The 80/20 Rule: What it Means and Why It’s Important

Unlock the meaning, definition, and explanation of the 80/20 rule: learn why it's so important

What is the 80/20 Rule?

The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, is a concept that suggests that 80% of outcomes (or outputs) result from 20% of all causes (or inputs) for any given event. In business, a goal of the 80/20 rule is to identify inputs that are potentially the most productive and make them the priority. For instance, once managers identify factors that are critical to their company’s success, they should give those factors the most focus.

Origins of the 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule was born in the late 19th century by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist. Pareto noticed that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. He developed the principle after observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.

Applications of the 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule is used in a wide range of areas including economics, business, and software development. Here are a few examples:

  • Economics: In economics, the 80/20 rule is used to help model economic inequality and distribution of wealth.
  • Business: In the business world, the 80/20 rule is often used to point out that 80% of a company’s revenue comes from 20% of its customers.
  • Software Development: In software development, the rule is used to help prioritize project tasks. It is assumed that 80% of a project’s benefits come from 20% of the work.

Why the 80/20 Rule is Important

The 80/20 rule is important because it can help businesses and individuals become more efficient. By identifying and focusing on the 20% of tasks that generate the most benefit, resources can be allocated more effectively. This can lead to cost savings, increased profitability, and greater overall productivity.

Limitations of the 80/20 Rule

While the 80/20 rule is a useful tool, it is not a hard and fast rule that applies to all situations. The ratio is not always 80/20. It could be 90/10, 70/30, or even 95/5, depending on the situation. The principle is that the majority of results come from a minority of inputs. Therefore, it’s important to understand that the 80/20 rule is a guide, not a scientific certainty.


The 80/20 rule is a powerful tool that can help businesses and individuals focus on what’s most important. By identifying and prioritizing the 20% of tasks that generate the most results, you can achieve greater efficiency, save time, and increase profitability. However, it’s important to remember that the 80/20 rule is a principle, not a law, and the actual ratios can vary.


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