The Pareto Principle states that 20% of an input leads to 80% of the result. Businesspeople often refer to this as the 80/20 rule and for better or for worse, the rule makes sense well over 80% of the time.

When it comes to being a perfectionist at work, it is important to note that the bulk of a presentation, report or meeting (the 80%) is derived from a finding, a lead or a gut feeling (the 20%). Inversely, if you can pinpoint the core of a problem, the rest will fall into place.

Making it work for you

Of course, getting a client to sign on a proposal or getting that promotion entails not letting that remaining 20% of the work slip. Details are very important in business, so you would not want to get sloppy when it counts most.

This said, how much time should you spend on the remaining 20% of your work? As a general rule, there are five main points to consider while working, in order to make the most of your effort.

1- Work smart not hard
This is far more than a cliché. Too many students, young professionals and veterans work with their body and hands rather than simple logic. A very basic example of this is working on a project and using a calculator to tabulate complicated formulas when a program like Excel can do all the cross calculating for you. Taking the time to familiarize yourself with the software itself pays off in the long run, as many programs can do these trivial, mundane and nerve-wracking tasks for you, in a hassle-free manner.

When it comes to overall job satisfaction — and frustration — one of the main reasons for on-the-job stress seems to be insufficient time to complete tasks. As a result, by working laboriously, you’re adding unnecessary stress without additional gain.

2- Work fast
Many young professionals take way too long to finalize their work. What they fail to realize is that by the time the project is complete, it becomes useless or obsolete. Imagine your boss requests some information to launch a product for the Christmas season. This means that the information should be available early enough to give your boss a sufficient lead.

As a result, you may be better off giving him the core of the information (the 20%) and letting him come to his own conclusions (the 80%). Admittedly, this is a double-edged sword because in some cases, your boss may want the entire 100%, so act accordingly.

Forget the small mistakes and be more efficient…

3- Fix small mistakes later

There are different kinds of mistakes. Some are lethal, others are not. If you find that you’ve made a mistake that must be fixed otherwise the house will sink, then obviously, call a timeout and repair the mistake. But often, the mistakes are not detrimental, rather only aesthetic or superficial. In this case, you might just be better served to forget about the small issue and…

4- See the greater picture
Nothing frustrates people more than seeing petty issues take up the lion’s share of a firm’s resources. After all, a company has relatively limited resources such as labor, capital, time, and so forth, therefore seeing an employee sitting there and misallocating resources is the equivalent of burning money: no serious and ethical manager would stand for it. As a result, emphasizing trivial matters is only going to hurt you, even if you think that you are doing the right thing. Keep in mind that it’s the perceived value of a task or project that’s important.

5- Prioritize
When everything is said and done, the issue is whether or not you can prioritize effectively. Companies are usually fast-moving vehicles with an abundance of goals and insufficient resources. If you really wish to create shareholder value, understand that you probably won’t get everything done — and even the projects and tasks that you do complete may not end up as perfect as you would have liked.

Ash Karbasfrooshan is also the author of Course To Success, available at