Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pareto Principle (The 80/20 Rule) - Rethink Your "To Do" List

Originally, the Pareto Principle referred to the observation that 80% of Italy’s wealth belonged to only 20% of the population.

More generally, the Pareto Principle is the observation (not law) that most things in life are not distributed evenly. It can mean all of the following things:


  • 20% of the input creates 80% of the result
  • 20% of the workers produce 80% of the result
  • 20% of the customers create 80% of the revenue
  • 20% of the bugs cause 80% of the crashes
  • 20% of the features cause 80% of the usage
  • And on and on…
From here this article is an excerpt of a blog article from the Harvard Business Review - The Unimportance of Practically Everything.

It perfectly explains how to prioritize your "TO DO" list according to the Pareto principle in order to maximize your results.

When you make a "to do" list, prioritize each item by the amount of effort required (1 to 10, with 1 being the least amount of effort) and the potential positive results (1 to 10, with 10 being the highest impact.)

 Now divide the potential results by the amount of effort to get a "priority" ranking. Do the items with the lowest resulting priority number first. Here's a simple example:

        Task 1: Write report on trip meeting.
        Effort=10, Result=2, Priority=5
        Task 2: Prepare presentation for marketing.
        Effort=4, Result=4, Priority=1
        Task 3: Call current customer about referral.
        Effort=1, Result=10, Priority=0.1

See your new priority-based order? You do Task 3 first, Task 2 second, and Task 1 last–if at all.

This way, you ensure you do those important low-effort tasks that make up 80% of your success.

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