The Pareto Principle - Optimizing Your Digital World
“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”
- Seneca, On the Shortness of Life
Ever wondered if there was a single lifehack that could help you optimize your life, digitally and otherwise? Well, wonder no more! Learning the Pareto principle and developing an 80/20 mindset will help you do just that.
The Pareto principle was named after an Italian economist (Vilfredo Pareto) who found that 80% of Italy’s land was owned by only 20% of it’s population. In addition to this, he discovered the 80/20 trend emerged in many areas outside of economics. The numbers aren’t always 80/20, sometimes it’s 75/25 or 90/10 but the general principle remains the same. Pareto even coined a term for it: “the vital few and trivial many”. Basically, only 20 percent of “something” is responsible for a massive 80 percent of the “results”.
Often, this trend shows up in many different fields.
Software: 20% of code tends to have 80% of it’s errors. (Source below)
Sports: Roughly 20% of the exercises and habits have 80% of the impact and the trainee should not focus so much on a varied training. (Source below)
World's Income: The richest 20% of people have 80% of worlds income. (Source below)
With the 80/20 mindset, you learn to drop or delegate ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING that doesn’t tie into your main objective.
Now you’re probably wondering how the heck will this help me in my personal life? As a gamer, IT professional, and technology enthusiast, the 80/20 mindset has helped me enormously. Here are some of its practical applications in my own life:
Video games: I noticed I only completed a fraction of the games I purchased so I became more selective and focused on only completing 1-2 games at a time and seeing them through to the end. As you can imagine, the satisfaction of seeing more credit screens and having more cash is a plus.
IT tools: I do freelance IT work all over Manhattan, NYC and got used to carrying around a ton of different wires and tools to always be prepared for any client’s issues. However, I realized that 90% of my items weren’t used at all so I started bringing a basic ifixit toolkit, ethernet cable and a laptop. It’s simple and addresses all my client’s issues. My back feels much better and my workbag has never been lighter!
Technology: I realized of all my tech gadgets/devices, I used my desktop the most so I invested in a long-lasting powerful desktop and made that the priority in my budget. For my other gadgets, I bought lower-end inexpensive versions of the stuff I didn’t use so often. (e.g.; Nintendo 2DS > 3DS XL)
However, the biggest contribution the 80/20 mindset has had on me was from turning me from a stir-crazy busybody into a peaceful high-functioning master at getting things done. One of my favorite authors Tim Ferris even goes as far as saying: “Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” The truth is, when you reduce excess and focus only on the parts of the task that truly matter, you’ll find yourself accomplishing things with a fraction of the effort. The time you save allows you to have more time to focus on other things and I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t use more free time.
So the next time you have to accomplish something or you want to develop more peace and simplicity in your life, try the 80/20 mindset and ask yourself: “What 20% of my tasks are resulting in 80% of my happiness and desired outcomes?” or “What can I reduce / remove that isn’t contributing to my goals/happiness?”.
Hopefully the pareto principle improves your life as much as it has mine. Just imagine how much more time you’ll have to browse the internet and play video games :)
References and Sources
Pressman, Roger S. (2010). Software Engineering: A Practitioner's Approach (7th ed.). Boston, Mass: McGraw-Hill, 2010. ISBN 978-0-07-337597-7.