The 80/20 mindset that can change your life

Recently, I read a book by Lissane Oliver called Sorted! (she also has a Sorted! blog) and she discussed a 19th century Italian philosopher/economist, Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of the population’s wealth was held by 20% of the population.

What can we learn from this? Many things.  I’d bet that in many situations in your life 80% of your outcome is based on 20% of your work.  Here is how to really make that 20% work to your benefit:


20% of your actions count for 80% of your results. Every day, I realize I have a chance to make small movements toward my end goal.  A one-hour workout class is 4% of my day.  Eating a healthy lunch is one of three meals.  Doing small things helps me on the right path to my goal, but it doesn’t feel like much if I think about each day, each hour or each decision on its own. Map your progress. Try wearing a pedometer to increase your steps, try prepping your meals when you’re not hungry to make better choices, try healthy options in plain sight instead of buying sugary snacks.  Every step you take in the right direction gets you closer to your goal.  Make the 20% of your actions get the 80% of the results that you’re really hoping for.


20% of your clothes are what you wear 80% of the time. I bet your closet is full of clothes.  I’d feel pretty safe betting it’s bursting with clothes.  But how many of those items do you really love? Why do you still own them? Are you waiting to lose 5 lbs? lose 30 lbs? Does it hold a special memory? If you only really wear about 1 of every 5 items–why don’t you clean up your closet and get rid of the other 4 things? I promise, it will feel like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders to only have clothes that you love, that fit you well and that look great in your closet.  If it doesn’t’ fit and you don’t love it, then you don’t need it. Try this! Go through your closet and get rid of 20% of your clothes.  Donate them to a group that will make good use of them.  Do it, you’ll feel better and you’re helping others. If doing the whole closet at once seems like too much, just spend 15 minutes a day or pick one category (like pants) to start with.


20% of your supplies are what you use 80% of the time. People love to give me kitchen gadgets because they know I love to bake, like to cook and spend a lot of time in my kitchen.  But the truth of the matter is, I don’t want any of those fancy gadgets–I want a clean kitchen and I feel like we already have way too many things.  Plus, the more I have to do things by hand (like mixing) the easier it is for me to get a mini-workout as part of my kitchen creations.  Reduce clutter, only keep what you really need. Try this! Look at the things you own that are supposed to make your life easier.  Are they just filling up space? If you haven’t used it in 6 months, evaluate its use in your life.  I’ve gotten rid of nearly everything I don’t use monthly.  I’ve found that sometimes the “hard, old-fashioned” way, ends up being easier in the long run (plus if it doesn’t fit in the dishwasher for cleaning, I take a long hard look at if it even belongs in my life).


20% of the members of your group seem to do 80% of the work. Most groups I’ve been involved in this has held true.  And it seems like I’m always one of those 20%.  I work hard to be an active participant to best support the group leader.  But, when I’m in charge, I’ve made it a point to get 100% of the people involved at some level–yes, 20% probably still do most of the work, but those 80% aren’t getting a free ride.  Educate, delegate and congratulate. Many times, people don’t help because they don’t know what to do.  If you know, then you need to teach them how to do things the right way (and remember your way isn’t always the right way), delegate important things to them and congratulate them for a job well done.  They may not be the 20% right now–but you could be developing their leadership potential to make them the 20% for someone else. Your investment is worth it.

You can make the 20% work for you in the best way possible. Think about your strengths and play to them.  Think about your opportunities and surround yourself with quality people who can build you up or help you through them.  Your potential is endless and your progress is a life-long journey.


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