THE BLOG
11/12/2014 03:02 pm ET Updated Jan 12, 2015

The 80/20... What?

When one comes across a principle, rather than a theory, it seems to get one's attention just a little more, or maybe even a lot more?

That happened to me as I stumbled across a well-written and mostly balanced book highlighting the "Pareto Principle" -- the 80/20 rule. Keep in mind: This is a principle that has been tried, tested, and proven. Not that theories can't be valid or high up on the thought ladder, but let's face it: It certainly seems like a principal "stands up" rather than "sits down." And this one is straight up "vertical!"

The book 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch lures us just by its name: Does it mean something I should know? Are there numbers behind our behavior, or should there be? What does the principle mean? I found it to be much more than just "a statistical observation."

A closer look shows the principle and the research on this most provocative of principles reflects an even greater freedom of thought: We have more time than we think we do in a given day if we only understand the mathematics of it all! To quote Koch in his overture in the book, "The 80/20 Principle asserts that a minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards." In other words, almost 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes! And that concept, that original thought, "was proven in 1906 by an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto, and further carried out by Dr. Joseph M. Juran, who recognized a universal principle he called 'the vital few and trivial many.'" That universal principle became known as "The Pareto Principle."

I had heard for years "20 percent do 80 percent of the work," and thought that accounted for what made sense to those who worked harder and felt the results. But that only scratched the surface of what the 80/20 principle really unveils: that if we apply the same numbers to a multitude of scenarios, that we find our concentration should be on the 20 percent... what really matters!

That if we spend the time to really figure out what matters to get the results, if we really spend the "quality time" to be mindful and "in the now," we will find that we have 80 percent more time to do what is important. And that "important" can be different strokes to different folks: Do you want more time to spend at home? To travel? To write? To sit and think? To have bigger revenues? To have more vacations? Apply the 80/20 rule.

I found it to be a must-study and a great principle to employ. Take a break, read the rule, and apply the 80/20: This empirical law is worth its weight in efficiency, sanity, time, and principle!