Mastering the 80-20 Rule: How to Transform Your Focus, Productivity, Health and Wellbeing!

Achieve more with less effort; learn about the 80-20 rule and how to use it to improve every aspect of your life.

Most of us have been told that the key to success is hard work, whether in our education, careers, or relationships. However, have you ever wondered why you sometimes get mediocre results despite putting so much time and effort into achieving them? Your immediate instinct might be to work harder and dedicate more time and resources to your task. On the surface, this reaction makes sense; the harder you try, the more likely you will achieve your goal. Nevertheless, the key to success is not working harder but working smarter. 

The 80-20 rule states that the minority of causes have the most impact, whereas the majority have the least. The eighty percent and twenty percent values are not exact—it could be 70-30 or even 95-5. In other words, a few things we do have a significant impact, while most of the things we do have minimal effect. By focusing our efforts on the things that have a significant impact, we can save time and achieve more.

80-20 rule examples:

  • Have you ever driven by a construction site or walked into an office and observed that a few employees were absorbed in their tasks and working diligently while others were idling around? You might have seen the 80-20 rule at work, literally and figuratively. According to this rule, twenty percent of employees produce eighty percent of the work output, while the remaining majority produce only twenty percent (Koch, 2011). 
  • In another example, approximately twenty percent of a company’s products might be responsible for eighty percent of its sales (Koch, 2011). 
  • Eighty percent of the company’s sales might involve twenty percent of its customers (Koch, 2011).
  • In relationships, 20% of the people you interact with might cause 80% of arguments.

How To Use the 80-20 Rule

One of the most important things for using the 80-20 rule is to stop doing activities that waste your time. The 80-20 rule can help you determine the actions that waste most of your time, so you can reduce or eliminate them from your schedule, reclaim your lost hours, and use them for activities that matter more to you or help you achieve your goals.

Thus, according to the 80-20 rule, one of the best ways to become more productive is to figure out and eliminate the most unproductive activities on your schedule and prioritise the most effective activities. 

Here are some examples of unproductive activities that can be eliminated using the 80-20 rule:

  1. Checking emails excessively throughout the day instead of focusing on important work. Instead, allocate specific blocks of time to check and respond to emails.
  2. Spending too much time on social media or other personal activities during work hours. Limit these activities to breaks or after work hours.
  3. Attending meetings that are optional or relevant to your work. If possible, decline these meetings or ask for meeting agendas in advance to ensure your attendance is necessary.
  4. Working on tasks that are not high priority or do not contribute to achieving your goals. Focus on the 20% of tasks that will provide 80% of the results.
  5. Multitasking, which can reduce productivity and increase stress. Instead, concentrate on completing one task at a time before moving on to the next one.

One method to determine what to prioritise is by listing all activities you aim to tackle that day. Next, you can sort them in order of importance or value. Then you might start tackling them by spending most of your effort completing the vital few activities on top of your list. That way, even if you do not finish everything on your list, you might still feel productive and accomplished by completing the most critical tasks well.

The 80-20 rule can be a game-changer for our Health and well-being, and during my day-to-day work with clients, this is how we apply the 80-20 rule better to support better Health, Personal Development and Work-life balance:

Health: Applying the 80-20 rule to our diet can significantly improve our health. According to this rule, 80% of our health comes from 20% of our actions. For instance, we can focus on consuming nutrient-dense (whole, unprocessed) foods for 80% of our meals and indulge in our favourite treats for the remaining 20%. This approach can help us maintain health while enjoying our favourite foods occasionally.

Personal Development: The 80-20 rule can also be applied to our personal growth. For example, we can prioritise the 20% of activities contributing to 80% of our growth. These activities include reading self-improvement books, attending seminars or workshops, or engaging in regular self-reflection and evaluation. By focusing on the most impactful activities, we can achieve significant results in our personal development.

Work-life Balance: Applying the 80-20 rule to our work-life balance can help us prioritise our time and energy. We can identify the 20% of tasks that contribute to 80% of our work productivity and focus on them during our most productive hours. This can help us complete our work more efficiently and free up time for our personal life and hobbies. Additionally, we can aim to spend 80% of our time outside work pursuing activities that bring us joy and fulfilment.

Remember, the 80-20 rule suggests that 20% of your efforts will provide 80% of your results, so focusing on the most important and productive tasks is essential.


  • Koch, R. (2011). The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More with Less: Updated 20th anniversary edition of the productivity and business classic. Hachette UK.

Sharon Tomkins

Sharon is a New Zealand qualified Health Coach and Personal Trainer, as well as an ICF Certified Coach and Accredited Coaching Supervisor. Sharon was awarded the 'Health & Wellness Coach of the Year' 2022, by The Health Coaches Australia & New Zealand Association.
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