The 80/20 Rule & Your Productivity

Business Support Customer Service Professional & Managerial
Woman multitasking

The 80/20 Rule. It’s one of those buzz words that’s been around for awhile and has become a bit of a cliché. Similar to when you read someone’s CV and they’re talking about how they want to ‘grow with a business’ or ‘strive for success’ or, probably worst of all, ‘touch base’.

But even though I think it’s been overused, I am obsessed. Not obsessed like the Beliebers or the BeyHive, but more akin to someone who is a little dorky. I love hearing about fun 80/20 facts – I love reading about how you can apply it to your personal goals, and I love to explore how it applies in a business capacity.

The 80/20 Rule for rookies

So I guess I should start with a little introduction to what the 80/20 rule is – for those who don’t already know and are ready to have their minds blown.

Its official name is the Pareto Principle. Coined by an economist who observed that 80% of the total income in Italy was received from 20% of the population.

To put it in Layman’s terms: 80% (or more) of everything you achieve in life will come from 20% (or less) of everything you do; 80% of your outputs come from 20% of your input.

Now, it’s not exactly a hard and fast rule. Statistics never really are. Like my Dad once said during one of his ‘dad joke’ moments, “72.93% of all the statistics you read are made up”. Good one Dad. But whether you are looking at revenue streams, personal goals, or even the English language – the majority is achieved by the minority. Most of the time. Maybe even 80% of the time…

In business

If you did know about the 80/20 rule before today then the following examples will come as no surprise to you:

  • 80% of profits come from 20% of customers
  • 80% of product sales from 20% of products
  • 80% of customer complaints from 20% of customers
  • 80% of sales from 20% of the sales team

But what does that actually mean? How can we use it to either further our business or become more productive in our working lives?

Nurture and optimise your 80% customers

While doing some research for this I found an alarming number of people who suggest that because 80% of your customers or clients are only achieving 20% of your profits, you should spend less time with them and more time with the money makers. I guess it makes sense, they aren’t your bread winners so why bother.

But ask yourself, did your high-profit customers always make you the most money? Did they meet you and say ‘yes – I want to buy all your products/services, all the time, even though you haven’t established any relationship or trust with me at all’? In some instances, like a PSA or contract review, this might be the case. You won out on the day. But more often than not, to win big contracts like this, you need to have a good relationship with the customer. You need to nurture that relationship, develop trust and… spend time with them.

Get to know your 20% customers

In my eyes, these are the customers who buy from you for a reason. Find that reason and use it to optimise your customer, your marketing strategy and your time. This is all about using your 20% to maximise your businesses’ performance. Instead of wasting time trying to profit from products/services that aren’t working; focus on innovating and improving those that your best customers are using time and time again.

Your employees

The same goes for your employees. 20% of your employees will achieve 80% of the profits. Those that are making the most, don’t need you as much. As long as they are happy, have all the tools they need and are being challenged – they’ll generally always be able to do well. Figure out what they need from you, supply it to them and let them do their best.

As for the 80% – they are the ones that need the most support. Focus on what they are achieving at, recognise their individual achievements, understand that they are working hard and doing their best, and ask them what they need from you to help them achieve their goals. It’s so easy to brand your 80% as ‘unsuccessful’ by comparison. So easy to impose the same or similar KPI’s and then become disappointed when they aren’t meeting the same standards. But by not comparing the two and seeing all of your employees as individuals, it will help make for a better and more productive work environment.

In your personal life

If you’re anything like me, the concept of 80% of your time essentially being wasted is super depressing.

However, by becoming aware of this, you can actually use it to your advantage. Ask yourself ‘what do I do that gives me the most satisfaction’ (or financial gain, depending on your goals). Once you figure out what activities are giving you the greatest achievements, it’s all about optimising them. If you look for ways you can spend less time and effort to get better results, such as learning better and more efficient ways to work, you can maximise your achievements even more.

Feel like you’re always working hard but accomplishing very little? It might be because you are spending the most time on tasks or goals that add little value to you. Ask yourself ‘will this add the most value to me’. If not, find the things that do and focus more effort into achieving these.


80/20 rule


For those of you that got bored after the first paragraph and scrolled to the end to see the conclusion – you form part of the 80% of people who’ll only read 20% of my blog. That’s ok though, no hard feelings here. I guess.

For those of you that have read through the entire thing (or most of it anyway) – you’re the minority. Thanks for being part of the small 20% who actually read most of my blog… I’m guessing about 80% of it?

Read more: check out Living The 80/20 Way by Richard Koch, explores how you can live life to the fullest by focussing on your passions.