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EPISODE 7 | Applying the Pareto Principle

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

On today's show I’ll be looking at one of The Productivity Worlds most effective strategies – often referred to simply as the 80/20 rule.

Before I go on to that though, thanks again for choosing to spend your time here with me. I really do appreciate it. Last week I spoke about silencing the INNER CRITIC and how to use your positive inner voice to fuel your drive and put you firmly in the driving seat. I would love to hear how you are getting on with that and any of these techniques I raise here. Also about what you are struggling with out there, so if you have a moment to spare click onto the contact page at and leave me a message. Your feedback will be very useful in helping me to plan future episodes. I’m slowly refining the podcast and if I can understand what other pros are struggling with then I can create new episodes to cover those topics. The speak pipe on the contact page allows you to leave a message and your message could be included in future episodes.

If you enjoy this episode and would like to know more about the Pareto Principle please support this podcast by buying the book The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch through my Amazon Affiliate link. I get a small bump for any sale made (Doesn’t have to be what I am linking to either!)



  • In January I started applying the Pareto Principle to all of my fight directing work. My premise was this. I was tired of having my time wasted by low paying fight days, and even more tired of jobs which were a pain in the ass and messed me about. I, therefore, started saying NO (a premise I detail in episode 2 of this season) to any work that I didn’t want to do. If it’s not a HELL YEH, then it’s a NO, remember? I also decided to not hunt down work on which the communication with potential employers was bad. If I was availability checked for example, and then left hanging, I stopped phoning them and asking for info. If they want me they will find me. The result so far, and as I put together this episode its August, well the result is the I am doing less work, for fewer companies and I am getting paid more money. I’ve had people knocking down my door to ask me on board, and yes once or twice I’ve still had my time wasted but overall I’ve owned it and had the best financial year of employment I’ve had in the last 10 years or so. To further prove my point, do you think I would have produced this podcast if I’d been fannying about with time wasters and amateurs? The Pareto Principle works, but what’s it all about?

The Pareto Principle is also known as the Pareto Rule or the 80/20 Rule. It was named after economist Vilfredo Pareto originally referred to the observation that 80% of Italy’s wealth belonged to only 20% of the population. He became somewhat obsessed with this ratio, seeing it in everything. For example, he observed that 80% of the peas in his garden came from 20% of his pea plants.

It is sometimes referred to as “The Law of the Vital Few”.

The basic principle that 80 percent of consequences come from 20 percent of the causes or an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs has been drawn into the productivity world and has had a massive impact.

So roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Let’s apply that to my anecdote there. I realized that 80% of my income was coming from 20% of my clients. By effectively ignoring or giving minimal time to everyone else I was able to focus and give a better commitment to my remaining well-paying clients. Adversely I’d say that 80% of my hassle comes from 20% of my clients, so the added benefit of not chasing them down or deliberately side-lining them was that I no longer had all that hassle. I had hassle with well-paying jobs but then that was well paid. It was worth a bit of hassle, but any poor paying big hassle jobs went in the can and I at the other end got lots more time off to work on what I want to do.

Do you get it? Do you see why The Pareto Principle is awesome yet? Let’s look at it in more detail.


It must be noted that the Pareto Principle is the observation (not law) that most things in life are not evenly distributed. It can mean that:

  • 20% of the workers produce 80% of the result

  • 20% of the customers create 80% of the revenue

  • 20% of your clients cause 80% of your heartache

  • 20% of your effort creates 80 % of the finished work

  • 20% of criminals commit 80% of the crimes.

  • 20% of pub-goers consume 80% of the alcohol.

  • 20% of car drivers cause 80% of the accidents.

Or looking at it another way:

  • 80% of value is achieved with the first 20% of the effort

  • 80% of work is completed by 20% of your team

  • We spend 80% of our time with 20% of our friends.

From my personal point of view I can say that:

  • 80% of my fight work uses 20% of the techniques and skill set that I have.

  • 80% of the time I spend on the phone is virtually useless. If I didn’t enjoy Twitter and interacting with the community there I would shut it down, and occasionally when things start to get on top of me I do.

  • If you’re interested in speed reading then you might agree that 80% of the value in a book can be gleaned from 20% of its content.

  • I wear 20% of my wardrobe 80% of the time. I’ve done a bit of a Steve Jobs on this in recent years and tend to wear the same style of shirts and jeans and boots every day. I have multiple sets and I just don’t have to think about it anymore. That’s really a comment about decision fatigue which I’ll get into on a later episode.

As a final example and if we are to believe Woody Allen:

  • 80% of success is just showing up – that makes some sense if you consider that "showing up" is 20% of the effort…

Richard Koch, who wrote the book The 80/20 Principle explains the common misconception that the numbers 20 and 80 do not need to add up to 100. They are cause and effect – meaning they are not of the same denominator. It just so happens that the observation made by Pareto was 80/20 - I’ll quote from him here as he is the main man when it comes to this and I’ll put a link to that book in the show notes. “The numbers don’t have to be “20%” and “80%” exactly. The key point is that most things in life and work are not distributed evenly. It doesn’t have to be a literal 80-20 ratio — for example, 70% of the effects can be contributed by 15% of the causes or 60% of effects can be contributed by 30% of the causes. The percentages of effects and causes don’t have to add up to 100% either — 80% refers to the effect while 20% refers to the cause, meaning they are not of the same denominator. It just happened that Pareto’s observation was 80-20 (rather than 70-20 or 60-10).”

I watch a lot of YouTube, frankly too much YouTube – I’ll have to do an episode on YouTube addiction once I figure out how to beat it. There’s a guy on there that talks about language hacking and I only speak English so I’m useless when I’m anywhere else so I’ve watched a few of his - His whole system and he’s released a lot of books on this - is based on the principle that the 20% of the words in any language account for 80% of our usage. By making a list of words organized by how frequently they’re used, and studying just those, he can account for a significant portion of daily usage. He also had another hack which effectively says that a lot of other languages use versions of English words and that you should learn them first, but that’s me getting side-tracked. Very interesting though and its a terrific real-world example of The Pareto Principle in action.

So let’s look at how this can actually be applied to our life and work in the creative industries.

  • If 20% of your tasks bring 80% of the results – on any specific goal – then this means that we can accurately find the tasks which must be made a top priority. We can prioritize these tasks over other less important work to achieve maximum results with the least effort.

With that knowledge, we can become highly efficient with our time and prioritize with that knowledge. For me, the whole 80/20 principle thing is a way to prioritize. It allows me to focus on the vital - the 20% high-value tasks, rather than spreading myself thinly across everything. It allows me to say, my time is not worth that effort – whatever it may be – and I can delegate the less important work, automate it, postpone it or just remove it altogether. Look to episode 3 if you want to know more about prioritizing.

So let me sum up.

Richard Koch says that: “Conventional wisdom is not to put all of your eggs in one basket. 80/20 wisdom is to choose a basket carefully, load all your eggs into it, and then watch it like a hawk.”

I can’t believe I’ve done this many episodes without referencing Tim Ferris – well here we go at last. Tim says

“Doing less is not being lazy. Don't give in to a culture that values personal sacrifice over personal productivity.”

What a great line eh?  Why the personal sacrifice – what is it getting you? Heartache? Stress? Let it go. Value your own time more.

Listen to Dale Carnegie who said  “Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.” – That’s the 80/20 rule in action.


So if  The Pareto Principle is the prediction or observation that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. Can you assess any aspect of your own life or work where you can apply it? If the answer to that is yes, then what are you waiting for? That’s this week’s homework. Assess your own task list and apply it – I am certain you will find something in there to which this applies.

Thanks again for listening - Next episode I’ll be talking about Mel Robbins’ 5 second Rule and how you can use it to cut through indecision, Beat fear and uncertainty, hack procrastination, Become confident, Share your ideas with courage, Stop worrying and feel happier.

For now, though, take control of your own destiny, silence those negative thoughts, keep on shootin’ and join me NEXT TIME on Film Pro Productivity.

  • The music that you are listening to right now is Adventures by A Himitsu.

  • You can view the show notes for this episode at

  • If you’re struggling with something you think I can help with or would like to tell me how you are getting on then please get in touch via the contact page on the website. Alternately you can get me on Twitter @fight_director or follow the show @filmproprodpod

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Thanks: A Himitsu, Stephen Rowan, Dave Bullis Podcast, Podcraft.

Main Photographs taken on the Giordano UK shoot by Bryan Larkin.

Music: Adventures by A Himitsu Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported— CC BY 3.0 Music released by Argofox Music provided by Audio Library ––– • Contact the artist:


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