The 80/20 Rule for Faster and Better Results

shutterstock_242496637Whether it is how to network more effectively, advance in one’s career, or reach any other important goal, I often suggest the 80/20 Rule to clients and colleagues as a way to streamline processes, save time and achieve better results.

Originally created by Vilfredo Pareto in 1906 as a way to quantify the distribution of wealth in his native Italy, the Pareto Principle (or 80/20 Rule) has been applied to (and become better known for) its use in other areas capable of measurement, including time and business management, as a means to increase effectiveness in those areas.

Put simply, 80/20 means that 80% of the rewards in your life, however defined, generally come from 20% of your efforts. The key to utilizing the 80/20 Rule is to focus a greater proportion of your efforts on the 20% that is most fruitful rather than spreading your efforts across areas that do not correlate to results.

We don’t always intuitively know what are the most effective uses of our time, although we can often identify those that are time-sucks. If you are in a client-interfacing business, for example, this could be a client who pays bills late or complains about fees, saps your energy and is unlikely to give you additional work or a referral. If you tolerate this type of client (or worse yet, invite these clients into your life), you will consistently be disappointed and deprive yourself of the opportunity to shine in front of those clients who will grow you and your business. Yet often, because we fail to plan ahead, we get sucked into spending our best hours of the day (or even vacations), servicing those same clients that yield the slimmest results.

If you are in a client-interfacing business, for example, a time-suck might be a client who pays bills late or complains about fees, saps your energy and is unlikely to give you additional work or a referral. A client that, in other words, is a headline (not a footnote) in the 80% of your efforts that are the least rewarding.

With a mentor or coach, or by using metrics to approximate the return on your investment of time and energy, you can refine the 20% and your approach to leverage it for greater results.

As you can imagine or may already know, you can apply this same approach to many areas of your life, improving how you allocate time at a job, in your writing, with your spouse and children, etc. Focus on the activities, tasks and moments that create the most value, enthusiasm and joy. Delegate or eliminate those that create little value, enthusiasm or joy yet require great efforts. In some ways, the 80/20 Rule is a more refined variation of just saying no to things that don’t serve you and people who don’t enrich your personal and professional life.

80/20. Try it. You may be hooked for good.

Originally published as Get Results Faster with the 80/20 Rule on LinkedIn Pulse. Shutterstock image.

Author: Anne Marie Segal

ABOUT ANNE MARIE SEGAL Anne Marie Segal, founder of Segal Coaching LLC, is a career and leadership coach, author and resume writer who guides attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs through career transitions, advancement, job interview preparation, leadership development and personal branding. A former finance and hedge fund attorney, Anne Marie has presented to the United Nations (ICTY/MICT), University of Chicago, United Way, Association of Corporate Counsel and National Resume Writers Association, among other organizations. She has published two career-related books: Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals and Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Value Proposition Workbook, written on career and resume topics as a Forbes Coaches Council member at and been quoted on, and other media outlets. You can learn more at or visit her LinkedIn profile at

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