The 40-30-20-10 Rule: A Time Management Strategy for Busy People

5 months ago   •   2 min read

By Zero Machina

Time management advice revolves around focusing on what matters most and removing distractions.

The challenge is it’s difficult to determine what matters most and allocate your time accordingly. And as your workload piles up, you’re left feeling more overwhelmed and scatter-brained.

One way to tackle this problem is by using the 40–30–20–10 rule of time management. By following it, you can better prioritize your time and make the most of your day.

What is the 40-30-20-10 Rule?

This rule is simple:

  • 40% of your time should be devoted to your most important priority.
  • 30% of your time should be devoted to your second priority
  • 20% of your time should be devoted to your third priority
  • 10% of your time should be devoted to everything else (urgent and obligatory tasks).

This basic rule is a great way to manage your time and prioritize your tasks. It helps you allocate time to the things that matter most.

And as a result, you'll be more productive and efficient with your time.

Don't Be Dogmatic

While this rule is a great way to manage your time, know that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to time management.

The underlying principle of time allocation is what matters.

Most people know what they should be doing to accomplish a goal. However, the challenge is we get distracted by shiny objects or allow low-priority activities to consume our time.

And advice saying to “focus on your most important task” isn’t good enough. This time management rule can guide you into re-allocating your time to the tasks that actually lead to success. Naturally, less important tasks will still need your attention. So this rule gives you flexibility when prioritizing your time and getting things done.

The 40–30–20–10 rule is a great starting point, but feel free to adjust it to fit your needs and preferences.

Other Applications of the 40-30-20-10 Rule

This basic rule can be applied to other areas of your life beyond time allocation.

For example, you can use it to better manage your finances and hard-earned income:

  • 40% of your income goes towards your savings.
  • 30% of your income goes towards necessary expenses (food, rent, bills, etc.).
  • 20% of your income goes towards discretionary spending (entertainment, travel, etc.).
  • 10% of your income goes towards contributory activities (donations, charity, tithe, etc.).

You can apply this to any significant facet of your life that you want to better prioritize.

Simply choose an area of your life that you want to improve. Narrow down the top 3 priorities (this will depend on your goals and values). Align the 40-30-20 to these priorities. Then, allocate the remaining 10% of your time to everything else.


Next Steps

The 40-30-20-10 rule is a great way to manage your time and prioritize your tasks. It'll help you make the most of your day and be more productive. However, remember that this isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. Adjust the rule to fit your own needs and preferences. Doing so will help you achieve your goals and live a more balanced life.

Want to learn more about leveling up your productivity? Check out our article: How the Environment Shapes Your Behavior and Productivity.

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