caused by 20% of efforts.
This may seem like a rather pointless observation at first blush, until you begin applying the rule to your life. And that, my friends, is what I hope to accomplish with you today. My overall satisfaction in life was dramatically altered when I began using the 80/20 rule to figure out what was really making my life better. I hope that I can encourage you to analyze your life in the same way.
How to 80/20 Your Life for Maximum Happiness
Ok guys, let’s dive in.
First, I want you to ask yourself the following questions:
- What 20% of activities in my life give me 80% of the excitement?
- What 20% of activities in my life cause me 80% of the stress?
The biggest thing you can do right now to affect your level of happiness and satisfaction in life, is to begin analzying what actions and activities give you the most results in different areas of your life. And there are quite a few areas to think about!
Give yourself an hour or two of uninterrupted quiet time, and start analyzing the various parts of your life.
One important caveat…
The 80/20 ratio is more a guideline than a strict rule. For some things in life, the ratio may be closer to 70-30, 90/10, or even 99/1. That’s alright- the big takeaway here is that we can recognize that a small portion of our inputs affect the vast majority of our outputs.
For example, you may find that roughly 20% of your business customers bring in about 80% of the revenue. Or that 15% of your fitness regimen is responsible for 85% of your overall fitness.
The important part of this equation is that your first identify what few things in your life are bringing you the most joy and significance, and then you begin to focus more of your time on those things and less on the rest. We all have just 24 hours a day to accomplish goals and live out our lives, which is why this principle is key to becoming the best versions of ourselves that we can be.
80/20 and Goal Setting
Ok, so now that you’ve completely 80/20’ed your life and you have a clear vision of what makes you happy and what doesn’t, it’s time to start applying this principle to the act of goal setting.
Ask yourself this:
What 2-3 goals, if accomplished, would make the biggest difference in my life? Then, what is the 20% of actions I could take daily to reach this goal? (This is also known as the minimum effective dose- the minimum amount you can do daily to accomplish a particular goal efficiently.)
I’ll give you an example. Let’s say that you want to become fluent in another language within a year’s time. How can you 80/20 this goal to be most effective and efficient?
Goal: Become fluent in French by this date next year.
- What is the 20% I can do daily to reach this goal? (Study for 90 minutes each day)
- What little tweak (the 20%) is going to be most effective in allowing me to study each day? (Wake up earlier and begin studying before the rest of the family gets up.)
- What 20% of learning is going to give me 80% of conversational fluency? (Ask yourself why you want to learn this language. Is it to read the news? Travel to the country and speak with locals? Be able to order train tickets and restaurant items without confusion?)
- Let’s say you would most like to be able to chat with locals. To do that, you would want to study the Top 500 words in the language, learn the top 50 phrases exchanged between strangers, and focus your studies on learning to express your hobbies, likes/dislikes, and be able to ask reciprocal questions.