You’ll hear lots of variations on the “80/20 rule”:
- 20% of the people do 80% of the useful work.
- If you do the right 20% of the solution, you’ll fix 80% of the problem.
- 80% of your time is spent doing relatively useless stuff, but the other 20%, when you’re productive, delivers 80% of the value.
- 80% of this blog post is probably wasted, so look for the 20% that you can learn something from.
Whether the ratios are 80/20, 90/10, 70/30 or something else really isn’t the point. The idea is that not everything is the same: If you apply intelligence, you can work less and get more out of it. It’s a powerful concept, and often contains useful insight.
But it can’t, or shouldn’t, be applied everyplace.
The first weakness is that this uses 1+1=2 math, which doesn’t apply to all experiences. In the most important relationship of your life, if you think that 20% investment on your part will get you to 80% perfection, you’re lost. Even with 100% investment, you’ll make mistakes and never reach the perfect relationship.
The other assumption that the 80/20 rule tends to make is that 80% is “good enough.” That’s often true, but not always.
Let’s say you’re competing against 1,000 other applicants to get that plum job. Sorry, but elevating yourself up to #200 in the list won’t be good enough, or even getting up to #20. Instead, you’re looking for excellence, distinction, and uniqueness. If it’s worth it to you, you may have to work harder than EVERY other person to get that job.
The good news is that it’s real easy to work harder than 80% of those people just by doing 20% more. The bad news is that it gets harder from there.
And remember: 80% of the job openings aren’t worth this kind of extraordinary effort. Use your insight and intelligence to focus on the 20% that matter the most.
by Carl Dierschow