The 80/20 Rule: Perfectly Efficient

The 80/20 rule, otherwise called the ‘Pareto principle’ states that in many situations, 20% of the inputs are responsible for 80% of the outcomes. This 80/20 rule has a pretty broad range of applications when it comes to considering all sorts of situations. It can be applied to economics, science, business, sports, you name it.

It’s very interesting to me as someone who invests a lot of his free time thinking about Pokémon Cards. I like thinking about principles such as the Pareto Principle and applying them to card games. Aside from that however, I think a lot of people end up wasting a lot of time in ways which are highlighted by the 80/20 rule – myself included. For example email: I regularly need to send emails to colleagues and clients in my job. Occasionally I have to send some fairly important emails, ones where I risk setting incorrect expectations, risk giving incorrect advice or simply talking about something I’m not sure about. As far as my time spent sending emails go, these are the ones which take up 80% of my time.

Now consider yourself!

What I want to call attention to is, how this principle may be taking up time in your life too. Not everybody is like this, but I am sure there are plenty of people out there who invest a lot of time into that 20%. Sometimes it’s appropriate, like scrutinising that resume one last time, but many other times it’s important to remember to forge ahead even when you’re not sure. For me, it’s pushing the send button on that email and reminding myself that it’s better to make mistakes moving forward than standing still, paralysed with fear.

Going back to how I might apply this rule to Pokémon Cards, I can think of several:

  • 80% of your time creating a deck will be spent on 20% of the list
  • 80% of your turn will be spent deliberating 20% of your actions
  • 20% of the top players in Pokémon will top cut 80% of the events they compete in

To name a few. Even though I’m using hard numbers like 80 and 20 percent, it’s not supposed to be very strict. After all, how could I possibly know those statistics? The point is to think about where you are investing your time and think about whether you are wasting it on something that may be trivial in the end. Are you ‘inefficient’ because you want to be ‘perfect’?’.

When I play Pokémon Cards I often tell people: “If I’m not sure between two different actions, I just choose one and if I’m wrong, I remember that for next time”. When I’m spending too much time on something, I try to apply that thinking.

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