The ’80/20 Principle’ is a book about the value that Pareto Principle can bring to both your business and personal life. If you are unfamiliar with Pareto Principle then its time you changed that. To get you moving I’ll let the author explain the nutshell version.
‘The 80/20 principle asserts that a minority, a small number, of causes, inputs or efforts usually leads to a majority of the results, outputs or rewards, so most of the outputs result from a very small part of the causes or inputs.’ – Richard Koch.
If that doesn’t work then why not try my watered down, Northern boy version:
’80% of the effort that you apply in your life is wasted, but the 20% of the real quality stuff is what is bringing you joy and happiness; or even more to the point – everyone is feeling good as they work hard at a lot of things that just don’t matter.’
It’s referred to as Pareto Principle because it is widely believed that the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto discovered the theory many, many moons ago.
I bought the book for no other reason that it was one of the books that Tim Ferris suggested in the 4hr Work Week. I guess it was one of the impulse buys that causes people to go into consumer debt!
The principle was not a new one for me. I can’t remember if it was taught in school, I vaguely remember it being mentioned; but I know it is used a lot by lean practitioners, and this is where I have learned the most about it. My first experience of using the 80/20 principle as a tool occurred when I was working in the Rail Industry. I tried to use it as an aid to improve train performance punctuality. I found the 20% of problems that were leading to 80% of the failures, but I could never get the support needed from the higher powers to solve them. It seemed the top 20% of problems always needed an injection in cash and no cash equals no resolution. Instead you worked really hard on trying to solve 80% of the failures. It was a strange world-watching people being praised for working hard at the wrong things. Backwards logic if you ask me, and one of the reasons I quit.
The book starts with a history lesson before Koch himself explains how the 80/20 principle has helped him change his life (Koch is a highly successful author, investor and businessman). He covers time management and the belief that there is never enough time when in reality we are awash with it, but just don’t understand how to manage it effectively. I thought his chapter on ‘Time Revolution’ was the best part of the book.
‘Society is divided into those who have money but no time to enjoy it, and those who have time but no money.’ – Richard Koch.
It also reminded me of why it was so important for me to have left the Railway when I did. I learned an incredible amount during my 20-years and I would have learned so much more had I stayed, but my roots would have grown out of unhappy soil instead of the more fertile rich soil that my life springs from today. If you apply the 80/20 principle to your life then only 20% of your lifespan will hold the moments that create 80% of your happiness. So it’s important to identify them, seek them out and apply more time in that area.
‘If you are, on average, happier at work than outside work, you should work more and/or change your non-work life.’ – Richard Koch.
Not only is time important, but also whom you spend that time with is equally as important. When I stopped drinking alcohol all of my friendships also changed. It wasn’t a conscious choice not to spend time with those people, it just happened, but I think it happens for a reason. It’s your internal sat-nav system directing you to the 20% of people who are going to provide 80% of happiness in your life.
’Spend your time and emotional energy reinforcing and deepening the relationships that are most important.’ – Richard Koch.
There are two clear focus points in the book: business and personal life. I personally gained more value from chapters that concentrated on my personal life than business. I found the business section very analytical, boring and difficult to consume, whereas the personal life section was a breeze and filled me with excitement and enthusiasm.
Fortunately, for me, it seems I actually try to lead a life consistent with the 80/20 principle. One thing I will say is my experiences shows that leading an 80/20 lifestyle can upset quite a lot of people. Your bosses, work colleagues, partners and friends may look upon you as being selfish when you start to only focus on the 20% and leave the 80% alone. My only advice would be to ‘keep on keeping’ on.
If you understand the 80/20 principle then I don’t see the need to read this book, unless like me, you could do with a refresher and a kick up the behind. But if you have never dabbled in this theory before then you should look no further than Richard Koch as your starting point.
Do you have a book recommendation for the Needy Helper?