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How To Succeed In Life With The 80/20 Rule

Updated on July 24, 2016

If you have ever tried dieting, budgeting or exercising and failed to stick at the plan, then you will love the 80/20 rule. Commonly the 80/20 rule applies to getting 80 percent of your results from 20 percent of your efforts, but if we apply it to life in a slightly different way, you will find that you can stick to your diet, budget, exercise plan or any other new change you want to build into your life. I like to apply this rule by sticking to the plan 80 percent of the time and allowing indulgences 20 percent of the time. These small indulgences or breaks from the rules prevent your mind from going into poverty mode and allow you to feel like your choices have not been taken away from you. Of course this principle doesn’t have to be strictly 80/20. It could be 90/10 or 95/5, but just don’t let the indulgence part go over 20 percent.

This is how I apply the 80/20 principle in my life. I’m sure you will find some benefit to applying this in some areas of your life too.

Healthy Food VS Your Indulgence

People often follow diet fads either for health reasons or just to feel more confident in their own body. They often begin with enthusiasm and a vision of how they’ll look like after a few months. Sadly, most of these fads cannot deliver long-term results, because most of them operate on the premise of restriction. Humans do not respond well when we feel restricted, we will always seek out pleasure in all that we do, especially in the food we eat which is why most diets are ineffective.

This is where the 80/20 principle comes in. This principle teaches balance and moderation leading to a change in lifestyle in order to achieve a sustainable weight loss. Practicing the 80/20 principle you will have the satisfaction of choosing clean-living that diet fads cannot provide.

The 80/20 principle means eating clean healthy foods 80 percent of the time; while the remaining 20 percent will give you the liberty to indulge on foods that don’t meet the strict rules of a healthy diet. Trying to maintain a 100 percent healthy lifestyle can seem overwhelming, but 80 percent is doable because of the 20 percent reward you give yourself from time to time. Without feeling guilty about the food that you eat you’ll have a better perspective of your eating habit, helping you to develop the clean-living habit over time. You may find that eventually you won’t be craving the unhealthy indulgences quiet as much, but if you do then there is still the 20 percent allowance for this.

“Indulgence” will differ from one person to another. It depends on taste, mindset, and preference. Also, different times of the year will trigger different indulgence in every person. We often indulge in treating ourselves or giving in to a craving. Our ability to choose healthy food and keep our indulgences at bay depends on various factors, but just keep it to about 20 percent of your intake and you will see the improvement.

Applying the 80/20 Rule in Exercising

Many people start an exercise plan thinking “I’m going to exercise every day!” but soon drop off the bandwagon because something (lunch dates, drinks with friends, birthday party etc) interrupts the plan and then it can be hard to continue the motivation to “just do it” every day.

Progressive overload is one fitness concept which can produce 80 percent result for your 20 percent effort. It is important to identify the kinds of exercise, intensity and repetition scheme that will produce 80 percent result. This however can be tricky to manage without instruction from a personal trainer so I like to apply the 80/20 principle a little differently.

I say stick to your exercise regime 80 percent of the time and give your body a rest 20 percent of the time. This allows you to see the benefits of regular exercise while also allowing your body the time to recover and regenerate. It also allows for those time when events come up that prevent you from sticking to your plan and you won’t feel the failure of breaking your “exercise every day” rule.

Maintaining a good skincare regimen

When it comes to skincare patience is the last virtue you’ll have in mind. But the truth is nothing works overnight! For visible results, it takes diligently doing your skincare regimen because it takes about 30-40 days skin cells to turnover. Your consistency will give you that glow you’re hoping for. But before choosing the products for your regimen, it is best to know your skin type first, to know which products and ingredients work best for you. Try to aim for natural brands as these will usually provide the most nutrient benefit for your skin. Many natural skin care products like The Works Five Step Skincare System by Peakoh are great on all skin types, so they work best for all ages and skin types.

You actually don’t need an hour to prep your skin up, just keep the big two in skin care handy: cleanser and moisturiser. These are the essentials you shouldn’t be skipping. But if on the odd occasion after a night out you decide to just remove your makeup with some wipes, you can put this in the 20 percent bucket and not feel too bad.

Aside from making your skin care regimen a habit, give your skin a break from time to time. The make-up we use to cover skin blemishes and imperfections can sometimes worsen the state of our skin, so it’s best to try the natural look once in a while. Remember the 80/20 principle and let your skin breathe!

The 80/20 Rule when it comes to your finances

Part of choosing a healthy lifestyle is to have a stress-free life. This means you need to also use the 80/20 principle in the way you handle your finances. The struggle to managing money responsibly lies in having a plan and the 80/20 principle works well for this.

Basically, you’ll have to watch your spending from most of the time and having a little money treat occasionally. This way you won’t feel restricted while saving and following a weekly budget. You can start cutting out small splurges you do within the workweek like buying your morning coffee or lunch. By paying yourself first with a 20 percent indulgence allowance you will find it far easier to allocate the remaining 80 percent to responsible spending and saving.

And just so you don’t feel like you’re missing out on eating yummy food when you’re trying to stick to healthy foods, here is one of my favourites from Jamie Oliver. A healthy and delicious meal.

Falafel wraps with grilled veg & salsa


For the falafel

1 x 400 g tin of mixed beans

1 x 400 g tin of chickpeas

1 lemon

1 tablespoon harissa

1 heaped teaspoon allspice

1 heaped tablespoon plain flour

1 bunch fresh coriander

olive oil

For the sides

2 mixed-colour peppers

4 spring onions

8 small wholewheat tortillas

1 tablespoon Lingham’s chilli sauce

250g low-fat cottage cheese

optional: pickled red cabbage

For the salsa

1 big handful mixed-colour ripe tomatoes

½ –1 fresh red chilli

½ clove of garlic

1 lime


Ingredients out • Food processor (bowl blade) • Large frying pan, medium heat • Griddle pan, high heat

Drain the beans and chickpeas and put them into the processor • Finely grate in the lemon zest, then add a pinch of salt and pepper, the harissa, allspice, flour and coriander stalks (reserving the leaves) • Blitz until smooth, scraping down the sides of the processor if needed • Scrape out the mixture and use clean, wet hands to quickly divide and shape it into 8 patties about 1.5cm thick • Put 1 tablespoon of oil into the frying pan and add the falafels, turning when golden and crisp

Rip the seeds and stalks out of the peppers, tear each one into bite-sized chunks and put on the griddle pan with the trimmed and halved spring onions and a pinch of salt and pepper, turning when charred • Put the tomatoes, chilli and half the coriander leaves into the processor • Squash in the unpeeled garlic through a garlic crusher, squeeze in the lime juice, whiz until fine, then season to taste and pour into a serving dish

Pop the tortillas into the microwave (800W) for 45 seconds while you marble the chilli sauce into the cottage cheese • Squeeze the juice of half the zested lemon over the charred veggies, then take with the falafels to the table, scattering everything with the rest of the coriander • Let everyone assemble their own wraps, and serve with pickled red cabbage, if you like


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