80/20 your life in 2023

Written by Francine Baffa, LICSW, BCBA-D
Edited by Joe DeNoon


“Pareto Me Forward” In 1897, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, in his study of the patterns of behavior, observed that roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. For example, 80% of project value is achieved with the first 20% of effort and 80% of your knowledge is used 20% of the time, 80% of nutrition comes from 20% of caloric intake. Over the years, Pareto’s observation has become known as the 80/20 principle. This principle, along with a “Yes” philosophy, are my mantras for the upcoming year. These mantras can help us all realize the importance of thinking from a place of “able-ity”. 

Taking a fresh look at the 80/20 principle, we can notice that the basic imbalance observed by Pareto 100 years ago can still be found in almost every aspect of modern life. Whether you’re embarking on a new diet or exercise routine, a relationship, or your daily schedule, you’ll find that it’s usually 20 percent that produces 80 percent of the total result. This means 80 percent of what you do is not the most efficient use of your time. When the fire drills surrounding the “crisis of the day” begin to eat up precious time, remind yourself of the critical 20 percent you need to focus on.  The 80/20 Rule acknowledges the imbalance in effort and results, and it allows us to use that imbalance to our advantage.


The value of the Pareto Principle is in reminding us to stay focused on the “20 percent that matters”. It’s about recognizing the imbalance of what needs to be done to reach contentment and happiness and doing only that and not extra work that doesn’t result in anything positive. This extra effort should be reserved for the critical 20%. 


  • 80 percent of the clinical and problematic issues on any given day will arise from 20 percent of your patients
  • 80 percent of telephone calls and pages will always come from 20 percent of nurses
  • 80 percent of valuable medical information that you receive will come from only 20 percent of what’s communicated to you
  • 80 percent of your job satisfaction will come from 20 percent of your daily interactions
  • 80 percent of compliments that your group receives will be about the good work of 20 percent of your physicians, and conversely, 80 percent of complaints will be about 20 percent of your physicians




James Clear states, “Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits.” Ask yourself what habits you want to weave into the year ahead. There are three layers of behavior change: a change in your outcomes, a change in your processes, and or a change in your identity. When we can embrace the change and believe it is an internal attribute, we can become that change. For example, rather than saying, “I am someone who does not eat chocolate cake” state, “I am someone that favors healthy eating.” Language around our changes is important, with help from the language we use, we are one step closer to achieving the change! True behavior change is identity change. When your behavior and your identity are fully aligned, you are no longer pursuing behavior change. You are simply acting like the type of person you already believe yourself to be.


Derek Sivers once wrote, “If I’m not saying, ‘Heck Yeah!’ to something, then I say no.” It seems to be well aligned, as we take a Pareto step into 2023. Cheers to maintaining the pace!

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