From designers and consultants to retailers and chefs, everyone wants to know how to succeed in business.

There’s a moment (or more likely, several) of panic when you realise this – this new venture – needs to work.

Particularly when you don’t have the possibility of going back to full-time work. You’ve got little mouths to feed and failure just isn’t an option.

I get it. I’ve been there. I started (and dissolved) multiple businesses before I sussed out the whole success thing.

And sadly, there is no silver bullet solution. (I’m sorry, let’s just get the bad news out in the open right now!)

The good news though, is that there are techniques that are likely to increase your productivity and therefore make your online business more successful.

They’re a bit like puzzle pieces that slot into place if they’re done in the right order.

I explore a bunch of these tools right here on the blog. And the one we’re going to look at today is the 80/20 rule.

In this blog post, I’ll explain exactly what is the 80/20 rule. And I also provide some tips on applying it to achieve your business (and life) goals.

Ok, let’s get started.

What is the 80/20 rule?

The 80/20 rule has actually been around for a while. Its other name is the ‘Pareto Principle’.

Pareto was an Italian economist. He figured out that society naturally seemed to be made up of the “vital few” (the top 20% of people in terms of wealth and status) and the “trivial many” (the other 80% – boo).

He later realised that this 80/20 split could be applied to other aspects of economics.

Today, we can apply the rule to almost any situation. It can help us prioritise our to do list and organise our time – and ultimately, be more productive and successful.  

How it boosts productivity

Take a look at your to-do list. Are the items on it all of equal importance? Or, like society, is there a divide between the top few and the rest?

Pareto would argue that only 20% of the items on your to-do list are where you should be focussing your energies. The other 80% are comparatively “trivial”.

Now, be honest. Do you often spend time dealing with 80% tasks and put off having to tackle the more challenging 20% tasks?

Yep, thought so. Me too. Well, I mean, I used to.

We all have a tendency to do this. But if you want to know how to succeed in business, this is the first bad habit that needs to change.

Grab the bull by the horns and get started right away! Here’s how:

1. Review and define your goals

What’s on your task list? What goals do you want to achieve this week? If there’s 10 or 20, that’s great. Write them down.

Now ask yourself: which one thing do you want to have accomplished today?

What about the most important thing on your list after that one? Keep asking yourself this until you’ve identified your priority 20%.

Repeat this exercise regularly, on a daily basis if necessary.

2. Jump in the deep end

Like all good habits, this one will take time to form. A good way to keep yourself on track is by starting each and every day with a 20% task or goal.

As the old saying goes, “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” So start biting into those meaty tasks.

You don’t have to finish them that day, that week, or even that year (if it’s particularly mammoth). But if you consistently begin your day by working on the trivial 80%, you’ll never get that elephant eaten.

3. See the big picture

Identify what your “big picture” life or business goal is and always keep it in mind. Everything you do should bring you closer to that big picture dream.

Even if it’s only half a step closer, it doesn’t matter; you’re progressing. Avoid the temptation to get bogged down in the little things and sidetracked on a path that leads elsewhere.

The definition of success is achieving a goal, so give yourself a one-track mind and go get it.   

Other applications of the 80/20 rule

Ok, we’ve looked at goals and tasks. Now, how about applying the 80/20 rule to other aspects of your business.

Your customers, for example. Are they all of equal importance? Or do 20% of them actually contribute 80% of your profits?

Use the 80/20 rule to identify your priority buyers. Then allocate the time you spend on them accordingly.

This may mean delegating to another team member, or outsourcing. But your time is a premium commodity, so make sure you’re spending it on the right people.

What about your products and services? Identify the top 20% in terms of influence on your bottom line and make sure the resources allocated to them reflect their importance.

In doing this, you might find a reworking of your product and service offering is in order. In which case, the 80/20 rule has already done you a huge favour.

We never said it would be easy! A lot of the time, being in business feels like an uphill struggle. But it is possible to get to the top.

Especially if you use the 80/20 rule to get you there.

Learning how to succeed in business is a constant process of education and evolution. But hopefully, this post (and the others available on our blog) provide you with some tips to help you along the way.

Whether you have a business idea already, or not, we can help you piece together this crazy puzzle called business. Simply just click here.

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