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The 80/20 principle fathered by Vilfredo Pareto states that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This principle is one of my favorites for two reasons:

  1. It can be applied to any domain of life: engineering, sales, marketing, productivity, fitness, wealth, health, happiness, etc.
  2. It will either help you double down on your success or it will eliminate barriers that are slowing you down your success

I first encountered this principle in the engineering and manufacturing world where the 80/20 principle is used for quality problems. For example, say we are having issues with yield on a product line due to quality issues. In order to know where the problem is coming from, the engineer (me) collects data and uses a bar graph to sort problems (the data) according to severity, frequency, nature or source and displays them in order of size to show which problems are the most important- Toyota Way. Capturing the issues this way allows the engineer to focus on 20% of the defects that are causing 80% of the quality problems and helps decide where efforts should be focused to achieve the greatest improvement.

80/20 Applied to Everyday Life

This concept is pretty straightforward to apply fixing quality issues or in growing a business but what if an Ordinary Freak wants to use this to increase his/her happiness? Lose weight? Be more productive? In the book 6 months to 6 figures, Peter Voogd gives us 2 simple questions to consider:

  • Which 20% of your tasks are resulting in 80% of your desired outcomes and happiness?
  • Which 20% of your tasks are causing 80% of your problems and unhappiness?


Although life’s problems are not as easily quantifiable as quality defects, the same criteria can be used for to determine where the issue is coming from and what areas you should focus on to eliminate it. In other words, apply this principle to fix the things that have a negative effect in your life or double down on those that are catapulting you to success.

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