May 19

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Focus on the 20% that delivers results

By Ralph Varcoe

May 19, 2020

productivity hacks

1.9   One Fifth is the Magic Number

Productivity hack no.9 from '60 Ways to Hurray! by Ralph Varcoe.


One fifth of 100 is 20. What’s so special about that number?

Vilfredo Pareto noticed in 1896 that almost 80% of the land in Italy was owned by only 20% of the population. Subsequent studies have shown that this ratio is fairly constant in many things.

The top 20% of customers generate 80% of the revenues of a company. The wealth is distributed in a similar fashion, and so on. In reality, whether it is 80/20, 70/30 or 90/10, the principle holds true.

Management consultants have looked into this phenomenon as well and concluded that 80% of results come from 20% of the input. Basically there is a law of diminishing returns on further effort (refer back to 1.4 where we talked about concentration).

If this is true, and a lot of research says that it broadly is, then only 1/5th of your inputs will result in the greatest returns.

This is why you need to focus on the most important tasks first (section 1.3, 1.6, 1.7) in order to drive the most significant gains as quickly as possible.

Be relentless about which inputs you focus on that really drive you towards achieving your goals. Avoid the distractions and concentrate hard. These most important tasks are the 20% and, by being laser focused, you can achieve 80% relatively quickly.

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Ralph Varcoe

About the author

For over 20 years, Ralph has run sales and marketing teams across large enterprises and smaller start-ups, at companies such as Orange, Tata Communications, Virgin Media, Spirit Ai and others. He brings a wealth of experience in personal and professional development with a laser focus on enabling people to achieve more than they thought possible. He's a published author and musician with a passion for creating - be that change, the right solution, exciting campaigns, the right environment for customers to succeed, or podcasts, videos and written content.

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