Pareto, Parkinson & Pomodoro—Oh My!

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by Dana on October 31, 2013

P3In this week’s success strategy I’m covering my favorite 3 Ps of time management—Pareto’s Principle, Parkinson’s Law and the Pomodoro Technique.  Keeping these 3 concepts in mind can help you greatly increase your efficiency and effectiveness in your business.

Pareto’s Principle

Pareto’s Principle is one of the most powerful time management concepts you’ll ever learn. In case you’re not already familiar with it, the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) was named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of income in Italy went to 20% of the Italian population. He took this concept even further and discovered that it applied in nearly all situations.

So what that means for you is that 20% of your activities produce 80% of your results. For example:

  • In your personal life, you probably wear 20% of your clothes, 80% of the time…
  • Or you use 20% of your recipes, 80% of the time…
  • Or in your business, 20% of your products account for 80% of your revenue…
  • And 20% of your customers account for 80% of your sales…

You get the picture.

So to increase your productivity, the key is to determine which vital projects and tasks have the greatest power to move you toward your goals—and to discipline yourself to focus on those items first.

Action Step: Spend some time analyzing your past business results to identify what falls into the most important 20% of activities to focus on (e.g., services, products, customers, marketing strategies, etc.). Adjust your strategy and plans accordingly.

And on a daily basis, be ruthless with the prioritization of your to-do list. Remember, if you have 10 items listed for the day, accomplishing just two of them will provide far more value than completing the other eight combined. Do not allow yourself to work on any tasks in that bottom 80% while you still have tasks in the top 20% left to be done.

Parkinson’s Law

According to The Four-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris, Parkinson’s Law states that “a task will grow in its perceived importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.” So if you give yourself a short period of time to complete a project—for example, 24 hours—you will be forced to focus on getting it done and will have no choice but to only pay attention to those things that are absolutely necessary. But if you had a week to work on that same project, you’d likely spend those additional 6 days making it more complicated than it needs to be—and if you had a month to do it, it would potentially become a nightmare.

And the best part is that, according to this law, the end product when there is a shorter deadline is almost always of equal or higher quality due to the greater focus that is required.

Action Step: Begin setting very short and clear deadlines for the items on your project list, which will force you to focus and take immediate action, rather than procrastinate mentally run around in circles.

Pomodoro Technique

Developed in the 1990s, the Pomodoro Technique is a productivity method that emphasizes working in focused bursts. The technique uses a timer to break down periods of work into 25-minute intervals (referred to as “pomodoros”), separated by breaks.

Using this method discourages multitasking, enables people to concentrate without distractions and encourages deep thinking. It is also based on the idea that taking frequent breaks can improve mental agility.

There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:

  1. Decide on the task to be done.
  2. Set your timer for 25 minutes.
  3. Work on the task until the timer rings and record the task status.
  4. Take a short break (5 minutes).
  5. Every four “pomodoros,” take a longer break (15-20 minutes).

Action Step: Experiment with using the Pomodoro Technique one day in the next week. Note how your productivity improves and consider using the method more regularly.


I’d love to hear…Which of these concepts resonated most with you?  Are you ready to get started experimenting with one of them? Please go ahead and post in the comments below…


Vatsala Shukla October 31, 2013 at 7:12 pm

As a student in school (way back in the late 70’s), my favorite method of studying for exams is what I now know to be the Pomodoro Technique. It is effective as psychologists now know that short bursts of studying leads to better retention of material. In the same vein, it is an excellent method to increase productivity and efficiency and best, one doesn’t get bored!

Nicola Broadsmith November 2, 2013 at 12:14 pm

I’m certainly going to try the Pomodoro technique. Thanks for sharing!

Bobbie Murphy November 3, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Dana, thanks! I am taking my Sunday to create, and will try out the Pomodoro Technique. Will report later to tell you how I did!