When you work on a project, write a report, or draft an email, do you ever find yourself hung up on making it perfect? Using the best word choice, making it the right length, agonizing over the tone? How much time do you spend re-working your work?


In 1906, economist Vilfredo Pareto realized that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Since that time, the 80/20 rule (also known as The Pareto Principle) has been applied in a wide range of areas where it is believed that 80% of the results typically come from 20% of the input.

Some examples include:

  • 20% of your clients provide 80% of your sales.
  • 20% of your effort completes 80% of a project.
  • You wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time.

In terms of productivity, it is important to recognize that seeking perfection (chasing after 100%) can be a poor use of time. If 20% of your effort provides 80% of the result, chasing 100% can be a waste of energy and resources. Spend your time wisely.


If you are not seeking perfection, when do you decide that your work is "good enough?" You want to be proud of your work product, clear in your communications, and effective in your job.

You should feel that what you have finished reflects positively on you. It's a subjective measure and only you can decide when something is "Good Enough."

As you improve at stopping short of perfection, you will be able to get more good work done in less time with less stress and a positive outcome.


In software circles, the concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is often used to bring products to market before they have all of the features that will ultimately be included. I think of this as another application of The Pareto Principle; 20% of the effort provides 80% of the result.

MVP enables developers to release products and websites that have just enough elements to draw in early adopters. These initial users provide feedback that allows the developers to focus the roll-out of the remaining capabilities at reduced risk and cost.

How can The Pareto Principle help you?

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