The 80/20 Principle (Richard Koch)

80/20 Principle

Have you ever gone to work thinking you’ll check off every single item off your to-do list? You’re confident, but then you end up falling short. Do you find yourself not accomplishing your long-term goals? If you struggle with time management at work, you’ve come across multiple situations dealing with it. One concept that workers have tried in their daily routines is the 80/20 principle.

Koch himself has used the 80/20 principle to his own life, as well. The idea behind it is “not by doing more, but by doing less.” It is critical not only to use in business but personal life to achieve overall happiness and satisfaction in life.

In this post, I’m going to summarize the main points from Koch’s book, The 80/20 Principle: The Secret To Achieving More with Less (1997). The points include:

  1. The principle’s meaning

  2. How it relates to your job performance

  3. How it simplifies business

  4. Ways the principle can be useful to arrange the work-life balance issue.

What is the 80/20 Principle?

80/20 Principle

You may notice most of your work gets done during the final hours before a deadline. Your best efforts are put in those final moments, compared to previous weeks when you had more time. The meaning of the 80/20 principle is that 80% of work results (meaning output) come from only 20% of the effort put in (that would be input).

So why the unbalanced ratio? Well, the minority has a more significant impact on results, whereas the majority will end having a small effect. An example that Koch provides is motorcycle accidents: around 20% of motorists cause 80% of accidents because most motorists will drive carefully.

So a small minority of motorists will be careless and cause accidents. Another example would be the current unequal distribution of income and wealth (especially in the US). Someone may say 20% of the population owns 80% of the wealth.

How does the 80/20 Principle relate to my work situation?

80/20 Principle

If you struggle with time management, you may find most of the tasks you complete may be wasting valuable time. So to improve your work process, cut out wasted time, and replace it with jobs that matter the most during the 20% period. For instance, if you do more practical tasks around the last minute, you’ll likely produce more effort and increase your productivity.

Also, cut out time spent on things such as overthinking on a project, or obsessing over possible mistakes. Being worried about these small things can take away time. In other words, focus on tasks that will bring more significant results, instead of minor effects.

Use the 80/20 principle to simplify and reduce complexity

Many people would think that more substantial companies are more successful in executing their business strategies. But in one study that Koch brings up, 39 medium-sized companies (the least sophisticated companies) were much more successful than more significant, advanced firms. For this reason, the least complicated companies were able to simplify their businesses, reduce bureaucracy along with hidden costs as well (includes administrative, operations, etc.). That’s not to say that more prominent companies are ineffective in making profits. But it's noteworthy to find that medium-sized companies are useful in building their businesses more comfortable to operate.

Also, the 80/20 principle can be useful for companies to ensure the best customer satisfaction possible. So when a company is developing a new service, it will target 20% of customers who regularly purchase their products. This approach ensures loyalty and an incentive to provide exceptional customer service. More so, it increases market share for companies while selling to their same customers.

80/20 Time Management Over Traditional Time Management

If you are familiar with the process of time management, one of the goals is to increase efficiency by doing more tasks in a given period. The problem is most people don’t know which tasks to start on or which ones are more important. What Koch brings up is most of the functions on somebody’s to-do lists are considered nonessential and assumed as “high priority”. As a result, people will have busier schedules and work longer hours than average. The solution (as Koch suggests) is to use the 80/20 time management or “time revolution,”- meaning that 20% of tasks will produce 80% of the achievements. So Koch suggests going back and focus on the 20% that matters.

The 80/20 Principle Can Help With Work-Life Balance

80/20 Principle

In regards to how the 80/20 principle can be useful outside of work, Koch says the principle can be used to identify things that people don’t enjoy or make them happy. For example, if people don’t love their jobs (whether that’s sitting in a cubicle all or sweating inside in a factory).

As Koch lays out, identify 20% of the things you enjoy doing. After that, identify 80% of the things that make you unhappy. The result is to decrease the time you spend doing those things. If possible, someone can try to work fewer hours so they can spend more time with family and friends. This approach may not work for everybody. But it's an example like this can bring more happiness and joy in an individual’s life.


Overall, Koch’s The 80/20 Principle is an excellent book to read on time management. As mentioned earlier, using the 80/20 time management approach can be much more useful than a traditional time management approach (efficiency). But for the most part, identifying the 20% of tasks you do well in a while separating the other 80% that may be a waste of time, can help save a lot more time and less frustration.

Have you ever used the 80/20 principle?

If so, please leave a comment below and share it with others.

Check out the book if you enjoyed this review!




  1. hi, yes I totally can relate to this kind of time management in both ways actually. Right now I’m putting even more than 80% of effort into my work, with hopes of being able to switch it around some time in near future,very interesting article!

  2. Great review!
    I like the sound of using this principle more in my life.
    Managing time well is a very underrated skill and it looks like this book would give tons of helpful information to improve one’s efficiency.
    I always try to write down a list of things that I want to accomplish that day and most of the time that list makes me much more likely to accomplish more. I have found that a detailed to do list is better than a less detailed list and definitely better than no list at all.
    I will try using this 80/20 principle for balancing out my work time and my non work time.
    Thanks for sharing this information!

  3. Thanks for this lovely insight, i really struggle with my time, running a website, working full time with overtime and a child, so I think I need to incorporate this into my work life balance.
    But I have noticed I get more done in the last minute like you said and it’s no coincidence is it?

    • Hi Kevin,

      Glad you found the post helpful. Yes, I find myself at times getting more done at the last minute. If I’m behind on a priority, I’ll do whatever it takes to do my best to finish it on time. So it does work for many people who wait until the last minute.

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. I agree with this and honestly, have seen this concept put out in other ways- the “Procrastination monkey” which can be found in ted talks was one of my favorite displays of this concept. Another person gave an example of having passed up a great business opportunity because he saw the ones needing financed as being “too lazy” because they were not putting a lot of effort into their business idea at the beginning. That business ended up being one of the most successful in online glasses purchasing.

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