You spend so many hours at work and are really busy but… at the end of the day, you realise that you haven’t achieved any of your goals. How come you haven’t finished anything after working for so long?

We tend to believe that the same amount of work produces the same amount of results. So we think that if we work 50%, we will then, of course, get 50% of the results. But as the Pareto Principle states, that is far from reality.

What is the Pareto Principle about?

Even though the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) has its origin in economics, it can be applied to different areas of our life, including personal productivity. It can be summed up in one sentence: “80% of the results come from 20% of work”. That is, we spend most of the day working on tasks that won’t get us to our goal.

According to this law, you can achieve the same results by devoting much lesser time and effort to work. It’s just a matter of being well organized and knowing the difference between the important tasks and those which are not.

How can I apply it to my day-to-day work?

The key to improving your productivity is being able to identify that 20%. That is to say, which are those tasks that help you get 80% of your results? That’s why you need to know the difference between urgent and important, and do what’s important first. Once your main objectives are clear, devote most of your time to them.

Put aside those tasks that only keep you busy but give you nothing in return, and decide what to do about them. You have three options:

  1. Eliminate. Try to get rid of everything that doesn’t have any value. If you can’t just eliminate it, you can always automatize some of the processes or tasks that make you waste more time.
  2. Delegate. Whenever possible, get someone else to do them. In this post, we explain how to delegate tasks in five steps.
  3. Group. If you still have to perform those so little productive tasks, the best that you can do is to split them into smaller sets. Save some time every day or week for them.

Work smarter, not harder. The aim of applying the Pareto principle is to obtain more results in less time. You’ll be able to save more time to dedicate it to whatever you like. Besides, taking this and other laws of productivity into account will help you to better plan your day-to-day work.

Translation by Susana Castro.

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