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“The Pareto Principle is a theory that states for many phenomena, 80% of the effects stem from 20% of the causes.”

The love of my life, El Carino is a tremendous success in his field. He has six books, countless publications, and an impressive job. When my cousin stopped by for a visit recently she said to El Carino, “You must work all the time.” We just smiled. His productivity stems from his brilliant use of the 80:20 rule. He is the most productive worker I’ve ever seen and embodies the Pareto Principle.


When you start a project, you usually get a good chunk done in the beginning, but as time goes on, your productivity diminishes. And the longer you stick at the task, the less productive you become.

Here’s another wrong turn. You check your email in the morning, next decide to delete the 1000 junk emails, followed by a visit to a few of your favorite web sites, and before you know it, two hours has gone by and you’ve got nothing to show for it.

The Pareto Principle suggests that you get 80% of the work done in 20% of the time. In this case, you just wasted 80% of your time on useless endeavors.


  • Work 25 minutes reviewing an article for publication.
  • Take a break and listen to some music.
  • Spend another 25 minutes revising one of his older books for the next edition.
  • Take a break and get a cup of coffee.
  • Complete a section of an on-line quiz for continuing education requirement.
  • Total time spent: 2 hours

Practice this strategy about 3 times per week on top of his regular job, and overtime he accomplishes an extraordinary amount of work! The working time was spent working only on high priority items.


Here’s where he has most highly accomplished folks beat! He has several hobbies and recreational activities. At night we watch a few hours of television. In fact, he reads his Entertainment Magazine to stay on top of the media offerings and plan our family’s fun television and movie watching. That way, we don’t miss anything good! On top of everything else he exercises, practices his hobbies, goes out to plays, and movies. He is as diligent about maximizing leisure time as he is about maximizing work time.


We all know that there are only so many hours in the day-so what gives? He can’t do all of this without giving something up? In fact, everything he does has a purpose; he values leisure time a lot and recognizes its importance.

El Carino doesn’t obsess over his work, he does it. He is not a perfectionist. He spends minimal time on unproductive housekeeping type chores. He gets ready for the day quickly! Everything doesn’t need to be perfectly arranged. El Carino avoids tasks that are unnecessary or unimportant.

In fact, he spends 80% of his time on the absolute most productive activities and devotes little time to activities which don’t pay dividends!


Those who achieve success, have a plan. Set your financial and personal goals. Spend your time on what matters. When you get distracted, refocus on the tasks you deem important. Hit a set back? Continue on with the tasks that will bring you success.

If you need to save more, then continue to cut back on unnecessary spending and divert more funds into your saving and investing accounts.

Trying to lose weight and you overeat one day; get back on task the next.

Let setbacks and road blocks motivate you. When El Carino has a rejection, he uses that to motivate him to move forward towards his goals.

He’s worked diligently towards his career goals his entire life and success has come from his persistence, hard work, and discipline.

Action Steps

Get a notebook and label it: “(your name) Personal Finance” and keep it by the computer. Use it for all of your personal finance thoughts, activities, and plans.

  • Get started on a project you have been putting off.
  • Take a break every 20 or 30 minutes.
  • Ask yourself whether your current activity is moving you forward.

What are your productivity secrets?

image credit; Luvn.De.Vu


  1. This 80:20 rule could apply to blogging as well. I often times find myself getting lost on a “surf” before I realize an hour has passed since I had been working on what I had been trying to accomplish.

    I like El Carino’s view of the importance of leisure time. I share that view.


    February 8, 2012

  2. Nice article.

    I know all about losing that two hours of time, especially in the business of blogging. There are so many distractions!

    I have found that I need to concentrate most on the writing. If I don’t, then not only do I have to crunch on weekends and miss out on life, but I also feel bad about Frugal Confessions. By making writing my upmost priority (and I do this by writing first thing in the morning–not checking blogs, not checking emails, not even opening up the internet), everything else seems to fall into place.

    Amanda L Grossman

    February 8, 2012

  3. Maximizing my time is getting easier for me. I used to get “lost” surfing and commenting. Now, I only give myself 30 minutes in the morning for “networking”, an hour in the afternoon for writing, and maybe an additional 30 minutes for continued “networking” as I call it. Total blogging time: 2 hours. I usually take the weekends off or spend an hour each day max. This way I don’t burn out and can still enjoy life. 🙂

    Little House

    February 8, 2012

  4. Pareto’s Principle is by far my favorite life guide. Unfortunately most workplaces would never acknowledge it, no matter how true it is.

    Tim Ferriss really drove this principle home for me in the 4 Hour Workweek. I probably think about it every other day.

    John | Married (with Debt)

    February 8, 2012

  5. You reminded me of how productive I was in college. I learned how to stay on top of things and do it with minimal effort. I think I do now too, but differently. I need to spend less time and be more effective again. I was most effective when I only worked a 50 minute hour similar to teaching my classes. I need to back to that for everything else.


    February 8, 2012

  6. @Matt-It is so easy to get subsumed by the internet. It’s a constant battle for me to stay focused.
    @Amanda, Good plan, writing first! It’s always a good idea to get most important activities done first!
    @Little House-I must try your plan. So efficient!
    @John-I can’t wrap my head around the 4 hour work week. I can’t even fathom a 4 hour work day. I’m not a believer!
    @Krantc-Good luck with that!

    Barbara Friedberg

    February 8, 2012

  7. I am terribly inefficient. I don’t spend my time effectively and I can really learn from you. It is a difficult habit to change.


    February 8, 2012

  8. That’s a very interesting plan for getting things done. I like the coffee break parts in their. My usual way to get things done is wait till the last minute and keep plugging till it’s done because I’m such an awful procrastinator.
    My computer contains so many distractions on it that I was thinking to have a separate computer for work. My desktop has online games, Netflix, and the worse is the Amazon website. My Amazon addiction needs to be addressed. Great post.


    February 8, 2012

  9. I love it when a spouse brags on his or her partner! I think it is an exceptional indicator of how strong their relationship is and how long it will last. Good for you!

    Marie at FamilyMoneyValues

    February 8, 2012

  10. Six books!! Words fail me, that’s so impressive…

    101 Centavos

    February 8, 2012

  11. We can learn a lot from successful people simply by following their habits.


    February 9, 2012

  12. I think his success has as much to do with what he doesn’t do as what he actually accomplishes. Any success that I’ve gained has come from turning off my brain and the 5,000 ideas I have every day. Instead I focus on trying to implement one idea well.


    February 9, 2012

  13. I do find that I am get less good with this; there was time when I followed the system you just described to the letter. Now I have developed obsessions that need to be controlled to get me back on track.


    February 9, 2012

  14. I like this strategy! It’s easy to forget that sometimes taking a break and approaching your work with a fresh mind will be far more productive than just plowing through it hour after hour.


    February 11, 2012

  15. @Retire, thanks for your candor. I have a tough time taking breaks.
    @Dave, I love to hear that I’m not the only one that gets distracted. There’s so much online, it’s like a big black hole, with pictures :).
    @Marie, We’re in it for the duration!
    @101-I know, he is amazing. He’s so productive, I’m a total slackard next to him!
    @Shilpan-He’s a great model.
    @Money principle-Takes constant discipline to stay on track. I’m always pulling myself back from la la land.@Money design-Breaks are underrated.


    February 11, 2012

  16. Thank you for these tips. I spend too much time checking e-mail and reading blog posts. 😉 I read that someone said to only check your e-mail once a day. I couldn’t do that, but I should limit it more than I do now.


    February 18, 2012

  17. @Melissa, It is a constant challenge to refocus on the significant and minimize the distractions.


    February 20, 2012

  18. That seems like an awesome way to get something extra done amongst everything else.


    February 21, 2012


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