Creative Child

The Pareto Principle and What It Can Teach Your Child About Time Management

One of the biggest challenges of being a parent is time management. In any given day, there are at least twenty to-dos, from helping our child with homework, to baking cupcakes for her birthday, to doing laundry. And just like laundry, the list only seems to mount as the day progresses.


Not only do we have our own schedules to manage, but now more than ever, it’s becoming crucial to teach our kids smart time management as well. Without the right strategy, we can easily let our kid’s sports’ schedules run their lives past the scrimmage line.

Turns out, there’s actually a law called the Pareto Principle, which says that most people obtain 80 percent of their actual results from 20 percent of their efforts. It is a particularly applicable law when it comes to productivity and sales, where 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of employees, and 80 percent of revenue usually comes from 20 percent of the products.

If this law actually applies to real life, then the busiest people aren’t the most productive because they work more while sacrificing sleep. They just work smarter. By tackling the to-dos that yield the most results with the least amount of effort, we, too, could make big impacts where it matters most.


In order to determine what that 20 percent is, it’s important to rank to-dos with razor sharp, even mathematical precision. Here’s an algorithm that can help.

  1. For each to do, you will need to assign it two numbers: one for effort (a number between 1 to 10, with 1 being the least amount of effort),  and one for the potential for positive impact (also between 1 to 10 with 10 representing the highest impact)
  2. Then, divide, effort by impact.
  3. Rank tasks from lowest to highest in number.

Here’s an example.

  1. Help your child with science project: Effort=7, Impact= 9, Priority=.7
  2. Baking cupcakes for birthday party: Effort 6, Impact 3, Priority = 2
  3. Doing laundry: Effort= 4, Impact =5, Priority = .8

Based on this example, you would help your child with her science project first, then do laundry, then bake cupcakes. Getting this technical can help define what you should be doing versus what you want to be doing. It may even save you from over committing and over estimating your abilities, which paradoxically could enable you to do more. 

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