The 80/20 rule is commonly discussed as a time management and prioritization tactic in business. However, this helpful principle isn’t only useful in the workplace; it can also help you reach your health and wellness goals.
Simply put, the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, states that 80% of your results come from just 20% of your efforts. As such, you should prioritize only 20% of your activities to achieve the most effective results.
Proper prioritization is incredibly important in reaching your health goals, but sometimes, it can be difficult to identify where your priorities should lie — and that’s where the 80/20 rule can help. Keep reading to discover how leveraging the 80/20 rule can streamline your approach to health goals, ensuring that focusing on specific, key activities yields the most progress.
Understanding the 80/20 Rule
As HubSpot, a leading business CRM tool, explains, the Pareto Principle came about in the early 1900s when Vilfredo Pareto analyzed wealth distribution in Italy. He noticed that just 20% of the country’s population oversaw 80% of the country’s wealth. Likewise, he noticed that this ratio could be applied to other areas like productivity and progress.
In general, the 80/20 rule states that, often, you can get a larger impact by focusing your attention on a smaller percentage of tasks. While this rule doesn’t always apply to every situation, it is a philosophical theory that applies to many people and tasks. Often, when it comes to your goals, you may spread yourself too thin by focusing on too many tasks at once, whereas distilling your focus down to 20% of your tasks will yield greater results.
For example, you might have a lengthy to-do list every day. However, once you think about it, you’re getting 80% of your progress toward your professional and personal goals by focusing on just 20% of that to-do list. As such, you would want to put most of your energy into that 20% and not worry about the other things on the to-do list quite as much because you’re getting more value out of that 20%.
One thing to note is that there is another 80/20 rule in health and fitness, particularly in dieting, that states that you should follow your diet 80% of the time and indulge your cravings 20% of the time. However, for this article, we’re only discussing the 80/20 rule as defined by the Pareto Principle.
To make the 80/20 rule work for you, you must think about your goals and what’s helping you reach them most effectively. When discussing health, maybe your goal is to get higher quality sleep that gives you more energy each day. As such, you’ve implemented various tactics into your sleep routine — you do some gentle yoga before bed, take a bath, put away your phone, turn down the temperature, read a book, and gently drift off to sleep. You’re spending much of your time trying to get the sleep you need.
However, you’ve noticed that even if you take a bath, do yoga, and read, you only meet your sleep quality goals successfully if you put away your phone and turn down the temperature in your bedroom — that’s your 20%! Those are the elements of the routine that truly matter. As such, using the 80/20 rule, you should always do those two things every night, whereas you could allot the other time at night to something else, like spending time with your family.
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Identifying Your 20%
How do you identify your 20%, and where should you focus your efforts? As alluded to, it all depends on your health goals. You must identify your goals first to determine what in your life is helping you meet those goals effectively. When assessing your health goals, be as specific as possible.
Suppose you don’t have a specific goal in mind (such as losing a certain number of pounds or getting the desired number of steps per day). In that case, you might consider focusing on science-backed healthy lifestyle choices that provide the highest benefits overall. Very well health.com points to seven “key lifestyle behaviors” that are most effective in promoting overall health and longevity, including getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, being physically active, maintaining healthy body weight, not smoking, limiting alcohol, and managing mental health.
For example, limiting alcohol seems like a small action that won’t take up your time (or any time at all). Still, the results are substantial, according to VeryWellHealth — so this could be part of your 20% that leads to greater health results.
Implementing the 80/20 Rule
Once you’ve decided on your health goal and have determined what helps you reach that goal most effectively, be sure to set clear and measurable objectives to track your progress. Create a focused health plan that you can follow daily, with clear action items that keep you on track. You should also consider extra accountability measures, such as finding a partner or working with a health and wellness coach.
Overcoming Common Challenges
As with many strategies, the 80/20 rule comes with challenges. Just because 20% of your actions yield 80% of your results doesn’t mean you can completely ignore the other 80% of your action items. Those little bullets on the to-do list or competing health goals likely still need to be completed, even if you don’t have to give them all your energy and attention. Identify those that absolutely must be done (cut out the rest) and strategize ways to fit them into your schedule on a minimal basis.
For example, if, currently, you’re attempting to develop a well-rounded workout routine, but you’re seeing that most of your progress comes from the days you go for a run, consider running more often and scale back on the yoga classes.
If you’re a perfectionist, adjusting to the 80/20 rule may be hard. As best you can, resist perfectionism. Perfecting those low-impact items isn’t serving your needs or helping you reach your goals.
Additionally, be sure to recognize and celebrate each time you reach your health goals, so you can keep the motivation flowing and remain disciplined.
Tools and Strategies for Success
As you set goals, build habits around those goals, and identify which of those habits yield the most results, consider utilizing technology and apps designed for this purpose, such as the Arootah Habit Coach app. Alternatively, if you see more results when strategizing one-on-one with another individual, explore how health coaching could help you reach your goals. Whatever option you choose, habit formation and consistency are vital to achieving any health and wellness goal you might set.
The Bottom Line
The 80/20 rule helps you identify and prioritize the habits that give you the highest return, so you can allocate your time and energy appropriately — and see greater progress toward your goals faster.
Get started prioritizing your progress and setting transformative health goals using the 80/20 rule. To learn more, join us for our upcoming Goals & Habits Workshop on January 4th.