80/20 Principle: Live Efficiently

You've probably heard it before: work hard and you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. To us, that’s just too much work. We want maximum benefit from minimum effort. You can call us lazy, but we think of it as just plain clever. To help you do the same, we’d like to introduce to you the 80/20 Principle.

What is the 80/20 Principle?

This principle, otherwise known as the Pareto Principle or the Law of the Vital Few, is the empirical observation that most things in life are not distributed evenly. For example 50% of the workers don’t typically produce 50% of the work; 50% of your time doesn’t go into producing 50% of the output. Instead, typically, 80% of the results come from 20% of the input (for example, workers or time).

But what does this really mean on a more practical level?

Let's say you and a friend are stranded on a large deserted island. In the distance, you hear a rescue plane. Channeling your inner survivors, you both decide to try to signal the plane. Your friend, ever the perfectionist, decides to build one glorious signal fire and write out "Help me, my name is Fred from Kansas, and I am stranded" in rocks on the beach. This all takes him about an hour to do. You decide that in the time it takes for him to do this, you’ll go around the island creating 4 different signal fires and then go eat a coconut. Who has used their time the best? Intuitively and not egotistically, you probably realize you were smarter than Fred. Even though what Fred did was very descriptive and probably had significant artistic integrity, you’re stranded, the plane is coming, and you aren't looking for perfection - just rescue! The more chances for the plane to see you, the better! For each signal, you only needed to spend a fraction of the time Fred spent to get most of the way to the result you wanted (in this case, smoke for the plane to see). As you can see from this example, spending more time on something is not always better. Instead, sometimes it's about staying in that zone of optimal returns for your time investment, which in this case was making as many large signal fires as possible and then eating a coconut (because you need your energy)!

Another way to think of the Pareto Principle

So the Pareto Principle says that 20% of the inputs produce 80% of the output. Another way to think of the Pareto Principle is as the Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns. In essence, at some point, for every additional unit of time or effort you put into something, the less output (reward, result, etc.) you get out of it. In some terrible cases, you might work so hard that you in fact decrease your output! It's like when you have a guy working in a factory making shoes. As you add more people, at first, your factory will be more productive as you have more people to put the shoes together. Eventually though, there won't be enough tools for everyone to work with or not enough raw materials and the increased productivity starts to slow down. As more and more workers get added, the factory gets fuller and fuller and in the end, if you add enough workers, there won't even be enough room to move. Then you'll start producing fewer and fewer shoes.

Don't Be Discouraged!

Now for some this can be disheartening because working hard does not guarantee success. I encourage you to stop thinking that way - this should really be a source of inspiration and excitement! It means you don't have to work harder to get what you want. In fact, it may be smarter to work less hard. How freeing! 

80/20 Principle in Health and Wellness

In health, the 80/20 Principle also applies. There’s a huge amount of health information available and many ways to improve your health, but not every change will affect your health to the same degree.

Another Very Reasonable Example

Let me give you another example: let’s say you eat doughnuts and cakes at every meal and you decide you want to start being healthier. Reading all about how bad plastic is for your hormonal balance, etc. you decide to remove all plastics from your life. Well, you’re going to spend A LOT of time with minimal if any noticeable effect on your overall health. What would have been a lot easier and more effective? Not eating all those doughnuts and cakes! Now, in this example, it’s fairly obvious that cutting out the doughnuts and cakes is the key step, but, not only is it not that obvious in most cases, but you also have to ask yourself: what should you eat instead? For most people, determining the right choice requires extensive experience and knowledge. We can help you live by the 80/20 principle - feeling significantly healthier with minimal effort.

But What about the Remaining 20%? 

Now obviously, we would want to get you 100% of the way to perfect wellness but this is the beginning of your journey! A lot of the problems that lead to lackluster health results and abandonment of a healthy lifestyle are not just bad advice but advice that’s not 80/20 compliant. It’s not tailored to you to get you the greatest bang for your buck - it’s focused on that last 20% instead of the 80%. We want to focus on that 80% because achieving health success boosts your spirit, raises your energy, and gets you ready for those later steps that will have low marginal returns but are still important.

Go Forth and Be Efficient! 

So, contact us to get your 80/20 health plan started!

Also, remember to use the 80/20 principle in all areas of your life. Always think: is what I’m doing part of the 20% that leads to 80% of the effect? If not, do it later- focus on the most important components of whatever you’re doing first. Make the main thing, the main thing! You'll be amazed how much you can get done when you work smarter and not harder - it's how we got where we are!  

Kelly Fox