Change your life with the 80-20 rule

How to use less energy – and get more results

We live in a world with sayings like “go big or go home,” “think big” and “too big to fail.” But what if bigger isn’t better? What if having a one-track mind isn’t a bad thing? The truth is that it’s not. And the 80-20 rule proves it.

One saying that is true comes from Tony Robbins himself, and that is, “Whatever you consistently think about and focus upon you move toward.” No one wants to spend their life being pulled in a hundred directions at once, feeling like they never have any time. And when you leverage the 80-20 rule, you don’t have to.

What is the 80-20 rule?

The 80-20 rule is the principle that 20% of what you do results in 80% of your outcomes. Put another way, 80% of your outcomes result from just 20% of your inputs. Also known as the Pareto principle, the 80-20 rule is a timeless maxim that’s all about focus. Because so much of your output is determined by a relatively small amount of what you do each day, focusing on the most productive tasks will result in greater output.

The Pareto principle comes from the mind of Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who first introduced it in 1906. But it is Joseph Juran, a business theorist, who is credited with popularizing the idea and relating it to business situations during the 1940s. This is why the 80-20 rule is usually used in business, but you can also apply it to your personal goals, like finances and spending or even learning a new skill.

The 80-20 rule requires you to throw out a few time-honored myths about productivity. First, the myth that everything matters equally – it doesn’t. Break down that wall and prioritize. Second, the myth of multitasking: When you try to focus on everything at once, you end up not truly focusing on anything at all.

what is the 80 20 rule

The 80-20 rule: It’s all about focus

Time is the currency of achievement – but some people seem to cash in their time for more achievement than others. Why is it that they’re able to do more with their time than the rest of us?

Tony says, “One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power.” The 80-20 rule is one way of explaining – and overcoming – this very common problem. When you understand the answer to the question “What is the 80 20 rule?,” you’ll understand that high achievers don’t have fewer obligations, more help from others or better luck. They have more focus

Gary Keller, founder of real estate giant Keller Williams, literally wrote the book on the Pareto principle. The ONE Thing is all about how to stop the thieves that steal your time and keep you from achieving your dreams. “The moon is reachable if you prioritize everything and put all of your energy into accomplishing the most important thing,” Keller says. But, “Extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous.”

How to use the 80-20 rule

You can’t use the 80-20 rule to your advantage unless you know what it is you want to focus on. How do you cut out all the background noise and zero in on that 20% that’s going to make an extraordinary difference in your life? Follow this equation: Purpose + Priority = Productivity.

Start with your purpose

Your purpose is the foundation of everything in your life or in your business. Every time you make a decision or a change, ask yourself, “Does this serve my purpose?” If you don’t know your purpose, you can’t create goals or take action. It’s that important.

Your purpose could be something like having more time with your family, the freedom to live life on your terms or the money to travel the world. In business, your purpose is your company vision. It’s the reason you started the business in the first place. It’s the difference you wanted to make in the world. When you apply the 80-20 rule the right way, you start off thinking big – but not for long.

Narrow down your priorities

Now it’s time to get more specific: What’s holding you back from living your purpose, whether in life or in business? Maybe you need to finally take the leap and start your own business. Maybe you need to save money for that down payment on a home. As a business leader, you may need to find or create new efficiencies or improve your processes.

Write down five things you could start doing today to help you build the extraordinary life you want – one in which you get to live your purpose every day. Then prioritize them by how fast they will get you to your goal. The top item – the most meaningful – is your first priority.

Create action items

You’re not done yet. Priorities are nice, but they’re not enough to get you over the finish line. You need to create SMART goals: steps you can take that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and anchored within a Time Frame. Then you need to hold yourself accountable to them. These specific action items are the real 20% of the 80-20 rule – the things you’ll spend 20% of your time doing that will yield the best results.

One example of this is the “Dream 100,” a concept from marketer, consultant and sales powerhouse, Chet Holmes. Create a list of the top 100 people you want to work with or gain as clients and rank them by level of importance. Then start targeting them – and don’t stop. Put all of your focus on those 100 people. It will be worth it when you start bringing them in.

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

related posts
Productivity & Performance

Master these Characteristics of a Leader and Become Unstoppable

Read More
Productivity & Performance

The science of lasting change

Read More
Productivity & Performance

One Decision Can Change Your Life

Read More

Get Tony Robbins' articles, podcasts and videos in your inbox, biweekly.