How to deliver success through the 80/20 rule

The Pareto principle or the 80/20 Rule – the fact that 20% of efforts cause 80% of the results across many areas of our life –  is a critical mental model that has driven Warren Buffett’s success.

So how do you  consistently and masterfully apply the 80/20 Rule to your life?

Here is a 10 step process I use so you can prioritise your schedule with the 80/20 Rule:

  1. Determine your core values

When you prioritise without having clear values, your goals often end up feeling empty. Without your own north star, the goals you set are often the result of the values of the cultures you have previously been in. Therefore, your goals aren’t truly your goals.

2. Determine your true goals

Without setting clear goals, your daily priorities become overwhelmed with urgent tasks that have a short-term payoff that make you feel good. Having clear values-based goals keep you focused on what matters short-term and long-term.

3. Set aside time for prioritisation

I recommend setting aside the following blocks in your calendar as a bare minimum: 15 minutes daily, 1 hour weekly, half a day quarterly, 1 day yearly.

4. Make a list of everything you have to do

Getting it out of your head and onto paper is cathartic, and it gives you the fodder for the rest of the steps.

5. Identify the top 20% of priorities that will give 80% of the results

This is where you separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s where you rise above information overwhelm and get perspective on what really matters and can move the needle.

6. Practice the 80/20 Rule

Applying the 80/20 Rule doesn’t just mean asking yourself, “What’s most important?” and then moving on. Prioritisation is a skill. By learning and then using different mental models such as the bottleneck analysis or the critical path approach, you get different ways of seeing your priorities. Every time you set your priorities is an opportunity to practice becoming better at prioritisation.

7. Identify the single most important priority.

 The 80/20 Rule is fractal. Meaning that within each 80/20 there is another 80/20. So, if you narrow down a list of 25 priorities to five priorities, you can then apply the 80/20 Rule again to focus on the one priority that gives you 80% of the results of the five priorities.

8. Do your “one thing” first

When your day starts, you have the most energy and the least distractions. This makes it the perfect time to tackle the hardest, most important activity. If you leave your one thing for later in the day, it will probably not get done on that day.

9. Practice saying NO

Similar to how applying the 80/20 Rule is a skill, so too is saying no. The skill is recognising areas where we should say no, but don’t and then devising a solution for each situation that actually works.

10. Get both accountability and coaching

Accountability helps you put your foot on the accelerator. Coaching helps you remove your other foot from the brake.


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