Recommended ReadsOctober 27th, 2020

The Pareto Principle: 20% of your tasks will bring 80% of the results

Jess Allison
Jess Allison, People and Operations Director

The Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule, suggests we should focus on whatever makes up that 20% first, instead of wasting our energies on the ‘long tail’.

You can find an explanation of it in a hundred places, but I recommend this one for its standout quote:

There is an unlimited amount of work that needs to be done, and a very limited amount of time available. You’ll never finish all the work. If you try to get on top of every single thing, you’ll notice that the work is finishing you off. Instead of wishing for more energy to get more done, why not use your energy to only do the most important things?

The writer gives three tangible strategies for this:

  • Be clear about what your regular tasks are, and what result each of them contributes to.
  • Set deadlines to help sharpen focus (“If we have limited time, we can’t waste it doing unimportant things.”)
  • Once you’ve identified your ‘20%’ tasks, try to spend a week on these to test the hypothesis.

The hardest part though, is “only do the most important things”. That means doing some things instead of others. She explains that understanding which parts of our work have the most impact will help us make these choices. The more we repeat and interrogate this, the better we’ll be able to prioritise how we use our time.

Subscribe to Paper Giant

Each month, our team share their thoughts on design-related topics, reflect on current social issues and share what’s happening in and out of the studio. We'll also include an invitation to our monthly meet up, Office Hours. We'd love you to join us.

Three paper airplanes flying through the air into people's inboxes.
Paper Giant

Paper Giant acknowledges the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung people of the Kulin nation, the Ngunnawal and Bundjalung people as the Traditional Owners of the lands on which our offices are located.

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Country on which we meet and work throughout Australia. We recognise that sovereignty over the land has never been ceded, and pay our respects to Elders past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this website may contain images and voices of deceased people.