I'm Abe Wolfgang, an Electrical Engineer, writer, Father, husband, and full-time lover of story. I blog about those stories, how they impact us as humans, and why they are important. Occasionally I write my own as well.

The 80/20 Principle

There is an interesting phenomenon in the world. It is something that I recently learned about, so I apologize for not being an expert, but I will share what I know. I happened upon the topic while listening to Timothy Ferriss' "The 4-Hour Workweek" audio book, and it is know as the Pareto principle. The idea behind it is that, for many events, roughly 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. In some cases the ratio might be slightly different (90/10, 95/5, or even 99/1), but 80/20 is what struck me most of all.

This can be translated into any field that you fancy, from farming to your workday, but what stuck out to me was the application to stress. What if 80% of your stress was being caused by 20% of what you do? What if 80% of your problems with relationships are due to 20% of your relationships? What I am suggesting is that you could live a much less stressful life if you identified those things that are stressing you out, and isolating them from everything else so that you can deal with them. In some cases that may mean eliminating things. For example, I found at one point that I was using up a lot of my free time on my smartphone. When I looked at what was really happening I found that I was spending most of that time playing games. Then, when I needed to do something real, like check email or text someone, I felt this internal tension for using my phone so much at home. Well, in this case, the games on my phone represented about 10% (or less) of what I can use my phone for, but they were causing almost all of my problems. I sucked it up, deleted the games from my phone, and immediately felt like i had more free time and no longer worried about using my phone for its more useful features. This may be a somewhat silly example, but I think it illustrates the point I'm trying to make.

I'm not suggesting that the answer is always eliminate, in fact I would be very cautious about the areas of life in which you apply elimination as a solution. Certainly friendships and relationships merit more than elimination in most cases. But even there, you must ask yourself if you would be able to better love that person from a greater distance than you are currently operating in. I know that this topic is somewhat vague, and that was slightly intentional. I do think that the application can be much greater than I have outlined above. For instance, in your workday, do you feel as though 80% of your productive work is completed in 20% of your time? I would challenge you to try to identify areas in your life where this principle is obvious, and maybe areas where it doesn't apply at all. Experiment with it, and see what comes out.

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