Do You Know the 80-20 Rule?

by Kimberly on February 18, 2010 · 2 comments

Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist. His major contributions were related to the study of income distribution and analyzing individuals’ choices. Pareto also played a big part in moving economics from a field of social philosophy to a field science and math.

So, why is an American music therapist writing about an Italian economist? Here’s why:

The story goes that, in 1906, Pareto observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of  Italians. He then went home and noticed that 20% of his pea pods produced 80% of his peas.

Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923)

Thus was born the Pareto principle, otherwise known as the 80-20 rule or the law of the vital few.

Here’s how this rule affects you:

  • 80% of your income comes from 20% of your clients
  • The top 20% of people earn 80% of the money
  • 20% of what you spend your time doing will account for 80% of your results

This is a general rule of thumb, but think about it. I did–and realized this week that it’s true. 80% of my business income comes from 20% of my clients. 80% of my time is spent on non-productive tasks, while only 20% is spent on tasks where I’m working towards actually growing my business.

(Though keep in mind that some of those “nonproductive” tasks are necessary. But 80% of my time? Really?)

So why do I share the 80-20 rule with you? I guess to challenge you to start thinking about how you choose to use your time and energy. Is 80% of your time spent on productive, forward-motion tasks? Whether it be getting new clients, growing a program, or applying for research grants–each of us has tasks we can do that will move us forward, further our business/program/career.

What are things YOU can do to start incorporating the 80-20 rule in your life?

Are you up to the challenge? If so, please leave a comment below that answers that question: What can YOU start doing today? What changes can you implement in your day?

P.S. I’ve already gotten a great response to the survey I posted on Tuesday. Thank you to everyone who’s participated so far! The survey will be available for only 5 more days, so if you’re a music therapist or therapy student, please take 5 minutes to fill it out! Really–it only takes 5 minutes:


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ginny February 18, 2010 at 12:37 pm

I also like to use the 80-20 rule for feedback for students and clients. Offer 80% positive and 20% negative. So give 4 positive things and one negative. I’ve also encouraged the students I work with to look back on their sessions in the same way.

Kimberly February 22, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Great idea! Thanks for sharing, Ginny:D ~Kimberly

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