The 80/20 Rule

One question I get often is, “Can you explain the 80/20 Rule?”

At Think Time, as we help people focus on what matters most, we use the 80/20 rule in all of our systems.

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The one thing I can say about the 80/20 Rule is that when you get it…you GET it.  And, you will never go back.

There is an interesting history behind it, but the Big Idea is that it teaches us to look at activities—not for how much effort we put into them, but for the results that flow from them.  Do they move the needle toward our goals?


We can work really hard at something that doesn’t return a lot of results.  We can also strategically place small, targeted efforts toward something that yields enormous results.

This is the tip that helps us to stop spinning our wheels and start making traction.


Why is it named “The 80/20 Rule?”  The rule derives its name from the discovery that in life about 20% of our activities generate 80% of our results.  The converse is also true.  About 80% of our activities yield only 20% of our results.

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The 80/20 Rule is regularly used in business training to boost profits and skyrocket results.  For instance, salespeople regularly use this rule to close more deals.  If about 80% of sales come from 20% of the customers, then calling the list in alphabetical order from top to bottom will not be as fruitful as taking a moment to identify the high yielding 20% and to contact them first.  Less effort yields more results with the 80/20 Rule.

At Think Time, we are big on results—not only professional results but also personal and relational results.  So, we apply the 80/20 Rule to everything from creating agendas and budgets at work to household responsibilities and even our relationships.

Following are some examples of how the 80/20 Rule may integrate with your daily life.  A 20% activity is an activity that yields HIGH RESULTS.  An 80% activity yields LOW RESULTS–no matter how much effort you exert.

Here we go!

A 20% activity could be taking  a few minutes at the beginning of the day to identify your key priorities and to purge potential obstacles to accomplishing them.  Top performers do this every day because it yields such great results.  This move changes every action following it.

Businessman reflecting with his notepad

An 80% activity could be trying to complete “everything” on your list.  Remember that all of your activities are not high-yielding and often “good” activities steal time from the best.

A 20% activity could be having a clear agenda created and floating it by everyone before a meeting.  This simple step maximizes the minutes during the meeting, prevents running over due to sloppy discussions, and prevents countless add-on e-mail interchanges after the meeting.

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An 80% activity may be always saying “yes” when someone stops by your desk to say, “Gotta minute?”

At home, a 20% activity could be training your toddlers to clean up.  You are not only getting the toys cleaned, but you are building a sense of responsibility into a citizen of the world.

An 80% activity could be picking up your four year old’s toys again and again and again.  You are exhausted.  They feel good while their character worsens.  Their future co-workers will wish you had required them to pick up after themselves.  And, as a cherry on top, you will get to do it all over again tomorrow.



An 80% is telling your kids to be kind to each other—unkindly.   

A 20% activity is modeling kindness in tone and action while teaching.  

If your spouse’s love language is “words of affirmation,” it may be an 80% to clean the dishes to show them you love them.  In this instance, a 20% activity may be instead writing a specific, heartfelt compliment.  


My final example will be a counselor joke:

“How many counselors does it take to change a lightbulb?”

“Just one – but the light bulb has to really want to change.”


Trying to help someone who does not want to change is an 80%.  Targeting my effort to invest in someone who is wanting to grow: 20%.

By using the 80/20 Rule as part of deciding what goes onto your calendar, you will never have to wonder if you are focusing on the most important thing again. 

Add the 80/20 Rule to your daily decisions and transform your life.

Does this help?

Please comment below and let me know!

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Christine Wilson, LPC

Co-Founder Think Time



We have a serious problem.  We are losing valuable time.  We have created an innovative process that helps people clarify their vision so they can live their lives focused on what matters most.  

Shop Think Time today!

Blog Highlights:

Look at activities—not for how much effort we put into them, but for the results that flow from them.

Do my activities move the needle toward my goals?

About 20% of our activities generate 80% of our results.

All of our activities are not high-yielding and often “good” activities steal time from the best.

Use the 80/20 Rule.  You will never have to wonder if you are focusing on the most important thing again.


1 Comment

  1. OK!!!! I’ ve only been doing this wrong for 1.5 yrs! This changes everything, Christine. I found your Think Time planner 1.5 yrs ago and have just LOVED it….and now, I have found the blog and I know I”m going to love the planner even more! My mind is swirling at the moment with all I have to plan and do. First stop today, will be my Think-ing Time.

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