How to Use the 80/20 Rule in Everyday Life7 min read

Published by Zach on

What is the 80/20 rule?

The 80/20 Rule posits that 80% of the results come from 20% of the inputs; or 20% of efforts produce 80% of the profits.

For example, say you sell five different types of socks. Some have different materials, colors, or styles. The 80/20 rule (or Pareto Principle) states that, likely, 80% of your sales would come from only one of those types of socks (likely the fuzzy, grey, wool hiking socks). Then, to maximize sales, your sock company should focus on the marketing and sales of mostly the fuzzy, grey hiking socks.

Here are some examples of the 80/20 rule in action:

  • 20% of the worlds population controls >80% of the wealth
  • 20% of patients use 80% of healthcare resources
  • 20% of all Google’s reported bugs cause 80% of the errors and crashes

This is the normal application of the 80/20 principle to business to maximize sales or decrease inefficiencies, but why can’t we apply it to our everyday lives? Why can’t we use the 80/20 rule daily to improve our lives dramatically?


Our most valuable resource, the critical thing billionaires can’t buy more of, the thing 12 Trillion dollars (the global healthcare industry) is trying to give humans more of.1 This is the most powerful impact, the greatest reward from the 80/20 principle.

Let’s attack applying the 80/20 rule to our lives in 3 steps:

  • Define the problem (how am I using my time currently? With what projects? What is the output from those projects? What do I want to fix?)
  • Apply 80/20 (what would an ideal life look like? How would I Ideally spend my time? Which actions produce 80% of the results?)
  • Execute, the hardest and most important part, how are we going to get this done?

Critically Analyze Everything

Quickly, I took a personal analysis:

  • I have about 20 pairs of shoes, I wear five of them 80% of the time.
  • I have about 10 storage cupboards in my kitchen, I only open 2 of them 80% of the time
  • I spent 80% of my time with 20% of my friends

Let’s start big and get smaller; what 20% of things give you 80% of the joy in life? We can apply this to our lives just like Marie Kondo does when throwing out clothing.

  1. I would list 20 things you do regularly and circle the four that significantly impact your life. The list of 20 might be something like Playing soccer, going to the gym, working on YouTube videos, cooking meals, going out with friends, hanging out with family, reading books, watching TV, going to Yoga, sleeping, meditating, watching Tik Tok, outside activities such as hiking and skiing and running, becoming better at your job, researching and planning to get a new job, and so on…
  2. Pick 4! So maybe from that list, you would pick going to the gym, family, sleeping, and finding a new job. Importantly the joy created should be net overall, sometimes the gym sucks, for example, but you feel much better after it, sleep better, and get to live longer to spend time doing those other three essential things; the net joy there is enormous!!
  3. Take time away from the things you didn’t choose, like TV, TikTok, and cooking meals, and use it for the things that create more joy. So how would you do that? Delete TikTok, throw out your TV, buy premade meals, or hire a chef (one of the first things I’ll do when I make enough cashola).

Ok now let’s 80/20erize the things we often forget to think about

  • Friendships and relationships this is a big one. Usually, 20% of your overall relationships create 80% of the joy in your life. Dunbar says we can only maintain 150; the number is fewer, closer to 20. The magic happens here: make an effort with those 20 people. For me, that’s family and a few close friends. I call them monthly, send them thoughtful emails, and plan trips with them; this is a compelling Pareto application.
  • To-do lists: do you have a massive to-do list? Life aspirations? Goals? You can cut that list down to 20% of its original size. What will create the most significant impact on you and your life? Getting a new job likely could have a considerable impact, or gaining a new skill – on my to-do list is to create a cartoon-like adventure time; now, is that a reasonable goal that will significantly impact my life? Likely not, at least for the immediate future, it’s eliminated. On a smaller scale, I’ve destroyed things like reading 100 books to read in a lifetime (for the near future), creating comedy YouTube videos, and learning how to build a house from nothing simply because these don’t align with my 80/20 rule. Working on my bread and butter YouTube videos (like this one) and learning medicine are the 20% of things providing >80% of my outcomes.
  • Clothes: I have five suits, I only wear one consistently. I have ten t-shirts, but I only wear two. I have 20 pairs of shoes; I only wear four. I should eliminate the ones I don’t wear, simplifying my life and daily choices. Extrapolated over years, the time-gains are enormous.
  • Computer/iPhone: Which apps do I use 80% of the time on my computer and iPhone? There are simple ways to see this with tracking ups or the built-in software on Apple. I delete the poorest performers and bring my top performers to the main screen.
  • Food: What is the 20% of food I eat 80% of the time? Why do I keep trying that other 80 % of foods? I waste time money, and lose literal energy by calories I’m not eating. Now, this is a trickier one because I love cooking and trying new things; however, as I outlined above, this isn’t one of my 80/20 priorities at this time; maybe in a year, when I have more free time, I will come back to food. But, for now, it doesn’t pass my 80/20 test.
  • Exercise: another tricky one, but what are your goals at the moment? For me, I simply don’t have time to exercise 7 times a week like I used to, maybe I have time for 3-5 exercises. Lifting has creating disproportional gains for me in regards to happiness, sleep, and physical appearance so I’ll emphasize that. With the other two days being a day of yoga or soccer or running. And then, even within lifting, what exercises? Well squats, deadlifts, overhead press, and bench press are exercises I’ve seen the, again, disproportional, 80/20 gains from.

Briefly, I want to mention business and making money because that inevitably comes up with 80/20. I, of course, have used this rule with great success. Where do the out-of-proportion gains come from for my Online business? Writing, YouTube, and courses. Short-form contact, Instagram/Twitter, digital products, and affiliate links are simply outmatched by the benefits I receive and can produce (monetarily but also quality-wise) from writing, YouTube, and courses. So, you can see I’ve emphasized those three things in my online career. Here are some ways to apply it in business:

  • Do you have sales that involve repeating clients or customers? Likely, 80% of your profits are from 20% of clients; focus on those and eliminate the 80% dead weight.
  • Do you have products that account for 80% of your revenue? Likely <20% of them account for this 80%. Eliminate the poor earners and focus on your big winners.

Make Changes

Now, you have to execute; I’m sure there are other 80/20 places in your life I miss. When I began to critically analyze even these simple things, such as food and exercise, I saw my joy in life dramatically increase. An important point here is that being more joyful isn’t only selfish, even though it might feel; when I am happier, I am more pleasant to be around, and I can better impact patients and my friends and families. It is a win-win-win. Where can you apply 80/20 to your life?

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