WikiPedia explains that the Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule, "states that for many phenomena, 80% of the consequences stem from 20% of the causes". Logically, we know this is true. For example, in the 1990's, Michael Jordan's contribution to the Chicago Bull's six Championships was much greater than the contribution of the other 80% of the team.
Here's how to make the 80/20 Rule work for you:
1. Eliminate Inefficient Activities.
As it is with drinking water, it's not what you put into it that matters most, but what you take out of it. Impurities in drinking water are, at best, unnecessary and can actually be harmful. This is the same with inefficient or unnecessary activities. They may be keeping you from reaching your full potential. By eliminating them, you will have more time to focus on more effective activities.
2. Have a Long-Term Perspective.
By knowing where you are going, you understand how choices today impact your tomorrow. This is illustrated beautifully in Luke 10:38-42.
"As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!'
"'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'"
In that moment, Mary made the better choice. This was an opportunity that was only available to Martha and her sister for a brief moment in history. What a missed opportunity!
3. Focus on the Most Valuable Tasks.
When prioritizing your day, make a decision to focus on the tasks in the top 20%. Those tasks that will contribute to 80% of your results. By taking this approach consistently over time, your productivity will begin to grow exponentially. Instead of your work having a 1 to 1 relationship, it will have a 1 to 5 relationship. In other words, for each input, you will generate 5 outputs.
When you move all of your activities to the top 20%, the top 20% of those tasks will have a 1 to 10 relationship. As you improve your ability to determine and focus on the most highly leveraged tasks, you will be able to produce the work of 100 people or more. This ability to leverage is one of the reasons why the top income earners make 100 times more than the average person.