Knowing your 80/20…

The ICF-Orange County Coaching Chapter published an article this week that I had written on the virtues of getting a virtual assistant, if you are interested you can peruse the piece here. I chose to cite Pareto in the article and this started me thinking about the different ways we can create space and time for the people and things we love.

The Pareto Principle came from a mathematical formula about unequal distribution… stay with me here… it is also known as the 80/20 rule, and states that the few (20 percent) are vital and the many (80 percent) are trivial. Apparently you can apply it to anything but in time management “it reminds you to focus on the 20 percent that matters. Of the things you do during your day, only 20 percent really matter. Those 20 percent produce 80 percent of your results. Identify and focus on those things. When the fire drills of the day begin to sap your time, remind yourself of the 20 percent you need to focus on. If something in the schedule has to slip, if something isn’t going to get done, make sure it’s not part of that 20 percent.” (Source –

It is an simple and intriguing principle, look at other areas in your life; do you wear 20% of your clothes about 80% of the time? Spend 80% of the time with 20% of your friends? Send 80% of your emails to 20% of your address book?… Have a look… you will be able to apply this to many things in your life.. and as you begin to recognize it how might you harness this knowledge and become more effective about it?

I was recently challenged to write a list of the things that I ‘could do’ but will choose to now stop doing, an interesting exercise for me given I so often help my own clients see that ‘just because you CAN do something doesn’t always mean you SHOULD do it”. Knowing what makes us happy, gives us purpose and keeps us moving forward is what is key here, letting go of the other ‘stuff’ is necessary to our growth and health.

As I think of similar philosophies I recall the mantra of Charles and Ray Eames, to ‘achieve more with less’, this philosophy bore some of the most beautiful furniture icons of the last century, they just concentrated on what was vital to them, the core.

Many entrepreneurs have used this principle and Richard Koch has made a living from teaching this way of thinking to both individuals and organizations; he has written several books including ‘Living the 80/20 way’ and you may want to check out his website at, there is even a tip in there about writing lists on ‘what NOT do to today’, which I may well start using!

As we go into this holiday weekend consider your own 80/20… what is the 20% that you will dedicate yourself to and which is the 80% that you will stop worrying about and just let go? I know it takes a little faith but you will never know what you are capable of until you try it.

Off to decide which 20% to focus on today…

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1 Response to “Knowing your 80/20…”

  1. 1 penny August 29, 2008 at 6:58 am

    Words that brightened my day !!
    Thank you, Candice
    A fresh reminder to start my days by checking in with what is truly important to me,
    and focusing on that.

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