Self Management Skills – Apply The 80/20 Rule To Everything You Do

80 20 rule

The 80/20 rule is a piece of genius. It means that 80% of your success comes from 20% of your hard work. And what does THAT mean? It means you’re always going to know your priorities…

What does the 80/20 rule mean?

The 80/20 rule is also called the Pareto Principle – but that doesn’t matter. That’s just a dry fact. What’s much more interesting is that 20% of the things you do lead to REAL change and improvement, and the other 80% is often just, er, faffing around. Sorry. It’s a hard truth.

Think about your day. You might be working or studying, but there are 20% of tasks that feel hard, or difficult, or boring. They’re often the ones you need to get done, because they’re going to make the difference – and in your gut of guts, you know it’s true.

Why is the 80/20 rule important?

In work, and life, you’re going to have a million things to do. You can’t do them all at once, so you have to choose. And choose wisely. Once you’re working and you have endless to-do lists, sometimes you have to stop and say “what’s the real priority here?”

The 80/20 rule helps you sift through and find the most important tasks to get done first, whatever situation you are in. It’s great for time management, great for managing your priorities, and one of the most important skills you’ll ever learn.

Applying the 80/20 rule to projects

When you’re writing a piece of homework or doing a report, 20% of that time is going to be actually sorting out what you want to say and getting the stuff down on paper (or digital Word programme, but let’s not split hairs). The other 80% is going to be rewrites, tiny tweaks, making things look pretty with fonts and headings, giving up in disgust, having a ’15 minute break’ that turns into days… the important bit is that 20% of top-priority action.

Applying the 80/20 rule to to-do lists

Look at your list of things to do. Imagine there are 10 things on the list. Two of them are incredibly important and will make a big difference – so get those done first.

Here’s an example list: a typical day

  1. Walk dog
  2. Feed dog
  3. Get ready for going out
  4. Phone mum
  5. Do homework
  6. Buy new shoes
  7. Research second-hand bikes
  8. Set up new blog
  9. Tidy up
  10. Go to gym

On the surface of it, they all look like things that are going to benefit your life. How to choose the golden 20%, those two things that make all the difference? We’d argue the two things to cross off your list nice and early are ‘do homework’ and ‘phone your mum’. You probably don’t want to do either of these things. Everything else looks kind of fun. Even tidying up is a way of prevaricating or putting off other stuff you really don’t want to do (e.g. homework). But phone your mum, because it doesn’t take long and it’s out of the way and then she won’t worry about you, which is really important. And do your homework because it’s a big deal and then you won’t have it hanging over you all day.

You can often tell a task is important because you start feeling a pull to do other things that are more fun – but that’s just your monkey mind thinking, not your real self management skills coming into play. Don’t let your monkey mind take control!

Here’s another example list: starting a new blog

  1. Choose a platform (e.g. WordPress, tumblr, Wix)
  2. Choose a blog name
  3. Choose a domain name
  4. Make it look pretty
  5. Get linking social media accounts
  6. Write something on your blog
  7. Get it launched with promotion

Unless you’re a wizard you can’t do it all at once – so you have to prioritise. Using the 80/20 rule, you can see that the first thing you need to start with is the name of your blog. You can’t choose/buy a domain name if you don’t know what your blog is called. And then you have to check the domain name for your blog is free and no-one else is using it (you want to call your blog Big Bad Dog Productions? Sorry, it’s been done). Once you’ve got these two big missions locked down and in place, you can start choosing your platform and building the blog of your dreams… but, as with anything in life, turning a dream blog into a reality starts with feeling out your priorities and doing the most important work first.

How to apply the 80/20 rule to your life

  • Think about which tasks will give you the biggest payoff and accomplish the most.
  • Prioritise which tasks are most important
  • You control which tasks you do, so train yourself to do the tasks that matter most. Everything else is icing on the cake.

Try it now. Good luck!


Boost your Young Professional skills…

Are You Aged 14-24?
Get FREE Young Professional Training
Are You An Employer?
Get youth employment expert help

For more information, please email or call 01536 513388.

Looking for Youth Friendly Employers?

Find out more about some of the organisations offering high quality training and work opportunities to young people. Your next dream role could be just a click away…

Are you getting your free training in the 5 top Young Professional skills?

Problem Solving
Self Belief
Self Management

Sign up for free Young Professional training.

  • Life hacks and pep talks in a weekly newsletter
  • Opportunities from youth-friendly employers and organisations
  • Grow the 5 top life and work skills at your own pace
Registration Options
Please fill in your details
password strength indicator
Additional Info


Are you a real person? If so, click the box
Do you want the weekly newsletter?
IMPORTANT: When you click ‘sign me up’, you’ll be asked to log in using your new username and password. Then you’ll be taken straight to your Young Professional dashboard with lots of info and things to do. You can find this dashboard at any time when you click the orange ‘My Dashboard’ button at the top of the site page and log in!

Latest articles

Go to Dashboard

Teamwork ideas for Christmas

See how to use your teamwork skills at Christmas by helping with festivities at home, making the most of Christmas […]

How to survive your first secret Santa at work

What is Secret Santa? Secret Santa is when people at work give each other cheap, fun anonymous presents as part […]

4 Top networking tips for introverts

Networking with people you don’t know is always a challenge. Introverts who need some internal space can still be great […]

How to talk about using initiative in job interviews

When interviewers ask you to give an example of when you have used your initiative, what do they really mean […]