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The Pareto Principle and how can you apply it to studies

by | Published: | Updated: 09/10/2019


Vilfredo Pareto was born in Italy in 1848. He would go on to become an important philosopher and economist. Legend has it that one day he noticed that 20% of the pea plants in his garden generated 80% of the healthy pea pods. This observation caused him to think about uneven distribution. He thought about wealth and discovered that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by just 20% of the population. He investigated different industries and found that 80% of production typically came from just 20% of the companies. 

More generally, the Pareto Principle is the observation (not law) that most things in life are not distributed evenly. It can mean all of the following things:

  • 20% of the input creates 80% of the result
  • 20% of the workers produce 80% of the result
  • 20% of the customers create 80% of the revenue
  • 20% of the bugs cause 80% of the crashes
  • 20% of the features cause 80% of the usage
  • And on and on…

The generalization became:

80% of results will come from just 20% of the action.


How can you apply Pareto Principle to studies?

While the Pareto principle is an economics theory, it can be applied to your life at school and help you improve your performance by optimizing your time use.

If you apply the Pareto Principle to one of the keys of academic success, studying, you will find that you get 80% of your studying done in 20% of your time actually spent studying. This might sound shocking at first, but bear with me for a moment. Think to when you’re studying: you spend a lot of time being distracted, re-reading, thinking about other things, daydreaming about your future, or you leave to go grab a tea or coffee. Let’s take a 5 hour study session at the home or library and break it down:

 - 20% of 5 hours is 1 hour, so in theory, you only need 1 hour of studying to achieve 5 hours of “studying”. 

 - The rest of the time will be spent on your phone, waiting in line for coffee, checking Facebook or another website, or simply zoning out in moments of lost focus. 

Starting to make sense?

So instead of spending your entire day studying, break up your day into a variety of activities, otherwise you’ll simply be damning yourself from the beginning to accomplish less. Divide your day into smaller chunks of time in which to accomplish your goals for that day. Keep your mind fresh by constantly changing things up.

For example, let’s say that you have to study for two midterms, have an essay due, and also have some routine homework to accomplish, and let’s say it’s all due in a week’s time. 

  • Instead of stressing about one thing over the other, allocate a balanced amount of time to each until you accomplish the task. Maximize that 20% of your time each day to achieve 80% of your work. 
  • Keep things changing to limit distractions and other contributing factors to the wasted 80% of your time. 
  • By managing your 80% “waste time” effectively, you can accomplish 80% of multiple things in the same time as you would normally have accomplished 80% of only one thing.

So with the coming half yearly exam season, during your day-to-day routine at work, or your next work-out, try to introduce a bit more variety into it to reset the 80/20 clock and invigorate your mind to accomplish more in the set amount of time you have each day. Each task will feel fresh and fun, your motivation to accomplish things will increase since your list is more challenging, and you’ll accomplish more things in a more efficient manner. 


No matter what your situation, it’s important to remember that there are only so many minutes in an hour, hours in a day, and days in a week. Pareto can help you to see this is a good thing; otherwise, you’d be a slave to a never-ending list of things to do.

Also Read: How to motivate children to play more Outdoor vs Indoor

What do you think anout Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule), send your thoughts and suggestions at mail@yayskool.com.

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