How to apply the 80-20 time management rule in your business

Time is a valuable resource that is also one of the most elusive. Over the years, creatives, professionals, and entrepreneurs all over the world have sought ways to master the intricacies of time management. Freelancers, in particular, who are frequently faced with multiple, sometimes unrelated tasks, appear to struggle with time even more.

The 80-20 rule also known as the Pareto principle, is one of the most well-known principles for making the best use of one's time. The 80-20 rule has been widely adopted as a practical method for allocating limited resources such as time and energy since its inception.

Continue reading to learn how this tried-and-true time management rule can help professionals increase their output.

What Is the 80-20 Rule?

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, originated with the ideas of economist and part-time farmer Vilfredo Frederico Pareto. Pareto discovered about 20% of his pea plants were responsible for 80% of the harvest. The rest of the plants yielded only 20%.

Nearly two centuries later, a management consultant named Joseph Juran studied Pareto's ideas and applied them to his business. He was able to record an overall increase in the quality of goods after observing that 80% of the defects in his products were caused by 20% of production errors. As a result, he named this strategy the Pareto Principle, stating that there was an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs. To achieve the best results, more attention should be paid to the "vital few" while the "trivial many" are ignored.

The Pareto principle is still widely used today in many fields, including economics, finance, relationships, and time management, and by prominent business figures such as Warren Buffet.

What is the 80-20 rule in time management?

Many professionals appear to be always busy but accomplish very little. This is because they spend time and energy on trivial tasks while putting off higher-value tasks that have a large and direct impact on their work lives.

According to the 80-20 rule, 20% of tasks yield 80% of the rewards. Although this is not a strict proportional rule, the idea is to identify and invest in the 20% of tasks that yield the highest returns.

These important tasks are frequently the most difficult and complex, but they are also the most rewarding when executed properly.

How to apply the 80-20 time management rule

If you eat a live frog in the morning, that's most likely the hardest thing you'll do the entire day. Eating the frog has become a metaphor for doing the most difficult jobs first. Smaller tasks can cheat you out of time. Clear the biggest, most critical work items first. That way, you have more time to handle others.

Here are steps to applying the 80-20 rule in time management as a freelancer:

  1. Create a to-do list: A simple but all-important first step. A to-do list helps you keep track of all your tasks in one place.

  2. Sort your tasks in order of significance: The 80-20 rule in time management requires that you determine the most significant tasks and place them at the top, and lower-impact tasks at the bottom of the list, in that order. Resist the temptation to do the easier tasks first. Strictly keep to their order in your schedule.

  3. Prevent distractions: For freelancers especially, distractions always stand in the way of being productive. Tasks come with deadlines, and the essence of the 80-20 time management rule is to keep you ahead of deadlines rather than behind them. Identify potential distractions like your phones and people, and avoid them to create a focused working environment.

  4. Focus On the top 20% of your tasks: This does not mean that all your important tasks must strictly amount to 20%. It could be more or less, but the 80-20 rule requires that you commit to the higher-value tasks first. Sharing your time among tasks equally may help you execute the smaller tasks properly, but you'll likely perform less than average on the more technical ones, which usually have a higher impact on your work life.

  5. Focus on the top 20 % of your clients: The 80-20 rule does not just apply to tasks but also to clients. Let's be honest; not all clients offer the same value. Identify the highest-value clients and concentrate your efforts on giving them the best. You want to do a good job for all of your clients, but where time is in short supply, as is often the case, facing the bigger jobs first helps you execute them better and makes it easier to handle the smaller tasks. It's a win-win situation for everyone.

  6. Defer, Delegate, Automate: Do not be reluctant to outsource help when needed so that you can focus on other non-delegable tasks. Tasks that can be deferred or outsourced are usually within the 80% bracket of lower-impact tasks.

Benefits of the 80-20 time management rule

Applying the principles of the 80-20 time management rule can give you a firmer grip on your schedule so that you can attend to other personal causes such as rest, exercise, and relationships.

Applying the 80-20 rule can help you attain the following: 

  • Greater productivity: You can accomplish more in less time. Effective time management also eliminates stressors, so there are no incidences of fatigue.

  • Leadership: Managing your time efficiently is the first step towards self-leadership, and self-leadership is at the core of leading others better.

  • Self-confidence: Managing your time and tasks efficiently gives you a better perception of yourself and improves your confidence.

  • Greater efficiency in the use of resources: The 80-20 rule eliminates waste of time, energy, and other important resources.

  • Improved decision-making flair: Identifying the upper quadrant of important tasks can train you to make better decisions in other work and life matters.

Take charge of your time with Workee

Workee is an all-in-one business management solution for professionals are looking to save time and money. Here are some of Workee's functionalities that help you manage your time better.

  • Free, no-code website

With the Workee professional website builder, you can create a befitting website in the shortest possible time.

  • Easy and flexible scheduling

Workee allows you to schedule your time properly. Prioritize your working hours and let clients book you at those times.

  • Automated accounting

Workee helps you save time by automating your invoicing, payments, and taxes. Workee eliminates the need to spend time on time-consuming tasks or money on multiple tools. Workee has everything you need to seamlessly manage your clients and tasks.


The 80-20 time management rule is not a hard and fast one but a principle. The general message is that not all tasks have equal significance, and the significant ones should be given more time and energy. 

The 20-80 rule is not a one-off application but a continuous principle in handling tasks and clients as they come. The Workee tool is perfect for freelancers to organize and manage their tasks more efficiently.

Ihor, CEO at Workee

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