Break Free From Perfectionism With the 80/20 Rule

8 months ago   •   3 min read

By Zero Machina

Many of us fall into the perfectionism trap.

Perfectionists have high standards for everything. But this makes you unproductive and wastes time on insignificant details. The 80/20 rule is a simple way to break free from this.  This rule helps you focus on the most impactful tasks and let go of the need for perfection.

As a result, you'll get more done with less stress.

What Is the 80/20 Rule?

The 80/20 rule is also known as the Pareto principle.

It was named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. He also found that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.

The principle states that there's an imbalanced relationship between inputs and outputs. And you can achieve the majority of results with 20% of the effort.

The great thing about the 80/20 rule is that success doesn't require perfection. It's about identifying the things that create the most value for your goals, then focusing your time and energy on them.

This rule can be applied to everyone's professional and personal lives.  It can help you with time management at work—for instance, 20% of your to-do list accounts for 80% of your results. Or you can use it in your personal life–maybe 20% of your relationships give you 80% of your happiness and fulfillment.

Prioritize what gives you the best results and let go of the rest.

Use the 80/20 Rule To Beat Perfectionism

Pareto's principle reminds us that everything doesn't need to be perfect.

What really matters is that you achieved your goal, and did it within a reasonable amount of time.

The first step is to identify the areas of your life where you tend to be a perfectionist. Here are some examples:

  • You spend hours at work trying to get everything done perfectly, even with insignificant tasks.
  • You struggle to finish projects because you keep making changes and adjustments.
  • You strive for perfection in every relationship and try to please everyone.

Once you've identified the areas where you're a perfectionist, it's time to start using the 80/20 rule.

Select an area where you struggle, then follow these steps:

  1. Clearly define the result you want.
  2. Brainstorm all the things you need to do.
  3. Identify the 20% that will give you 80% of the results.
  4. Focus your time and energy on the 20%–either let go of the rest, or minimize the time you spend there.

Let's say you're a perfectionist at work (as an employee or business owner).

To use the 80/20 rule, you'd start by defining your goal. Perhaps you want a promotion, to grow your business, or be recognized as an expert in your field.

Next, list everything you need to do to achieve this goal. Brainstorm as much as possible.

When you're done, identify the 20% that will give you 80% of the results. Focus on high ROI activities. This could include networking, learning new skills, or creating content that displays your expertise.

Focus your time and energy on the 20%, and let go of the rest for the time being. This might mean delegating or outsourcing some of your work, or setting limits on the time you spend on specific tasks.

Next Steps

Perfectionism is an obstacle to productivity because everything becomes a priority.

The 80/20 rule is a helpful reminder that you don't need to make everything perfect. What matters is focusing on the few things that lead to your goals. Shoot for progress, not perfection.

Want to learn more about overcoming perfectionism? Check out our article: The Perfectionism Trap: Why It Kills Your Productivity and How To Overcome It.

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