The vital few and the trivial many. The Pareto principle (aka the 80/20 rule) states that, for many things, 80% of our results come from 20% of our actions.

The relationship between input and output is rarely, if ever, balanced. When applied to work, it means that approximately 20% of your efforts produce 80% of your results.

Learning to recognise and then focus on that vital 20% is the key to making the most effective use of your time.

Here are 5 practical tips to achieve more from less:

1. In a nutshell…

The 80/20 Rule suggests you look through all the tasks you normally could perform, pick the top 20% that create the most results and focus on them. Whatever time you have left can be spent on the less productive 80%.

How not to use the 80/20 rule:

80 + 20 = 100

Don’t get caught up on the numbers. Both 80 and 20 are just examples of one type of uneven balances. The fact that they add up to 100 is a coincidence. You could call this the 50/3 or the 37/9 rule – the point is that your inputs don’t always equal your outputs. Most things are not distributed evenly.

2. Your tasks

List unproductive or meaningless tasks and activities and eliminate them.

Reason: 80% of the activities give only 20% of the value.

List and look at all your activities. Only a few of them give the most value and meaning. Do you really need the rest of them? Eliminate the time wasters and keep the important stuff. Be ruthless; don’t be afraid to say no if you need to.

3. Your relationships

Spend most of your time on your most important relationships.

Reason: 20% of the relationships gives 80% of the value

From all our relationships, only a small portion of them give the most value to us. These are the few people with whom you have strong emotional bond. Usually these people are your spouse, your family, and a few close friends or colleagues. You should spend the majority of your time nurturing these relationships.

4. Your strengths

Focus on your strengths.

Reason: 20% of your skills give 80% of the returns.

The few skills that give you the most returns are your strengths. It’s important to identify them so that you don’t waste time working on things which give you only small return. To be effective, you should do only a few things, the things you’re very good at.

5. Your productivity

Find your productive “place” and make the most of it.

Reason: 20% of your work time gives 80% of the results.

Everyone has a productivity “sweet spot”. Some people are most productive in the morning while some others are most productive in the evening. Maybe you work best alone, while others are most productive when they have some background noise. Whatever the time or condition is, try to identify yours and make more of it.