Applying the 80/20 Rule To Get More Done With Less

The last week or so, I’ve been having to balance out work and family even more so than usual. For obvious reasons. 😉 And family…

The last week or so, I’ve been having to balance out work and family even more so than usual. For obvious reasons. 😉 And family has mostly won. But, it really brings to mind the whole balancing act.

Over at TheInfoPreneur.net, I talked about the 80/20 rule briefly in a post and I thought I would expand upon it somewhat today. It is otherwise known as the Pareto principle. Simply put, it says:

bullseye80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.

Now, the exact 80/20 ratio is immaterial here and it may not hold exactly true in all cases. However, I think you will find, across the board, that most of the benefits in your life come from roughly 20% of your work.

The “trick” is simply to focus on the 20% and not get so worked up over the 80%. When you do that, you’ll find that you can work less, but make either the same amount of effect or more.

Let’s look at some examples.

  • Answering Email. In almost all cases, dealing with email has no direct impact on your bottom line. Obviously, it can’t be ignored, but chances are email falls within the 80%.
  • Social Media. Social media most definitely falls within the 80%. There were plenty of people making money on the Internet before Twitter and Facebook existed. These things are tools. They are good tools. But, they are not direct contributors to the bottom line.
  • Writing An Ebook. There is a good chance that this would fall within the 20% for you. An ebook helps you increase your brand. It can help you grow your list. These are clear benefits.

So, the first thing you need to do is define exactly what your targets are. Are you looking to make money? Then money is a target. Perhaps traffic. Brand growth. On the flip side, lots of Twitter followers or high comment numbers probably aren’t end goals as much as they are mere indicators of whether your end goals are progressing.

With your end goals clearly defined, you have a guidepost by which to judge the things you do all day and determine if they are direct contributors to those end goals or not.

You’ll find you might have to be fairly brutal in your evaluations. You might think that answering every blog comment is very important, for example, but is it really? Exactly HOW is that contributing to your end goal? Same with using Twitter. Answering email. Even writing posts!

Realize that just because something might fall within the 80% doesn’t mean you’re not going to do it. It does, however, put some perspective onto its relative importance.

So, if my primary goal is an established blog-based business with a full-time income, let’s run through a sample categorization of some of the routine tasks involved…

80% Tasks 20% Tasks
  • Email
  • Social Media
  • Reading Other Blogs
  • Instant Messaging
  • Accounting/Admin
  • Research
  • Blog Commenting
  • Writing Blog Posts*
  • Videos & Editing
  • Product Creation
  • Split Testing & Conversion
  • Product Launch Planning
  • Writing Blog Posts*

* Note that I put blog posting into both categories. Obviously, writing posts is important, however I think many bloggers think that posts are the final product of blogging as a business. They’re not! Most times, blog posts do not DIRECTLY impact income, which is why I put it in the 80% category. At the same time, you’re not going to achieve much reach if you don’t do it, which is why it is in the 20%. So, my point here is to not limit your thinking. You cannot write posts all day and expect to get paid. In fact, your posts won’t make you a dime unless you’re doing the other 20% tasks.

So, how do you apply the 80/20 rule to your own blogging? Try this:

  1. Make a list of every type of tasks you do as a blogger.
  2. Make a separate list of your end goals.
  3. Now, go over the list you made in #1 and categorize them based on whether they have a direct impact on your end goal.

Now, with this information in hand, you can do the following:

  1. Readjust your emphasis on the 80% tasks and focus more on the 20% tasks. Sometimes you may find that some things that you do serve no real purpose at all, in which case you can simply eliminate it. Sometimes, the 80% task is important, but doesn’t directly lend itself to the end goal (i.e. email). In this case, you might want to adjust the emphasis on it to allow more time for more important things. For example, instead of having email open all day, keep it closed and only check/reply to email twice per day.
  2. Evaluate your 20% tasks and ask yourself this question: Are you even doing those things which will help you achieve the end goals? You might find that you need to add some 20% tasks to your routine and that you were just spinning your wheels beforehand. For example, if your goal is to generate income from your blog and yet you spend all day writing posts and tweeting, then you probably don’t have any 20% tasks because you’re not really doing anything to help you achieve that end goal.

Taking some time to evaluate this for yourself is one of the most important lessons there is in being a successful blogger.

Blogging can be quite overwhelming without a system of evaluation of importances. All tasks are NOT equal. You need to learn to determine which are important and which are not as important, then learn to divide your available time accordingly.

Master this and you’ll be a HUGE step ahead of other bloggers who aren’t doing it.

About David Risley
David Risley is the founder of the Blog Marketing Academy, a 20-year veteran blogger and online entrepreneur. His focus? Building a reliable, recurring business around his "lifestyle" and the lives of his students. He has this weird obsession with traveling in his motorhome around the country with his wife and 2 kids. David also likes to talk about himself in the third person. In bios like this one. Read his full story.
  • Rachel says:

    Hey David,

    Thanks for an informative post. I came to your blog specifically looking for this information. I have made a statement about this 80/20 rule in my next post and I wanted to back it up. So I am going to use your link to support my material.

    What an eye opener this information was when I first read about it. A writer has to spend more time promoting rather than writing. Well I never. But I do now.

    I have just started to see the value of promotion and while I am still a little wobbly around the edges desparately looking for my own style that will turn into a routine, there are so many different ways to market our work. Thanks for a great post.

    Rachel.

  • We have to focus on vital few and leave the trivial many.

  • Makes sense to me. Though I am starting to implement the goal of making 100 contacts a day. At first I thought I should do it strictly through commenting, but there are others ways to connect with people.

    My 80% does include writing posts, answering email, and talking on Twitter. But now I'm shifting my attention to pillar posts, finishing my ebook – it'll promote my services, SEO, and getting links.

    Nuff said, back to work….

  • Lucy says:

    I like this post.

  • Lucy says:

    I like this post.

  • video seo says:

    good swift kick in the pants every once in awhile to get ourselves back on track. … Ask yourself the following: Which generates more profit in less time?

  • Agent Deepak says:

    Thanks. I am not very much well aware of 80/20 rule. I have heard it but was a little difficult for me as I had to focus of many different thing. And thanks for making the 80% and 20% list. Its going into my notepad. I will remember it for ever.

  • MarketingWIthRick says:

    Mookie:

    It seems that it goes beyond “just stop wasting time”. Just stop wasting time does not mean you will be as productive as you can be. I think that once you stop wasting time you then need to focus in on the tasks that will benefit your business the most. In order to do this we have to create a list, as David has done in the post, and determine which ones you should put the majority of your focus towards. Obviously each of the tasks need to be completed but some are more important than others.

    – Rick

  • MarketingWIthRick says:

    I learned about the Pareto Principle some 20 years ago in college while studying to be an Industrial Engineer. Unfortunately, I have not thought of it much as of late and I never thought about how to apply it to my business in such detail.

    It's one thing to have an understanding that some of the work you do will produce the most of your results and it's another thing to actually sit down and determine what those things are.

    Thank you for the list. I now have to sit down and determine my breakdown.

    Thanks for continuing to show me how I can improve.

    – Rick

  • True! True! I'm just starting online and my head is swimming with all the things I need to do. Backlinks, postings, establishing connection, they take up so much time! Outsourcing is an option, but quite costly in the long run. Thanks for your post. It reminds me to focus…

  • matthewneedham says:

    Some great pointers here David which definitely made me think. Quite often I spend time commenting or on promoting articles, when in reality, I should be focusing on my ebook.

  • I agree completely, Eric.

    Writing blog posts, sharing content & networking are all huge elements in marketing yourself, you quality of work and getting the word out about it… but it means nothing without some type of tangible “thing” to sell. (even consulting or other non-physical items)

  • mookie says:

    Bottom line is, just stop wasting time, people!

  • Eric says:

    I think product creation is where most people go wrong. They don't understand how and what benefit it has and I think a lot of bloggers are actually blind to this. Too many bloggers think that blogging is all about helping spread the word of others content as well as writing their own. Both ideas are great but won't make you money as those who are still broke and busting their ass all day writing killer content.

    What do you think?

  • jimhorne says:

    Amazing, David. I'm focused almost entirely on that 80%. “Split testing & Conversion”? Makes me wonder what else I don't know that is required to launch a successful blog.

    Would you please explain what “Split testing & Conversion” is?

  • makemoneyonlinepk says:

    hahah
    80/20 Rule is implemented about everywhere, you know it is also in software engineering..
    thanks for nice info……

  • colbycheeze says:

    Hey David, Great explanation of the relation of the 80/20 rule to blogging. It is definitely a constant struggle to keep yourself efficient

    I'll be sure to keep these things in mind as I continue to grow my blog this year. I could use as much mastery of the 80/20 rule as possible!

  • Julius says:

    This post has helped me realize the tasks which I spend too much time on but don't really contribute to my end goal. Also, even if creating blogs is not my main job, I find the steps useful in my daily set of tasks.

  • David!

    Thanks for this post, as a new blogger this is very timely as I've been struggling a bit with this issue and your insight into “juggling all the pieces of the puzzle” has really helped me decide how to prioritize daily tasks better…great starter for March! Beware the ides…

    Thanks a bunch,

    Yvette

  • jasonverdelli says:

    I agree with this principle. Sometimes we realize that 80% of what we are talking about we need to be doing on and off the web. In the case of blogging, writing posts can be a great way of getting and maintaining this activity in your brain. Great post!

  • David,

    I'm a dumb ass I admit it, but I don't know what split testing is?

  • Excellent Mike thanks, I'm not at that stage yet, but I will be. Thanks again

  • Mike CJ says:

    Admin, video editing and research for sure. Accounting probably. And in my case, I'd add anything to do with design and coding, as I'm crap at both!

  • Hey Mike,

    How many of the 80% tasks do you think can be outsourced?

  • DJ Wetzel says:

    I was first introduced to the 80/20 rule in Four Hour Work Week. It is still great to get a refresher course and also to see the principle applied directly to blogging.

  • K9 Coach says:

    Great reminder post! I have read this before. I've even taught this concept before to professional dog trainers business marketing workshops.

    ….yet somehow the concept can escape me in the midst of “getting it all done”.

    I know have a note stuck on my computer screen…
    *Product Creation
    *Running Dog Fitness E Book
    *Dog Training for the Non Dog Person E Book… and so on

    Thanks for the help on the right focus today!

  • Boky84 says:

    Wow,

    This is something that I've never thought about before but will definitely use it with my success.

    Thank you Dave for this advice.

  • diypb says:

    Doing my 20% right now and writing my first book. Probably be released as an ebook and a hard copy, not sure yet. I had no idea how difficult it was to write a book and now starting the process of building awareness around it before the launch.

    It's a lot of work…

  • Dotcom Note says:

    Blog commenting is 80%. See, how dummies, including me, are spending their time commenting in this blog that only benefits the blog owner. The clever blog owner is reaping the benefits of others dumbness. Great.

  • Dotcom Note says:

    Great tips. But I will split the product creation into two categories 1. Brainstorming and planning, actual creation. Outsource the actual creation. Of course you have to mange it.

  • Pat Mussieux says:

    Great tips, as always, David! Thanks so much for sharing – I particularly appreciated the clarity with respect to writing blog posts, and your perspective on the value of same.

    Congratulations on your new family member!

    Pat Mussieux

  • johnhorning says:

    Thanks for the post. Very interesting how you categorized the various activities. Lately, I've been feeling like I probably spend more like 90% of my time being unproductive largely because I tend to go in a dozen directions at once. Time to ponder, refocus, and set some priorities.

  • jp moses says:

    Excellent article, man! I personally do an exceptional job at letting myself get led around by “80% tasks” and then try to cram the “20% tasks” into the last hour or so of the day. Not what I'd call a success principal…this is exactly the kick in the pants I needed this morning. Time to quit email and facebook for the day. 🙂

    …jp

  • Tad Wolfe says:

    Thanks David for this post, I think I will print it out to help me keep on track and focused. I find with so much to learn, I end up running around and not moving forward. Now I see what is most important and email and twitter will have to take a back seat.

  • meganvwalker says:

    David, thanks for the great blog post. I have found that I am spending way too much time, in the 80%, reading through RSS feeds I have subscribed to. I used to only have a few, then it's built up over time to where it's unmanagable. If I have 30 unread posts in a folder, then I usually go through and delete them, not having the time to sit through and read everything. The approach you take, by having e-mail updates sent out, is much more effective. So, I think I need to wittle down my feeds to only those I get true business value from, rather than just for pure entertainment value. Spend less of my 80% on reading, and shift over more to the 20% of doing!

  • TwtrCoach says:

    Good article David.

    Since I am a Libra I try to follow the Pareto principle.. but sometimes the scale just tips the wrong way.. where I end up with 80% effort to create 20% results..

    And I think it all boils down to that in the start you spend a lot of time focus on the wrong things.

    Just has to learn when things is 'good enough', don't have to be perfect every time..

    Cheers.. Are

  • lorrainegrula says:

    Fantastic and incredible post. I must confess David that I am immensely impressed with your work. I just found you a few weeks ago and downloaded your ebook. I devoured it. So much more practical and honest than 99% of the rest of the crap I read. Thanks!
    Lorraine

  • Thanks for showing great examples of this principle in action. Email and networking in general can be such huge time suckers if you don't keep 80/20 in mind. I recently applied this principle to my home office and got rid of a huge amount of gear that wasn't maximally effective. i now have a cleared up, rockin home office for maximum efficiency.

    little changes like this to your work flow can make such a huge difference. The cool thing is that after you apply the 80/20 rule to your systems, you can revisit and apply it yet again as many times as you want over time. You can ALWAYS improve what you're doing and the 80/20 principle is a great guide line on how to approach it.

  • Mike CJ says:

    It's actually quite shocking to see the cold hard truth here. I'm as guilty as anyone – sometimes spending whole weeks, being really busy and working lots of hours, but focusing on the wrong parts of the job.

    The next logical step is to see how many of the 80% tasks can be outsourced.

  • Hi David, this blog post is really helpful, lots of thanks. I do think that replying to emails from readers and engaging with comments is important, in the sense that it creates goodwill for the time when you do launch a product through the blog. But as you say, just because something is part of the 80% does not mean we shouldn't do it, just not devote so much energy to it that we forget about the 20%. I also found your method of writing a list of what you are doing, and then a list of your goals, and see how what you are doing maps on to your goals (or not) excellent – and it is applicable to everything, not just blogging – many thanks for that as well. I hope you're having a great time with your family, and many thanks once again for this blog post.

  • rhondahess says:

    Here's a way to look at it. The more in demand and successful you are the less you'll be able to noodle around on that 80%. So why not develop habits while you're building success that align with what you'll experience once you reach your goals now. In other words — act successful from the get go. Do what successful people do now.

  • realdealneal says:

    I am not sure if I would put writing blog post into the 20% category. For bloggers who make most of their money blogging instead of the affiliate marketing arena, blog post might be very important

  • Good information and at a good time for me. I'm in the process of sorting out my blog priorities.
    So, for me this post falls into the 20%..

    I do need to find out what Split Testing & Conversion means though.

  • Danielle says:

    Thanks, this is great info. Time management is something I'm working on (gosh, on so many levels!!!)

  • EricaMueller says:

    I spun my wheels for 5 years…

    This year, I'm gaining some traction. 🙂 Since the goal of my blog is to help people, and direct them to my web services, I've started focusing on how my posts can increase my authority on the subject and highlight some of my services. I also started my first product this year!

    It's so easy to get caught up in the day to day things that keep our sites up and running that we often forget the end goal, and why we're doing these every day things.

  • lindafulkerson says:

    Wow — perfect timing on this post! Yesterday afternoon I started toying with an idea for my next ebook, but then spent the next few hours tweaking website designs (on friend & family sites I do for free). Then this morning, I'm chit-chatting with a friend via email (about a marketing project, but still . . .) and your 80-20 post popped into my in-box. Thanks for helping stop and think what I really need to focus on. It's time for me to open the mindmap and get cracking on brainstorming my ebook so I can start the outline and write it!

    I hope you have a great trip & congrats on your new baby! 🙂

  • Dave MKEBiz says:

    This is some great advice, especially when a lot people would say that the main thing that affects achieving goals is that they don't have enough time. Cutting down that 80% would help. I find that stats help in this evaluation. For example if you track your short URL's that you share via Twitter, you can get some stats around how many people actually click on that URL, if it is ReTweeted, etc. If you have 10,000 followers and each time you share a URL you only get about 10 – 20 people clicking on it, is it worth it? Maybe if you are not spending too much time Tweeting URLs. But this may fall within your 80% to evaluate spending less time on it.

  • DanCosgrove says:

    It's amazing how many things the 80/20 rule can apply to; work, martial arts, play.

    I first read about it a few months ago in Tim Ferriss' Four Hour Workweek, and it's changed how I look at everything.

    I still work too little on the 20%, but I'm working on it 🙂

    Reading this article may have been in the 80%, but it was worth it.

  • paulroekle says:

    Wow great info here! I almost feel bad leaving this comment now that I realize your right blog commenting does fall into that 80%. Okay, time to shutdown and focus on the 20% for the rest of the day! Thanks for the tips.

  • Mars Dorian says:

    That's one hell of system, and it fits you very well.
    But I think it has to be flexible – sometimes you have to focus more on social media (when you just finished a product for example) and some other times you want to create that killer “pillar” post that takes some time.
    It all depends on your current “campaign” status.
    But I still appreciate your system – it's an useful reference.

  • Leo Dimilo says:

    Hey David,

    The funny thing about the 80/20 rule is you don't really get to decide what is “80” and what is “20”.

    For instance, the 80/20 principle works with keywords and traffic generation, which referrers refer the most traffic (important for determining relational stuff), what links “matter”, ect. ect.

    I think what most people miss is how to leverage the 20% (it actually can be much less than this…I have seen 95/5 in some cases), how to expound on it where you can really juice it and get the most out of it.

  • Sean Smith says:

    Wow, I'm seeing post like this everywhere these days, and I'm glad to see them.

    I know we've both been talking about this subject in previous post as well other blogger. I'm glad to see you've expanded upon it further though, as I believe others who are striving to create an income online blogging need to understand what is truly involved in the process.

    I can tell you, I learned this the hard way myself, but am glad I did. These days, I schedule my time around the activities that make me money so as to not be consumed by the social media aspect of blogging, i.e. commenting, reading, posting, interacting. Yes these things build relationships, trust and establish credibility, but ultimately, they aren't the core of what makes you money on the internet.

    So as David has stated, find a balance, schedule your time, identify your business and what are the core money making activities and prioritize them accordingly.

    Thanks for continuing to post about this subject David! Great Stuff!

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