time management - the spareto principle Picture©marekuliasz - iStockphoto

Time management: The Pareto principle

Even during your studies or training and then on the job, one thing counts above all: good time management. Sooner or later, the name Pareto principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, comes up. The principle says: 80% of the results can be achieved with 20% of the total expenditure. The remaining 20% of the results require the most work with 80%.


The Pareto principle helps (like the Eisenhower Principle and the Pomodoro technique) often in time and project management to identify important work packages and to quickly achieve decisive progress. In addition, tasks that can be postponed or omitted due to lack of efficiency should be identified.


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How do you find the right 20%?

Basically, one should not stiffen too much on the 20/80 ratio. In reality, of course, the distribution can always differ. Rather you should learn by the Pareto principle, no absolute perfectionist and delegate or postpone some unimportant tasks.

It's about structuring for yourself which to-dos are among the important 20%. You should first look at the desired result in order to filter out the decisive tasks. Often the following question helps: If I can't even begin to manage the full 100%, which tasks can quickly ensure that the result is not completely unsatisfactory?

This can be illustrated most easily with some examples:

  • Your company makes 80% of its turnover with only some products. This means that with 20% of your time, you should first take care of the top-selling products.
  • 80% of your grade for an exam result from a practical element. This means that you should not start with the theoretical part. Even the supposedly smaller tasks are often time-consuming and can cause you to lose sight of the important goal (80%).
  • You need to create a presentation for a lecture in which the layout plays a minor role. That is, start with the content before you waste time with formatting and visual improvements.

Of course, there are always tasks that require an almost 100% perfect result, but usually this does not apply to the majority of your to-dos.
Therefore it is always advisable, e.g. based on the Pareto principle define the desired result beforehand and then prioritise the individual tasks according to their importance in relation to the objective to be achieved.