Nobody likes rules. But imagine if there was a quick rule that could help you live a more intense, full life, with less self-doubt and second-guessing and more doing.

Behold: the 80/20 rule. 

This is useful because you can throw the numbers 80 in 20 into most parts of your life, and you’ll get some wise adage that happens to be right. Some examples:

If you finish something to 80% thoroughness, go do something else–at least for a while.

20% of the effort can get you 80% of the results.
80% of your effort will get you the last 20%.

When you feel 80% ready to do something, do it.
If you feel 80% ready about a new job, take it. You’ll never be 100% ready.

Let’s try some more.

If you are 80% happy with your partner, don’t cheat on them for the the last 20% if this means losing them.

You have to Zeno’s paradox your way through life. You can only plan things out 80% of the way. Then you’ll have to reevaluate, and plan 80% of that. Forever. Don’t worry about the unknown 20%. You can never have 100% certainty in anything.

You can create infinite wise sayings with 80/20.

Unless you’re planning a wedding or picking out countertops, if you’re 80% happy, you’re good.

You’ll never be able to get rid of 100% of your anxiety. 

This one is important, because one of the biggest reasons that people are miserable is because something convinces them that they should be miserable. Even thought they would be quite content otherwise.

One of the meanings of “finding yourself” is actually just finding out what you need to be happy so that you can resist even the strongest outside influences. Which ties into…

80% of what you’re doing is just fine. 20% or less is what is making you unhappy or unproductive.

How do you be more productive?

80% of working smart is working hard. Some things you can do more efficiently, but most things you just have to brute-force.

There you go. What else can you use this rule for?

If you’re only 80% sure that you want to keep a shirt, don’t keep the shirt! Don’t buy it to begin with, or give it away if you already have it.

Written by Natalia Dashan

I studied psychology and computer science at Yale. Graduated in 2016 B.S. Psychology. Wingwoman by assertion.

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