” It is sobering to contemplate how much time, effort, sacrifice, compromise and attention we give to acquiring and increasing our supply of something that is totally insignificant in eternity.” – Anne Graham Lotz

The 20/80 Principle: The Principle of Less Is More

What is the 20/80 principle?  According to reports, this principle can be traced back to Vilfredo Damaso Pareto (born in 1848) who, while gardening, observed that 20% of his pea pods accounted for 80% of the healthy crop. He found this observation interesting enough to explore it further. He also observed that this same uneven balance could be seen in the areas of wealth and land ownership (in his country of Italy). It appeared that 80% of the wealth and properties were owned by 20% of the population.  Since this time, the 20/80 principles has also come to be known as the Pareto principle.

It is very easy to see how this principle plays out in all areas of our lives both personal and business. For example:

80% of sales results come from 20% of sales reps.

80% of traffic jams occur on 20% of roads

80% of the time we wear 20% of our clothes

80% of profits come from 20% of customers

80% of hospital spending comes from 20% of patients.

So, you get the point. The input and output are clearly unequal. The output or production is clearly a result of a relatively smaller percentage of the input. Another way to say this is that 80% of the effects we see or experience are the result of 20% of the causes.

Our two greatest resources are time and money, both of which we invest in order o acquire some sort of result. What this principle tells us is that  80% of the results we get from these investments come from 20% of our time or money investments. This information should give us pause to reflect. How much value are we getting out of the investment we put in?iAre we spending too much time on activities that bring very little value in return?   Maybe this is why we find ourselves busy to the point of exhaustion and even burnout. In the same way, are we using our money effectively?  We all have many things in our possession and accumulate more, but this principle tells us that 80% of the time we will only use 20% of what we have.  Could it be that we are spending too much time on activities that add little value and too much money buying more and more things that we probably will not get much value out of?


“It is not  how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness” – Charles Spurgeon


Less Is More

Perhaps all the busyness and all the stuff that we accumulate is the result of our need to look busy and productive and look like we have it all together. Neither is rewarding or satisfying. Perhaps we are not clear on our priorities and values. Busyness and the appearance of affluence may look good on the outside. A busy person may appear to be productive and efficient. Having a busy lifestyle may give the impression that a person is important and has important things to do. Having a lot of clothes, multiple cars, a nice house and a lot of stuff to fill it may be justified by the need to “keep up”. But, in the end, perhaps we are giving up too much to get very little value in return.

Less is more as the saying goes. A little can go a long way as we know. These are principles that we know and have grown up with. Yet, somehow, along the way we have become enticed with the notion that we need to work harder, longer and have a competitive edge over others. Somehow we have bought into the idea that we need to have something for every occasion: clothes for every possible activity, the latest electronic devices,  kitchen gadgets, the best car models and more. At some point, we discovered that we needed to fill our lives and our families’ lives with busyness from sports to vacations.

Focus On Less

Focusing on doing more with less necessarily begins with reflection and asking important questions – a self-evaluation of sorts. For example, some questions we could ask are:

What 20% of internet sites do I spend 80% of my research time on?

What 20? of my clothes do I wear 80% of the time?

What 20% of food from the grocery store do I eat 80% of the time?

What 20% of my money accounts for 80% of my purchases?

What 20% of activiities do i or my family spend 80% of our time on?

After answering these questions in a thoughtful reflective way, it becomes clear that we do more than we need to and have more than we need in order to have a purposeful and satisfying life. We can get by with far less and actually, in doing so, gain more time, more money and have better results in all areas of life

Some Practical Starters

Start somewhere and start small

Do what is manageable

Remove what is distracting you from doing what you enjoy and you value.

Give everything a time and a home.

Don’t feel guilty about eliminating what doesn’t fit.

Separate the essential from the nonessential.

The Pareto Principle can transform all areas of your life. By applying the 20/80 rule you have the potential to accomplish more than you may have thought was possible. We are all busy, but by being selective about how we use our time, money and energy can make a world of difference.

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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, traveling, learning, and pursuing a debt-free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. Diana is a Quebec City girl. who loves living life.  You can connect with her through Livingandstuff.ca