Living the 80/20 Rule
by Julian Franklin

    One of the most profitable skills you can learn is effective time management.  A 19th century Italian mathematician named Pareto discovered that virtually everything in the world could be divided into 80s and 20s, or as he described it “the vital few verses the trivial many”.  20% of what you do results in 80% of your success.  20% of a business’s clients result in 80% of the sales.  20% of a corporate work force generates 80% of the company’s profits.  Your job is to spend more time on the key 20% and less on the other 80%.

    The true value of implementing understanding of this principle is astounding.  Take your typical “to do” list.  Assume it has ten items on it.  According to the Pareto Principle, two of those items will result in more positive results for you than the other eight combined.  In fact, if his numbers are right (and in my experience they are) those two items, if properly chosen and executed, will result in four times as much as the other eight combined.  That’s an effectiveness difference of 16 times.  Why would you divide your time equally among those tasks?

    Many times we prefer to do the smaller, faster, easier tasks just so we can whittle away at our list of things to do.  Effective time management involves analyzing the value of the tasks on our list and attacking them appropriately.  If something must be put off until tomorrow, let it be the less important items, not the more difficult.

    Dr. Edward Banfield of Harvard University concluded after more than 50 years of research that “long-time perspective” is the most accurate single predictor of upward social and economic mobility in America.  Long-time perspective was found to be more important than education, intelligence, connections, race, family background, or any other single factor in Dr. Banfield’s research.  People who look to the future are across the board more upwardly moving in their finances and social standing than those who have a shorter time view.  And, the more forward looking a person is, the more rapidly and more assuredly he or she ascends.

    Forward looking people don’t make decisions based on what is easy today, they ask themselves, “What is important for me to do today that will help ensure the accomplishment of my goals for the next decade?”.  Face it, the time you spend over the next 24 hours will pass regardless of your actions.  In 24 hours your life will have moved forward exactly one day.  What will you have to show for it?  The hours add up and become days which become weeks and months.  It has to be an almost constant practice to ask yourself what you can do that is most effective.

    Effective time management pays huge dividends.  I have a friend who works as a plastic surgeon.  While I was going to college, he was going to college.  While I was running my first businesses and buying my first house, he was earning his masters degree.  While I was getting divorced, living on a sailboat, and sailing the Gulf Coast of Mexico, he was getting his doctorate.  While I was courting my second wife he was earning advanced degrees allowing him to practice reconstructive surgery.  The sacrifices he made I don’t know if I could ever make.  He didn’t get out of school until he was 35 years old.  But he was a millionaire by the time he was 39, and probably won’t work much past 45 unless he really wants to.

    I’m not saying you should never relax and have fun.  Keeping balanced is part of life.  But if you carefully analyze how you spend the bulk of your time you may find areas where you can readjust your priorities for greater efficiency.

    By having a clearly defined goals for the long-time, you also set yourself up for much easier decision making on a day to day basis.  When circumstance arrise, you have a guide rule to help the decision making process.  By analyzing how a certain action (or inaction) might affect your long-time goals you can more easily recognize the choice most likely to propell you toward long-term success.

    Successful people are those who are willing to sacrifice and postpone pleasure today in exchange for greater rewards later.  This characteristic is getting harder and harder to find in today’s world.  In fact, most often we see just the opposite.  We see people who enjoy now, and worry about the bills later.  Consumer debt is at unbelievable levels and continues to rise, simply because people don’t want to wait until they can afford something if they can enjoy it now and pay the bill later, which means they end up paying twice after interest payments are added in.

    Make sure you are not selling your future success for the simplicity of ineffective time management.  Create some realistic, but challenging long-time goals of where you would like to be in ten years and then backwards task to determine your five-year goals and your one-year goals.  Everything on your daily “To Do” list that does not actively support at least one of those goals is one of the “trivial many” (80%).  They must be done, but only after you have exhausted the work on the “vital few” (20%).  You will thank yourself ten years from now.

About the Author: Julian Franklin is one of America's leading marketing consultants, a top behavior modification specialist, and author who develops creative ways to stimulate growth in your business. He has authored more than 20 books on human behavior, marketing, professional development, and personal accomplishment. He is frequently invited to speak on these topics as well. For more information, including the opportunity to subscribe to his free monthly e-newsletter, you can visit

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