Being a dad can be challenging. It involves wearing multiple hats, all at the same time. And sometimes, it can feel overwhelming – like there’s not enough time to get everything done.
But there’s a solution. It’s called the 80/20 Rule (also known as the Pareto Principle). And once you get your head around this concept, it can make a huge difference.
Maybe you are familiar with it, but if not, here’s a quick summary.
The Pareto Principle
Vilfredo Pareto (1848 – 1923) was an Italian Economist with a passion for gardening. One day, while tending to his vegetables, he noticed that 20% of the pea pods were producing 80% of the peas. He went on to discover that this phenomenon which applied in nature was also represented in economics, business and society.
The Pareto Principle states that 20% of the input produces 80% of the output.
What’s this got to do with being a dad?
The Pareto Principle can be applied to almost any area of your life including your role as a man, a husband and a father.
Here’s how it works…..
Firstly, if you can identify the small number of items (the 20%) that make the biggest difference, you can focus your energy on doing these things well. This is the stuff that really matters.
And if you can realise that the rest of the stuff (the 80%) makes very little difference to your overall results, then hopefully you can relax a little and stop worrying that you don’t have time to get ‘everything’ done.
Now, the trick is being able to understand what’s most important (and least important) to you. And that’s not always easy. It will be influenced by your situation, your values and your perspective.
So, there’s no one-size-fits-all. You’ll need to work it out for yourself and it may take a bit of trial and error.
But, to demonstrate the concept, I thought I’d share a few examples of how I apply the 80/20 principle to my role as a man, a husband and a father.
If you prefer to listen to this content, here’s the podcast version of the article.
Self-care is often something that gets neglected when you become a dad. With all your focus on work and family, you may forget to take care of yourself. But that’s not a good situation. And it doesn’t need to be that way.
Whilst it’s true you have less time available, that just means you need to be more efficient with the time you do have. And this is where the 80/20 Principle can help.
For me, the one thing that makes the biggest difference to my self-care is exercise.
If I can get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, it has a positive impact on the rest of my life.
When I exercise, I also eat better and sleep better as a result. And being fit makes me feel more confident and satisfied with myself.
Exercising helps with my mental health and improves my mental sharpness throughout the day. And it means I’m getting out of the house for a bit of fresh air.
Plus, as an older dad (in my 40s) I know that staying fit will help me keep up with the kids as they get older. So it’s something that has long-term payoffs as well.
For these reasons, exercise is a great example of a 20% item. It takes very little time, but it has a huge impact on my overall results.
So I always try to prioritise time for doing exercise.
If you want to get even more efficient, you can also do an 80/20 on your 80/20 items 🙂
For instance, on the days where I have less time available to exercise, I’ve started using things such as Tabata, to ensure I get maximum results for minimum effort with my workouts.
80/20 Relationship Care
Once kids are on the scene, it’s easy to neglect your relationship. Much like self-care, it often gets pushed down the priority list when there’s so much other stuff going on.
But taking care of your relationship is one of the best things you can do for your kids and your happiness. So it’s worth putting a bit of focus on this area.
By applying the 80/20 rule, you can try to identify the little things that make a big difference in your relationship.
For instance, my wife and I have a nightly ritual of sharing a cup of tea before bed. This gives us a chance to spend a little time together and connect at the end of each day, no matter how busy life gets.
It’s also an opportunity to clear the air of any tension that may have built up during the day.
If something happens that we need to discuss, but it’s “not the right moment”, we know we’ll have a chance to talk about it that night – once everyone has cooled down and the kids are in bed.
This nightly tea ritual only takes 10 minutes, but it makes a big difference to our relationship. It’s a good example of the 80/20 principle.
Another way to apply the 80/20 rule to your relationship is to understand your partner’s love language.
If you’re not familiar with love language theory, you can read more about it here. But the gist of it is that we all have different ways we like to be shown love. And often the way you like to be shown love is different from your partner’s.
By using your partner’s preferred love language to demonstrate your love, you can make sure the gestures and actions you are taking are having the biggest impact.
Instead of wasting lots of time writing a long love letter, when what they really needed was a quick backrub 🙂
If you are still not convinced the 80/20 principle applies to your relationship, here’s an experiment for you. Try forgetting an important date like an anniversary, a birthday or mother’s day.
Go on, I dare you.
This should prove that little things really can make a BIG difference.
These days, there are thousands of books, courses and parenting experts offering advice on how to raise children. And there is a lot of pressure on parents to ensure their kids are developing the right skills at the right time, to meet certain milestones.
Interestingly, this is a relatively recent trend. Until the 1970s, the concept of parenting was very different – it was far more hands-off. It wasn’t even referred to as ‘parenting’, it was simply child-rearing.
And there’s very little evidence to suggest that all this extra effort is making much of a difference.
Maybe we are overcomplicating things?
At the end of the day, if you can provide security, food, shelter and love – you are probably already 80% of the way there.
So rather than stressing about doing every activity, applying every new parenting concept and trying to teach your kids every new skill, sometimes it’s better to step back and let them work it out for themselves
But, for the purpose of the exercise, let me try to identify a couple of the 20% items that I think can make a big difference with kids.
The famous marshmallow experiment from the 1960s showed that kids who displayed self-control and were able to delay gratification went on to be more successful later in life.
And if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. So much of our success is influenced by self-control and delayed gratification.
If you can resist eating junk food, you will grow to be healthier.
If you can learn to save money and avoid credit cards, you’ll develop good money habits and create future wealth.
And if you can put your head down and study, instead of bingeing on video games and Netflix, you’ll be able to gain an education that could set you up for life.
So for me, self-control is a good example of a 20% item. If you can learn it when you are young, it can have a positive effect on the rest of your life.
Another example is resilience. Or what Angela Duckworth refers to as grit.
This is another valuable skill that has been linked to long-term success and happiness.
Both self-control and resilience are skills that can be taught, or at least influenced by parents, so these are two things that I think are worth trying to develop in your kids.
- Related: How to raise children with grit
Focus on what matters most
“It’s not always that we need to do more but rather that we need to focus on less.”Nathan W. Morris
What’s deemed important and unimportant will be different for each person. And it’s likely to vary at different stages of your life.
If you can apply the 80/20 principle to identify the small number of things that make the biggest difference, you can focus your attention, time and effort on doing these things well.
And you can also realise that the majority of the other stuff makes very little difference to your overall results.
So, don’t try to do everything. Just focus on what matters most. And then chill-out, relax and enjoy the journey!
Note: If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about the 80/20 principle, please download this free eBook: 7 Steps To Be A Better Man, Partner and Dad
- Tabata: The 4-Minute Workout For Busy Dads (80/20 self-care idea)
- Don’t Trust The Golden Rule (80/20 relationship care)
- The Power of Habits: How to teach kids good habits for life (80/20 parenting)