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3 questions to determine if a task is in your 20%

One of the biggest key tools used in the business world is the pareto principle. If you’re new here or haven’t heard, the pareto principle also known as the 80 20 rule, tells us that 20% of our actions determine 80% of our results! If you’d like to learn more on the rule you can read more in depth here!

Here’s a question we get all the time…

“But how do I know what qualifies as a part of my 20%”

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Well luckily for you we have three questions we ask ourselves regardless of if we’re speaking to business leaders or just people trying to improve their personal life. Once you’ve practiced asking them a few times you’ll be able to stay focused on the specific tasks that will bring you the most value!

Question 1: Is this task relevant?

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Elon musk recently talked about his 5 step “Algorithm” for success, and the first step is to question every requirement.

He was quoted in saying

Each should come with the name of the person who made it. You should never accept that a requirement came from a department, such as the “legal department” or the “safety department.” You need to know the name of the real person who made that requirement. Then you should question it, no matter how smart that person is.”

You can read the full article here

As someone who spent several years working in the US military, I can tell you for certain that there are extra tasks that seem to have no relevant reason other than what could only be perceived as “because we always have.” While that works great for nostalgia, it can lead to a lengthy list of problems in business management.

If your final outcome is a life of focus and prosperity the very first stop on the path is to simply remove the things that aren’t relevant! Take a look at your to do list, how many line items have a significant impact of your ability to create meaningful results. How many frankly aren’t relevant; and I don’t mean in your bosses opinion, I mean yours!

I know what some of you are thinking, “But what if my boss says…” Don’t worry, we’ve created a simple guide below that will help you get through those meetings.

Question 2: Does this task need to be completed right now?

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If you’re following the pareto principle, you have to accept one very specific statement:

Not all tasks are created equal in importance in this moment.

Lets say for sake of demonstration, you have an important presentation you’re woking on for two days from now. At the same time you’re also trying to lawn train a puppy and need to fold laundry. At that point working on the presentation is the a 20% task that moves you forward, all the way up to the point that the puppy decides it can’t hold its bladder any longer! I dare say, the importance of getting that puppy outside just changed!

While comical, the same is true in other aspects of life. At work you’re nearly done on that same presentation when you receive an email for a meeting in an hour to plan next months process. At that point you would need to ask yourself if the meeting is a task that needs to be completed right now, or could it be rescheduled so you can focus and create momentum?

As you work on pareto’s principle you’ll come to find that there ends up being very few things that are more important. If they are, likely they wont come as surprises!

Question 3: Does this task need to be completed by me?

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Ok, you’ve checked to see if the new task is relevant, and it needs to be completed right now. Good, we’ve passed two checks!

However, We saved the biggest question for last.

How many times have you been working on a task while thinking “this is so simple that its boring” or “this is a basic task, why am I the one working on this?” Outside of a learning environment (sorry students) if you have these thoughts its time to start to consider your 80 20 rule and whether or not there is someone else who this would be important tasks for them.

If you’re looking to maximize your impact then you have to be working on the tasks that allow you to maximize your skills not just maximize your efforts!

Given the same amount of time and energy focusing on the key tasks that only you can accomplish yields more results! One of the secrets that many business leaders know is this simple practice. They constantly work on the things that only they can do and surround themselves with great people who can handle the rest!

In Practice.


1: Does this need to be completed? 2: Does this need to be completed right now? 3: Does this need to be completed by me?

When we’re setting up and maintaining our weeks using our 80/20 Blueprint planner we use these questions to help us focus our days.

Step 1: list all the To-Do’s

Step 2: Use our three questions to delegate or push the 80%

1: Does this need to be completed?

2: Does this need to be completed right now?

3: Does this need to be completed by me?

Step 3: If the task passes all three focusing questions with a “yes” answer then we use time blocking from our time management practice and place it on our week. If not, then pass it to someone else who can thrive on that task or push it to later!

Using the questions to maximize efforts for teams.

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Are you a team leader in any form? You are? ok, then this section is for you. Deploying the 80 20 rule can be simpler than you might think. Running an entire team can be much more complicated if we forget two simple facts, every teammate has a different 20% and the team relies on the leader to keep the 80% away.

How to implement the questions for teams: simply turn the “me” to “we.” Is this task relevant to our team? Does this task need to be completed right now? Does this task truly require the strengths of our team?

When a leader starts thinking in this way, the team experiences the most results and can 10X their outcomes. Why? Every team member is performing at their best on it being relevant and has the most significant impact!

Want to be the team that is the example for everyone else? All you have to do is identify what truly matters, and then implement the systems that create productivity around those tasks! Want to know our favorite tools for leading teams, stay tuned!

In the mean time you can also read our article on Leading Strong HERE!

How to discuss the questions with your leader.

Ok, I told you earlier I was going to give you a tip to help you implement with those who pass tasks on to you. The concept is simple, remember that good leaders want the same thing you do! They likely are facing multiple issues, are trying to create many outcomes, and know the root causes of many of the tasks they deal with.

Remember, they want the same thing you do!

Now let them know that you’re trying to focus on the 80 20 rule and that you use the 3 focusing questions to help you focus on the actions that create the most impact and the most bang for the effort put in! Finally ask them if you can work together to find ways to limit the other tasks that take you away from momentum!

Frequently Asked Questions:

How does the 80 20 Rule work?

The 80 20 Rule operates on the theory of Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who determined that 80% of our efforts come from 20% of our actions. Thats why we help you blueprint your way to focus on the actions that truly change your world!

Does the 80 20 Rule still apply?

Absolutely, the pareto rule works today as well as it did historically! When you define the core tasks that create momentum in your life you’ll experience incredible amounts of productivity!

What is an example of the 80-20 Rule in marketing?

The marketing world believes that you need to master all kinds of platforms and techniques. The masters we know disagree. If you look at your sales numbers where did the largest volume of sales come from? Facebook, email, google?

All these activities generate traffic, but not all create sales. Likely the majority of your sales come from only 20% of those platforms. Simply focus on those platforms and maximize your impact!

How do I determine my 20%?

Think of everything you have on your to do list every day. What are the tasks that only you can accomplish? What are the tasks that lead to the biggest paydays? What tasks lead you to feel the most fulfilled? These questions lead you down the path of finding your 20%, the more you think on what creates true success for you the more you find the core 20%!

Can I use the Pareto Principle with my team?

Absolutely. When you can institute the pareto principle with your team you’ll find that many times you’re able to identify hidden talents in your team, find new clients, and achieve more as a group.





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