THE 80-20 PRINCIPLE REVIEW (Richard Koch, 1999)

Have you ever gone to work thinking you’ll check 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.

80-20 Principle: What is this principle all about?

Koch himself has used the 80/20 principle(formerly known as the Pareto 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 (1999). The points include:

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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.

The 80-20 Principle meaning

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You may notice most of your work gets done during the final hours before a deadline. Your best efforts are put in those last 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?

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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

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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

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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.

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.



Eric is a time management consultant and owner of the blog, He takes great pride in helping people manage their time, personally and professionally. Eric is a firm believer in time freedom, as he believes in taking ownership of time. “Time is your most important asset. It can be your best friend or worst enemy. How you use your time can shape the future you desire to have.” In his leisure time, Eric loves to write and read whenever possible. He likes to go for long walks out in nature and been taking Zumba classes every week at his local gym. You can follow Eric via Facebook and LinkedIn.


16 thoughts on “THE 80-20 PRINCIPLE REVIEW (Richard Koch, 1999)”

  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!

    • Thanks, Vza. Yes, I know how that is (especially in the beginning).

      When you start a new business, you tend to do more work than you should, and it eats up a lot of your time. But as the company grows and you start outsourcing or delegating, it’s less work for you later on.

      For me, I’m not quite following the 80/20 rule. But that’s what I’m aiming for, so that way I can work less in the future. So it’s an important concept to understand.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts- much appreciated!

  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!

    • No problem, Jesse. It’s good to know you learned something out of the 80/20 principle.

      Yes, time management is a skill many people struggle with and continue to do so. I did at one point, and I know many people who find it challenging some days.

      You make some neat points on making a to-do list, but end up not getting all of them crossed off. It’s why I get better at shortening my daily to-do list and prioritize 3-4 tasks I need to complete on a given day. It’s much better and less stressful.

      Thank you for sharing your input- much appreciated!

  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.

    • Thank you, Lason.

      You make some excellent points. I never heard of that ted talk, so I’ll have to look it up sometime. The other instance is unique- amazing how a small opportunity can turn into a big one in the long haul. Wow, that’s amazing!

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts- much appreciated!

  5. Great information buddy, and thanks for this lovely insight secret, I really struggle with my time, running a my online business, working full time with overtime, spending time in presence of God and making time for my family. so I think I need to incorporate this into my work life balance. I noticed that when I plan what I need to do and pray about it, I get more done in the last minute.

    Thank you again and cheers.

    • Of course, Juma. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed reading this post.

      You’re not the only one who struggles with managing time- it’s not easy. Considering what you said, it can be hard to juggle personal and work responsibilities. But if you can adjust and make some adjustments, you can easily change and build some new habits.

      Thanks again for your input- I much appreciate it!

  6. I’ve come across this principle several times. 

     As far as applying it to time management I think that’s a hard one when you’re a solopreneur. 

    All tasks need to be taken care of. Many of these tasks are not impactful on business growth but do eat up time, for example the accounting & submitting tax returns.
    So I can’t say that this time management idea speaks to me.

    Thanks for this summary, it is food for thought. 🙂

    • My pleasure, Brigitte. The 80/20 principle is very common, yet most people don’t use it the correct way. But I’ll admit that I’m one of those people now and then.

      I agree with your point about managing time as a solopreneur. It’s not easy when you’re doing all the work on your own. It’s what I struggled with early on, and it sure can eat up your time. But once you can grow and get some help, you can buy time and do more things that are more business-oriented.

      Thank you for sharing your input- much appreciated!

  7. so thoughtful of you to share such an intriguing article on time management.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……awesome review and thanks for your  intriguing content

    • Of course, Evans. I’m glad to know you enjoyed reading this article on time management.

      I can relate to you: I was always putting in between 90-100% of the work involved, and it was time-consuming. So it’s not easy, as you mentioned. 

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts- much appreciated!

  8. Such an insightful review,  honestly I get really overwhelmed by the many things I need to accomplish because of my multi taskig nature,  and most times i waste so much time in thinking about project instead of swinging into action,  and this really consumes my  time thus the reason why I need to adopt this method and I just hope it works well for me. Thanks for sharing

    • Of course, Jomata. It’s good to know you found this review useful.

      You make some excellent points about spending more time on projects than actually taking action. It’s something we all should keep in mind when managing our time. Hopefully, you can make some necessary adjustments by using the 80/20 principle. You’d be surprised to see how your time can change over time.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts- much appreciated!


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