What Is The 80/20 Rule?

The 80/20 rule suggests that 80 percent of effects come from only 20 percent of causes. This rule is prevalent in business, IT, economics and many other fields. Now, let’s see how you can use the 80/20 principle in project management to boost your productivity.

The main benefit of the 80/20 rule is that it helps you prioritise urgent matters and remove any clutter and distractions. For a project manager, knowing this principle can be crucial to being successful and making the most of your time. If you find yourself struggling with innovation and want to focus on essential insights, you can creatively use the 80/20 rule both easily and quickly.

Quick History

The 80/20 rule comes from the late Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. He stated that 80 percent of the Italian population owns 20 percent of the land, an idea that is now commonly known as the Pareto principle. This is not new, but it can help you see activities that are more important for your client than for you and can help you focus on them more. This results in enhanced productivity if you manage your time well.

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. Haruki Murakami


How Does This Affect Project Management?

The 80/20 rule states that 80 percent of effects come from 20 percent of causes; alternatively, this means that 80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of the clients you currently have. In tandem with this theory, we can deduce that a 20 percent effort can boost results by 80 percent. When you have a project, you need to determine which activities are the most productive and fruitful. Then, to ensure a successful project, you need to focus your efforts on these activities. This can apply to meetings too; for instance, having 20 minutes of high-quality meeting is more successful than having a session that lasts for hours. Focusing on what you must do is the key to success.

Risk Management and Time Management

When we talk about the Pareto principle, we can talk about risks too. It is unavoidable to not have any risks when we are dealing with a project or, generally, with anything that involves people. 80 percent of problems come from key issues no matter what your field of work is, and you need to determine the cause of the problem in order to try and resolve it.

Project management in IT, just like any other field, might be a problem if we didn’t know how to use time in our favour. The key is to find where you can work best and be most focused. You need to value that time and structure your day around that time. While this is also a skill that can be developed with practice, you can start by planning your day. Select only a few crucial activities and allocate appropriate times for each of them, leaving windows of a few minutes for breaks in-between. Setting achievable goals is vital to being able to finish all of your tasks and, additionally, it is essential to prioritise the urgent ones.

Managing Stakeholders

A wide range of stakeholders influences any project; these might be sponsors, clients or any other partner that has a considerable contribution to the project at hand. Managing all these stakeholders can help you succeed or, alternatively, may even delay your project. Therefore, it is vital to perform stakeholder-impact assessments.

These assessments aim to examine which stakeholders, people or resources for instance, have the greatest impact on your project; the absence of which can make your project require most of your attention or, even worse, fail. Once you determine these critical assets, it is mandatory to focus your time on them to ensure you reap all the rewards.


Managing Your Resources

Resource management suggests that you should look after the ‘key people’ on your team – the ones who always have great ideas and are incredibly productive. On the other hand, it is crucial to offer them an appropriate environment to work in and avoid overloading them with work. Taking care of your greatest resources is vital if you want to boost your productivity.

Thus, these few vital people on your team deserve the highest proportion of your time, attention and guidance. They should be the ones that focus on results, come up with creative ideas and solve problems in productive ways. However, make sure you do respect their need for privacy and avoid giving them an excessive amount of tasks; these actions could drive them away from the corporate objective, make them tired and even diminish their motivation.

Agile Project Management

If you are in the field of agile project management in IT, you are probably flooded with projects and deadlines; one of the reasons you need to learn how to effectively organise your time, resources and team members to ensure the success of your project. If you efficiently use 20 percent of your data on projects and do not overload your team with useless activities, you are on the right path.

For example, if we looking at Microsoft Excel, how many of its functions do you realistically use? If you only have 20 percent of the features, it doesn’t mean that the most important ones are missing – it means that you don’t have lots of useless features. Therefore, if you schedule your plans and your activities, being an organised person can be the difference between being a successful project manager or not.


Using the Pareto principle can help you and your team work smarter and more efficiently, focusing on what is most important and what matters most for your project. You need to remember that 20 percent of quality work can deliver up to 80 percent of your results. Channelling your team’s efforts on the client’s needs can make the client satisfied and your project management much more comfortable.

Imran Zaman

The founder of DIGITI.ORG - The Digital Transformation Magazine. Imran is a Senior Consultant who helps FTSE 500 companies develop Cloud-First Strategies, introduce Cloud Operating and Cloud Finance Models and leads international Program Management teams to deliver digital change. Imran writes about Business, Technology and Innovation.

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