Prioritizing: The Pareto Way!

pareto principle image


You have a pile of tasks waiting to be handled.

Your to-do list has extended to pages.

The list of things to be accomplished feels endless. And you don’t know where to begin.

Above everything, it feels daunting!

In such situations, the Pareto Principle can help one out.


First Things First, What is the Pareto Principle?

An Italian economist and philosopher named Vilfredo Federic Damaso Pareto came up with the concept back in 1895. Nature has a way of giving humans ideas.

An apple led to a major scientific breakthrough for Sir Isaac Newton. Similarly, observing growth patterns of pea-plants led to a sociological, economical breakthrough for Mr. Pareto.

He noticed that only 20% of the pea plants in his garden accounted to 80% of the healthy pea pods produced.

He undertook some research and found out that only 20% of the population of Italy owned 80% of the entire land of the country.

He looked up industrial trends back then and found out around 80% of production came from only about 20% of industries. The Pareto Principle thus was born:

80% of the results will come from only about 20% of action.


Are the Numbers confusing?

Let us take some more modern examples, without the numbers.

Most of the times (80%) we dine in at the same set of favourite restaurants (20%) from all the options available. And most of the times we order more or less the same set of delicacies from the vast menu.

Most of the times, we wear only few sets of clothes from all the outfits we own.

Most of the times, we spend time at only the same few corners of house, no matter how big the place is.

Some of us have installed a lot of apps on our phones, but we generally use only the select ones.

There are a lot of options available. But we make a choice. We prioritize.

How does this apply to time management and to-do lists and projects/assignments , you ask.

Read on.

Just as there is a selection and prioritizing of the above mentioned simple day-to-day aspects of life, we can use that strategy in managing our tasks too.

And let us be honest, it is not always about favourites. We choose the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the apps we use according to the context and what the situation demands.

20% of your activities will amount to 80% of your results. 20% of your clients/customers will amount to 80% of your successes.

20% of what you do will add value to 80% of what you do.


One very important point to be noted comes up here:

You only need to devote 20% of your time and action to get done with 80% of your work. You actually don’t need to work day and night to get things done.


What can you do about your working habits while keeping the Pareto Principle in mind? How do you pinpoint that golden 20%?

The Importance Rating:

Don’t make a to-do list randomly. Prioritise the tasks in it.

  • Which tasks need urgent attention?
  • Which tasks can wait, and for how long?
  • Which tasks need further thinking?

The key does not lie in over-working to the point of exhaustion. It actually lies in working smart. It involves choosing what is the most important thing that should be finished first. And then the second, third, fourth and so on.


The Individual Consideration:

As you prioritize and select tasks also consider the following:

  • Are you capable of finishing the task alone or do you need a hand?
  • Are you and only you capable of finishing the task?
  • Can you delegate it?

It involves making a choice about which tasks you and only you should finish, and which tasks should be delegated or which tasks should involve a team.

So the next time you feel overwhelmed by a pile of work to be done, take a pause and think about the Pareto Principle. What is that 20% of the task that needs to be done first, so that it finishes 80% of the work? It is true hard work never killed anyone but it is smart work that gave people a much needed work-life balance!