[COLUMN] The 80/20 Rule

Eighty percent of things don’t matter; twenty percent do.

That is essentially the Pareto Principle. Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian sociologist in the late nineteenth century, introduced the concept of the 80/20 rule.

It states that in any given group, only 20 percent will constitute what is important and the remaining 80 percent will be trivial. This rule is referred to as the “vital few” and the “trivial many”.

While this concept was originally meant to be applied to the principles of economics and sociology, the 80/20 rule can be applied to just about anything that involves a list or a group of elements in daily life.

Using the Pareto principle on just about anything in life cuts through the muck. It translates complexities to its simplest forms and with few exceptions, clear anyone’s life of overwhelming junk, in both tangible and intangible ways. This is one way of avoiding, or at the very least, minimizing la vida loca with too much stuff on our daily plate of stuff to do.

In a list of goals for instance, using the Pareto principle will force someone to prioritize the top two or three goals that are significant to him. Use this principle when dealing with a list of things to do for the day. Recognizing the few important ones and doing them ahead of the trivial ones will keep you from being sidetracked. Our to-do lists become shorter, more realistic and more manageable.

A mountain of tasks can overwhelm. But those who slice and dice can get things done. Many try to get around by nibbling at the small, easy things around the edges, putting off the more important ones for later until time is up and the important ones are left undone. By making it a habit to spot the important ones first and “slay these dragons” ahead of anything else, there is a certain sense of calm that one acquires even if not everything in the list has been done.

The wonderful thing about adopting a “Pareto frame of mind” is that you begin to develop the habit of clear thinking that, not only gives you more time, it can also provide you with more space — clutter free.

Pareto your email inbox, phone and text messages. Zap away the obvious spam and scam. Block off the blockheads. Limit your social media exposure. Or better yet, get off social media altogether. Regard links with a cynical eye. Beware of malware. Stay away from promises of good fortune or “too good to be true” personalities and you will be relatively free of hackers and people who make a living duping others and draining other people’s wallets and bank accounts on the internet. There are too many lonely people seeking romance who have been bilked dry by conmen Cassanovas.

The Beatles’ lyrics on Eleanor Rigby come to mind. “All the lonely people, where do they all come from?” Real life, dear ladies and gentelemn, still  beats the virtual world of make-believe. Very rarely will true love connections come from today’s internet.

If you want to simplify your life, you can look at your possessions and decide which things are important for you to keep and which ones should be sold or given away, thus reclaiming the space for you to enjoy.

You can also apply this to the clutter of too many unrelated hopes and dreams that are in that future state of being called the “Someday Isle”. You can narrow these down to only the important goals and be free of the downright preposterous.

The brain also benefits from  using the 80/20 rule. In lengthy, circuitous discussions of problems and solutions, having a sharp, incisive mind helps one to get down to the root of the problem quickly, shorten the angst and pain of indecision and come up with the right solution in less time it normally takes to mull over a problem.

The nature of modern life screams for many things to be done all at the same time. With time saving devices purportedly meant to squeeze as much as can be done in our waking hours, expectations can become unrealistic.

The stress of trying to do too much too soon can make anyone ill in body and mind or at worse, make us drop down dead on our tracks. Weighing things according to importance may even be more valuable than learning how to multitask. This acquired skill of gauging the value of tasks can add so much to the quality of one’s life freeing up more time to simply sit still, do absolutely nothing and  enjoy life.

“Pareto” your life. You’ll be glad you did.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Nota Bene: Monette Adeva Maglaya writes for Asian Journal Publications,  Inc. Her opinions are her own. To send comments, e-mail [email protected].


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