The 80/20 rule of time management!

As we have already mentioned, everyone has the same amount of time. Yet some people, manage to achieve better results in a shorter period of time. Others take a much longer to achieve the same results.


The complete understanding of time management is understood if you just understand what I am about to say next!

Since you have a “finite” or “limited” amount of time, each day, use your time each day to do the “right” things. Don’t waste your time doing the “useless or wrong” things. If you just do this, you will be able to achieve results at a much faster rate!

Obviously, the next question you will ask is, what do I mean by “right” things and what do I mean by “wrong or useless” things?

One obvious answer that probably comes to your mind is that, “watching TV for 3 hours or surfing the net and reading forwarded e-mail” is an obviously “useless or wrong” activity to waste “limited” time on.

To some extent you are right. Though it is not a good idea to spend the whole day doing these things, you must relax from time to time or your ability to work will reduce. Also the quality of the work you are doing will reduce. 

However, this is NOT what we really mean by “wrong or useless” work!

To understand what we mean by “wrong or useless” work, you need to understand the “80/20 rule”. If you are doing an MBA or have studied economics, you probably have already come across this rule in some form or the other.

The 80/20 rule has many different forms. However, the form that maters to us is that:
“Only 20% of all the effort you make, causes 80% of your final results!”

Please Note: The above rule is only true if you do not manage your time properly. If you do manage your time properly, then this law does not hold true for you. The law represents the "average public".

This rule tells us that we can do many many things to get the results we want, but only 20% of the things we do, actually produce 80% of our final results. The other 80% of the things we do just produces the remaining 20% of the results.

This law is almost everywhere, in business, in your personal life, in your work etc. For example:

  • 80% of the world’s money is in the hands of 20% of the people
  • 80% of total business sales come from 20% of your clients
  • 80% of the India’s problems are caused by 20% of the total causes.

Let us try to understand this rule by taking the example of a student who wants to learn how to solve the sums in a particular chapter. Let us assume that the student has devoted 4 hours for this.

Now, the student can do many things to achieve the result he wants.

He could “learn up” all the sums in the chapter. This would probably take him more than the 4 hours he has decided to give to the task.

He might decide to “learn up” all the formulas and then practice all the sums. This might take him the complete period of the four hours.

He might decide to read and completely understand the fundamental concept behind the formulas, the derivation of the formulas and how they are applied. Then he might try to apply the formulas to a few sums until he is satisfied and that’s it! This might take around 2 hours.

This is how you must use the 80/20 rule. The above example is crude, but you do get the basic picture. When you want to achieve a particular result, there are many things you can do. But there are certain things, (the 20%) if you do them, 80% of the result you want to achieve will take care of itself!

If the above example did not clear your doubts, consider this:

Assume, that you have to convince a group 20 people to do something for you. You can achieve this result in different ways.

You could go and approach each and every person of the 20 people and convince all of them seperately. This will probably take up a huge amount of time. Another way in which you can achieve this result would be:

  • Identify the leaders or the influential people in the group. Identify the people in the group who the other people follow. This will be a small number, two or three.
  • Approach these people and convince them.
  • Once these people are convinced, they will convince the other people.

This is another crude example. But, what needs to be understood is that, by just doing 20% of the work, you can get the result you intend. The remaining 80% of the work that you have to, is done on its own. This way, you save time and you concentrate on what really matters.

This way, you do the “right” things and the “wrong or useless” things take care of them selves. This is the key of time management.

Next time there is a particular task you want to complete, don’t just jump head on into the task. Stop. Plan. Think about the task. Locate the 20% part of the task. Most tasks have a 20%. Once you identify it, then work it. This will give you 80% of your results. This way you will end up saving on a whole lot of time.

There is much more to learn about the 80/20 theory. To really appreciate the power of the principle, we suggest you read the book "80/20 Management". You can get your self the book from

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Next - Do what you need to do! >>

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Table Of Contents

  1. How to manage time? - Introduction
  2. The 80/20 rule!
  3. Do what you need to do!