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Do Less to Achieve More: Goal Setting With the 80/20 Rule

Have you ever seen sugar snap peas growing in a veggie garden, with their curling tendrils reaching higher and higher towards the sunlight?

In the early 1900s an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, observed a fascinating pattern in his garden: approximately 20% of his pea plants generated 80% of the healthy, edible green peas.

This observation led Pareto to investigate economic wealth distribution in Italy, where he found a similar disparity: 80% of the land was owned by just 20% of the population.

Pareto's findings extended beyond farming and finances, forming the basis of the 80/20 Rule (also known as the Pareto Principle).

In short: This principle says that 80% of outcomes come from 20% of efforts.

For example, in business, it's commonly observed that 80% of sales come from 20% of clients.

The essence of the 80/20 rule is that you can focus on “the 20%” (removing “the 80%”) and do less but ironically achieve your goals more quickly than if you try to “do it all” and keep the 80% that’s low-performing mixed in with “the 20%” that is moving you towards achieving your goals.

Pareto's observation in his garden peas teaches us a powerful lesson on achieving more with less.


  • Focus on Critical Tasks: 20% of efforts often yield 80% of results - prioritise for greater impact
  • The Essence of Less: Identify and invest in areas that drive the most progress
  • Apply the 80/20 Rule: Pinpoint and concentrate on actions leading to significant outcomes
  • Letting Go: Eliminate low-impact activities (your 80%) to enhance your work effectiveness
  • Goal Adaptability: Regularly adjust focus areas for continuous growth and maximum efficiency.

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The Power of Focused Effort

The 80/20 Rule is a powerful tool for streamlining effort and maximising your goal setting.

In goal setting, this means identifying and focusing on the key tasks that drive the most significant impact. By concentrating on this crucial 20%, we can achieve more effective and efficient outcomes. This approach encourages strategic planning and prioritisation, helping us to allocate our resources where they are most productive.

Say you’re thinking about doing an online certification in 2024.

You think it could lead to promotions, salary increases, or job opportunities you wouldn't have otherwise. And you would be right. But how can you fit it in?

Here’s where the 80/20 principle comes in.

The 80% and Potential Time-Stealers

  • Daily Distractions: Recognise that “the 80%” of tasks that would make your goal of becoming qualified might consist of daily distractions, such as excessive time spent on social media, TV, or other non-productive activities. Identify areas where you can cut back on these distractions.
  • Negative Influences: Identify negative influences or people who might discourage you from pursuing your certification goal. Surround yourself with a supportive network.
  • Failure to Say No: Learn to say no to commitments or requests that don't align with your goals. This will free up time for your 20% goal.

You can stay focused on achieving this goal by recognising why earning a professional certification is in your 20% for the year and being aware of potential time-stealers in the 80%.

Applying the 80/20 Rule

Applying the 80/20 Rule starts with pinpointing the 20% of actions that drive 80% of results.

It's about asking, "What really matters?"

These might be the few clients who bring in most of your revenue or critical goals that help you earn more money this year.

To focus on high-impact goals, begin by evaluating your activities.

Look for patterns: which efforts lead to the greatest rewards?

Then, choose to prioritise these.

This could mean delegating lesser tasks or even saying no to low-yield activities. It's about making every effort count ensuring time and energy are invested wisely.

Actionable Takeaways

To implement the 80/20 Rule in daily life, start by evaluating your tasks.

Identify which 20% are yielding 80% of your positive results. This could be key responsibilities at work, effective workout routines, or even fruitful relationships.

Once identified, focus your energies here. Prioritise these tasks and allocate more resources towards them.

To set up for success, use tools like time-tracking apps to understand where your time goes. Set specific, measurable goals aligned with your high-impact tasks.

Finally, regularly review and adjust your approach.

Remember, flexibility is crucial; as your situation changes, so too should your focus areas.

The Future of Goal Setting

Doing less to achieve more is a shift in how we approach goals.

It's about understanding that more effort doesn't always mean better results; instead, it's the right effort in the right places.

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