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The Pareto Principle: Improve productivity with the 80-20 rule


Efficiency does not mean accomplishing more and more tasks in less time. The Pareto principle helps you to achieve 80 per cent of your results with an effort of only 20 per cent. The 80-20 principle gives you the best possible start to your working day.


  • What is the Pareto principle?

  • How do I implement the Pareto principle?

  • Daily schedule: Be Pareto efficient

  • Pareto principle examples

  • Conclusion


The Pareto principle goes back to the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who analysed the distribution of land ownership in Italy at the beginning of the 20th century and found that about 20 per cent of the population owned about 80 per cent of the land. It was therefore efficient for banks to focus on the 20 per cent of this population.

This Pareto distribution was also applied to time management. According to the Pareto principle or the 80-20 principle, one can achieve 80 per cent results with only 20 per cent effort. Applied to a working day, this means that you can complete the most important tasks or parts of the day in a short time. Conversely, it means that the remaining 20 per cent of the results require a particularly large amount of effort (80 per cent). Therefore, see which tasks and details this makes sense for.


To start with the 80-20 rule, you first need an overview of the tasks that need to be prioritised in the following step. Start the day with a clear structure, ideally with a daily plan that you have already drawn up the day before.

This way, you have the day's goals in mind in the morning and don't get lost in too many emails that have piled up in your inbox during the productive time, or start working on larger requests or construction sites that you hadn't planned for that morning. Otherwise, two hours will be gone in no time and you will have lost your focus on the most important project of the day.


The following thought processes can help:

Plan ahead

Can I allow myself to tackle the most important project of the day first thing in the morning and check my emails at a later time? If so, you will already be close to your project goal in the morning, complete important subtasks and schedule less important ones for another time or delegate them. This means that you can achieve 80 per cent of your daily goal with just 20 per cent effort. And the most important project also pays a great deal towards your business goals.

Schedule your day in time slots

Do you have to check all your emails first thing in the morning? Then schedule a fixed time slot for this - for example, with the help of the Pomodoro technique or the 52-17 work rhythm. During this time, you check the emails, schedule the upcoming important and urgent tasks in your weekly schedule and delegate the important and non-urgent tasks to your team members. In this way, you can achieve a lot in a short time with little effort, but not get lost in the flood of emails. The morning remains dedicated to the big project.

Focus on the essential

You could spend hours working on the details of the project because everything has to be thought through perfectly? But the customer call is already two hours away? Focus on the essential points. What information needs to be presented in a visually appealing way? Which analyses can also be discussed at the next meeting? Concentrate on what is expected and you will be able to give a good presentation in two hours without getting lost in details and presenting only half-finished products. Ask yourself, "What can I achieve in the short time given or scheduled?"

Have resources in mind

Keep an eye on your time and focus on one thing at a time rather than on several tasks and requests at the same time or in between. See how much effort is needed to achieve a very good result. It does not always have to be perfect. You should weigh up whether you need to add 5 more lines in the presentation in the optimally coordinated colour or whether the pictures need to be cut more finely and you need an hour longer for this.

Work according to your biorhythm

From 7 to 9 in the morning is your most productive phase? Then get on with the most important tasks. Especially in a home office, it's easier to put off going to the bathroom, doing yoga or having breakfast, and you can use your peak phase sensibly and in a results-oriented way. And who can claim to have achieved 80 per cent of the day's results by 9 o'clock in the morning? In your low phase, you get ready, have a leisurely breakfast and are then ready for the next high phase and important meetings.

Be consistent

Do you always catch yourself putting off tasks or responding in detail to colleagues' requests? Sort out immediately how important and urgent the task is and agree with your team which requests they may approach you with and when. Plan fixed blocks of time for the most important tasks in which you are not to be disturbed and communicate this to the team. In the evening, you can schedule or delegate new tasks for the next day or week. This way you don't upset your daily schedule.

No perfectionism

Are you a stickler for detail and want everything to be perfect? This can cost you a lot of time or even waste it. Focus on the results obtained with the Pareto principle and then improve the most important points. This will give you better results for the relevant tasks and products.

Collect all unimportant tasks on a not-to-do list or put them in the waste-paper basket, as the Eisenhower Principle suggests. This way, you banish all time-consuming and unimportant tasks from your daily schedule.


Be honest with yourself - reflect on your results in the evening as part of an evening routine or in a weekly review. What went particularly well? Where did I achieve the best results despite little effort? What were my time guzzlers? Which projects should I stop because they don't promise long-term success? It is better to stop elaborate but low-yield projects after a few attempts and experiences than to continue them with too much effort.


The Pareto Principle can be applied in countless areas. Here are a few examples:

  • Software development: What are the minimum requirements for my MVP? It should be developed quickly for the customer and then improved after consultations and needs. This way you avoid getting stuck in the development process. Design thinking or Scrum can be used for this.

  • Podcasts and videos: They don't have to be perfect, the core message should come across in a likeable way.

  • Customers: Often the A-customers are 20 per cent of the customer base and account for 80 per cent of the turnover. Therefore, it is worthwhile to develop products especially for the A-customers and to implement further business areas with them.

  • Cleaning: The office or flat is drowning in chaos? If you don't have the time to clean thoroughly at the moment: With 20 percent of the effort, you can achieve 80 percent order. How? Stack all papers neatly in a pile and put them in your desk container as best you can. The coffee cup and water glasses from the night you worked halfway through are quickly put in the dishwasher and the invoices are bundled together. This way it's not really clean yet, but if a customer or service provider drops by spontaneously, you can safely let him in.


You increase productivity by focusing on the efficient 20 per cent. Conversely, it doesn't mean that you can completely ignore the other 80 per cent of effort. You will always have to do research, read newsletters and answer emails regularly - all tasks that do not directly influence the company's goals, but business communication still has to be done professionally. The question is, with what effort, if there is little return?

Take a close look at the number of tasks you have to do and see which aspects are really important and contribute to the company's goals. For the other important and non-urgent tasks, set clear time slots or delegate the tasks so that you do not get lost in unnecessary details. For all tasks that bring little benefit and cost a lot of time, you only do what is really necessary.

The advantage: even in stressful times, you will be able to work in a focused and productive way.


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