Pareto’s Gift to the World: The 80/20 Rule!

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Expert Author Dr. Noelle Nelson

There’s a fascinating concept in economics called “Pareto’s Law,” or the “80/20 Rule.” In a nutshell, a 19th century economist, Vilfredo Pareto, noticed that 20% of the people owned 80% of the land, and similarly that 20% of his peapods produced 80% of his peas. Much later, Joe Juran, looking to improve factory production during WWII, realized that 20% of the factories were responsible for 80% of all defective parts, and vice-versa: thus the beginning of the quality movement in US business.

What could the “80/20 Rule” possibly have to do with you? Simply put, most of us spend 80% of our time on things that really don’t matter all that much to us, and only 20% of our time on the things that really matter. Huh…

Ask yourself, who do you spend the most time with? The people who uplift you, support you, cherish you? Or those who bore you, annoy you, cause you endless irritation or grief? What do you spend most of your time doing? Complaining, blaming, feeling sorry for yourself? Or praising, appreciating, finding value in what you do? How about activities? Do you spend most of your free time in activities that engage you, inspire you, thrill you? Or do you just go with whatever flow happens to, well, flow at the moment? Facebook, TV, surfing the web…

It finally dawned on me, some years ago, that I’d rather work a little longer/harder to earn some extra bucks (given that I really enjoy my work), so I could pay a house-cleaner to clean my home, an activity I truly do not enjoy, much as I appreciate a clean house. And when given the option to get my butt up off the couch to take a dance class, rather than spend another hour watching a TV program I would forget about in the next 10 minutes, dance class won out. Even though there are days I most definitely do not want to get up off that couch. Dance class clearly is in my list of “top things I love.”

What’s your percent? When you sit down and honestly assess with whom and where you spend your time-which is the same thing as saying “with whom and where do you spend your life?”-what’s your 80/20? Deliberately cut out or reduce those things that do not give you joy, so that more and more of your time is spent in the 80% of stuff you really like to do. Take a look at your friends and social life, including your social media life. Deliberately cut out or reduce the time you spend with those who do not rank high in your “things I love” list.

It may sound odd to take such a calculated approach to your life, but time really is all we have. How and with whom we choose to spend it very much defines how happily we romp through this astonishing, challenging, absolutely wonderful journey called “life.” Get your “80/20” in gear, and have a blast!

Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, consultant, popular speaker in the U.S. and abroad, and author of over a dozen best-selling books. Dr. Nelson focuses on how we can all enjoy happy, fulfilling lives while accomplishing great things in love, at home and at work, as we appreciate ourselves, our world and all others. She is the author of “Happy Healthy… Dead: Why What You Think You Know About Aging Is Wrong and How To Get It Right” (MindLab Publishing). You Matter. You Count. You Are Important. Visit,

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