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The Pareto Principle: Work Less, Achieve More

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that for many phenomena 80% of the result comes from 20% of the effort. The principle has been named after Vilfredo Pareto; an Italian economist who, back in 1895, noticed that about 80% of Italy’s land belonged to 20% of the country’s population.

Although originally the Pareto principle referred to the distribution of wealth, it can be applied to a wide variety of contexts. Some cool examples:

  • ~20% of seeds planted result in ~80% of the flowers.

  • ~20% of the world has ~80% of the wealth.

  • You wear ~20% of your clothes ~80% of the time.

In fact, The Pareto Principle comes also in handy in the setting of time management.

Once you realize that 80% of your outcomes come from 20% of the time and effort you spend on them, the importance of prioritizing becomes obvious.

For instance: if you have a 10-item to-do list with each task being equally

time-consuming, you can boost your efficiency by identifying and completing two top-priority tasks. As a result, even if you don’t manage to do all the remaining tasks, the 20% you completed could amount to up to 80% of the impact.

What if this rule can be applied to academics?