The pareto principle states that, for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

“Paretoing” is the word I use to describe the activity of optimizing other activities through applying the pareto principle. I’ve found that it’s a fun way to waste time optimizing different parts of your life.

My current workout routine and diet are good examples. I’ve tried to pick the smallest set of exercises that gives me the greatest return in the shortest possible amount of time. Since exercising right involves training both the cardiovascular system as well as the muskuloskeletal system, I decided on a combination of 1-set-to-failure weight-training and sprint interval training. This worked out well for me.

In my diet, I focused on eliminating the smallest set of ingredients that cause my health to deteriorate. For me, this turned out to be sugar and grain. I’ve also quit alcohol to a large extent though I do consume a bit of wine now and then. I’ve found that there’s a real social cost to be paid for quitting alcohol 😓.

Even my reading habits aren’t immune from being paretoed. Previously, I couldn’t resist reading a book to completion. It just felt wrong to leave a book unfinished. Thankfully, through practice, I’ve changed this habit. I now jump to the most interesting parts of a book and use a sort of 80/20 reading process. i.e. I’ll skim through the book, focusing only on what seems interesting to me. I’ll also jump pages and even chapters if I feel I’ve understood what the author is trying to say. Thankfully, most books can be paretoed pretty well.

Similarly, when learning to play my guitar, I focused on learning just enough to play the songs that I wanted. However, on this occasion, it didn’t work out exactly as I planned as it left me with many songs tantalizingly out of reach and many where I made compromises to play. Perhaps I’ll go back to this when music becomes enough of a priority.

On a more meta note, the parts of my life I paretoed were the segments where I spent most of my time and that had the highest impact. i.e. Fitness, Diet, Work, Reading, Friends, Habits etc.