I learned about this principle a few years ago listening to the Tim Ferriss Podcast, but have had difficulty incorporating it into my life, until more recently. The principle states that typically, 80% of the result, is the product of 20% of the inputs. While this may seem counterintuitive at first, think of any group project you have been a part of … and you will quickly remember only being 20% of a group, say 1 person in a 5 person group, but handling 80% of the work load. If you cannot remember a time this happened, then congratulations, you were not a huge nerd like me in school, and probably had a much easier time.
There have been many places this principle has been applied … whether fixing errors in computer code has shown that fixing the top 20% of bugs removes 80% of system problems … or in baseball it has been shown that the top 20% statistically impactful players on a team create 80% of the team’s victories … and even financially, we are currently seeing the results of the top 20% of the population controlling the top 80% of a countries wealth. While we can argue the relative benefits of any number of economic systems, the larger point I am trying to emphasize is how to use this principle for your own personal growth.
What small factors, say 20% of the time you spend in a day, could help you improve by 80% in a particular area of your life? What I like most about how Tim Ferriss applies this, are that his main goal is one of increasing the happiness and enjoyment of his life. And I do think focusing on increasing your overall happiness with your life important even for those who would argue that it is easier for someone like Tim, as he is already very financially stable. I would make the counter argument, that improving your financial situation, even by as little as 20%, could increase your comfort and enjoyment of your life by 80%, and the principle still applies.
Whether it helps you adjust the focus of the self-improvement of your life in general, or whether it helps you to choose to spend a little bit of time working off anxiety or stress, before returning to a main project, say something like buying a house and moving, using this principle as a thought exercise can be a great help. I chose today to spend my morning in physical activities that bring me joy and stress relief, and can now spend the rest of the day packing boxes and moving with at least a little weight off my shoulders. This principle may not impact 100%, but thinking in this vein, can help you focus on the items that have the greatest impact.