Have you applied the 80/20 rule to your life?

The 80/20 rule can be applied in many situations and states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort.  It is also known as the Pareto Principle. The principle has been named after Vilfredo Pareto—an Italian economist—who, in 1895, noticed that about 80% of Italy’s land belonged to 20% of the country’s population.  Maciej Duszyński states in his article Pareto Principle & the 80/20 Rule, “Pareto’s principle is more of an observation than a full-fledged scientific theory. It is commonly noticeable in a variety of contexts—but it’s not applicable to each and every scenario. Plus, the numbers 80 and 20 should not be added up to 100. The fact it’s called the 80/20 rule is simply a catchy, historical catchphrase.” As an organizer, the 80/20 helps people to easily, and subjectively analyze what they use the most, how they spend their time and how to manage their projects.


Many times Professional Organizers will talk to clients about the 80/20 rule.  I will say, you use 20% of your stuff, 80% of the time.  This means most of your stuff (80%)  is not used very often.  Think about your clothing.  Do you have some outfits you wear a lot?  You love how they look, feel and you get a lot of compliments. If you apply the 80/20 rule you can let go of 80% of your clothing because you don’t wear them very often.  Think about your other possessions.  Do you have DVDs, books, jewelry, tools, toys and dishes filling your closets and cupboards?  Let go of the 80% that you almost never use.  Organize, enjoy and respect the 20% that you use frequently.

Time Management

Once you realize that 80% of your outcomes come from 20% of the time and effort you spend on them, the importance of prioritizing becomes obvious. If you have a To-Do List, prioritize the top 2 items (20%) and complete them first. Although the other items, of less importance, might not be completed the ones you did complete will have a big impact (80%) on your accomplishments.   Don’t neglect the other tasks. Move on to doing them once you clear the big ones. You can delegate the other tasks. The 80/20 rule will help you to use your time efficiently.


It is important to understand when a project is finished.   The first 20% of the time you spend on a project will get you to 80% finished. Trying to get the final small amount completed perfectly may not be a good use of your time.  When you have 80% of your project perfected should you move on and publish it, institute the changes or present it for discussion?  I have a saying on my bulletin board that says, “good enough” + “published” is 1000 times more valuable than “perfect” + “not quite ready yet”.  I have seen weeks, months and years spent focusing on making the last 20% perfect.  It can be a stumbling block to your success if it allows you to procrastinate and lets you hide behind the fear of accomplishing a new challenge.  The feedback you receive on your project will be more valuable in perfecting your work than you spending more time on it.


An organizer, Linda Samuels reminded me that the 80/20 rule can help you with your filing.  She says, “Applying the rule to papers is a good one too. We only retrieve 20% of the papers we file. And since most people (other than organizers) dislike filing, it’s a good thing to keep in mind. Perhaps recycling rather than filing is a better option for that other 80%.”  You usually keep more paper than you need and that makes it difficult to find the 20% that is important in our files.   This is true for emails also.

Kevin Kruse states in his article in Forbes, “No matter what your situation, it’s important to remember that there are only so many minutes in an hour, hours in a day, and days in a week. Pareto can help you to see this is a good thing; otherwise, you’d be a slave to a never-ending list of things to do.”

What 20% of your effort gives you 80% of your satisfaction? 

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, virtually. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She uses her love of physical activity to reduce clutter, in your home and office. She guides and supports you to manage your time. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Online courses are available to help instruct, coach and support your organizing projects. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.

Contact her at julie@mindoverclutter.ca

Click here to learn more about her online course Create an Organized Home.

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  1. Janet Barclay on July 7, 2021 at 5:27 am

    I really like what you’ve said about projects, but I think it depends on the project. If it’s something that needs to be approved by a client or boss, it makes sense, because why take it to 100% until you know if you’re on the right track. On the other hand, if it’s an ebook you’re going to sell or give away as a lead magnet, you don’t want to discover mistakes after you’ve done all the work of setting it up, because then you have to do that work all over again. Or maybe I’m just overthinking it…

    • Julie Stobbe on July 9, 2021 at 8:57 am

      You’re not overthinking it. The job/project has to be done right with no mistakes. Once it is at that stage it is done. Some people will keep making minor changes that are insignificant and mostly cosmetic. That extra time and effort are not needed to have the job completed well. It can’t really be divided into 80/20, that is a guideline to help us not to waste time.

  2. Seana Turner on July 12, 2021 at 8:40 am

    That is interesting about the projects. I think when I achieve 80% of a project, I often feel so good that I lose my momentum. It is HARD to push through to completion. As you say, sometimes 80% is really enough. Other times, I need to push through to completion. It isn’t easy to do this, but often it is necessary.

    I think the key is to realize the value of 80%, and always be evaluating where to prioritize our time and effort.

    • Julie Stobbe on July 12, 2021 at 7:15 pm

      In my house, I had children that would spend hours on projects to get it just right. It might impact their mark by 2%. That is why I like to focus on, when have you attained your goal and then move on. Life and work can be so busy that, as you say, prioritizing time and effort is important. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Linda Samuels on July 12, 2021 at 6:34 pm

    I like the way you explain the 80/20 rule and apply it to the various scenarios. I use this frequently with clients as a way of helping them evaluate what is most meaningful or useful to them.

    Applying the rule to papers is a good one too. We only retrieve 20% of the papers we file. And since most people (other than organizers) dislike filing, it’s a good thing to keep in mind. Perhaps recycling rather than filing is a better option for that other 80%. I say that, knowing that I am keeping more papers than I really need. It looks like a big edit is in my future. 🙂

    • Julie Stobbe on July 12, 2021 at 7:11 pm

      Thanks for reminding me about paperwork. We all seem to keep more than we need. It also applies to emails.

  4. Diane N Quintana on July 13, 2021 at 6:05 am

    I’m a fan of the 80/20 rule of thumb. It’s always part of what I share with my clients as we push toward getting a project done. I like what you said about being satisfied with the 80% completed. I will share that thought as I’m working with clients who are stuck at the almost finished stage.

  5. Janet Schiesl on July 13, 2021 at 8:51 am

    I love educating clients on the 80/20 rule. It applies to almost everything. I sometimes use the example of a restaurant menu. You usually choose from 20% of the menu 80% of the time. I doing a closet organizing seminar later today and for sure, I’ll mention the 80/20 rule.

    • Julie Stobbe on July 13, 2021 at 7:01 pm

      I like your example of going to a restaurant and you have favourites (20%) of the offerings that you eat most of the time. I am certainly like that. It is a good rule to apply to clothing because if you think about your clothing you know which items are your favourites and worn often. So let go of the 80% you hardly ever wear.

  6. Julie Bestry on July 15, 2021 at 2:09 am

    First, I loved how you wrote, ““good enough” + “published” is 1000 times more valuable than “perfect” + “not quite ready yet”” because I know that a perfectionistic failure to observe the 80/20 rule has definitely held me back from finishing some writing projects.

    Also, I love how you detailed the 80/20 rule in varying circumstances. And I sure know that I use 20% (or even less) of the app options on my phone 80% (or more) of the time. We’re quick to acquire and slow to let go, we’re quick to throw ourselves into a project and slow to give ourselves permission to call it finished.

    • Julie Stobbe on July 25, 2021 at 6:44 am

      That is another good example of the 80/20 rule, the apps that are important on your phone. As you think about things you use it becomes interesting how many situations you can apply this principle too. Restaurants you go to, menu items you select, movies you rewatch, books you read, the magazines you select, games you play, people you visit.

  7. L&B Closets on September 7, 2021 at 1:03 pm

    This is a great philosophy to put into use when it comes to a lot of things, including organizing the home. Thanks for laying this out in an easy-to-understand manner! https://www.lbclosets.com/

    • Julie Stobbe on September 8, 2021 at 6:52 am

      Thanks for your comment. Once you start looking at your things you do realize you have favourites. So start to keep only your favourites as the 80/20 rule tells us we only use 20% of what we have 80% of the time. So why keep the 80% we only use 20% of the time?

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