About the book

Richard Koch takes the widely renowned 80/20 principle and shows how in today’s cluttered and stressful world, working out the few things that are really important, and the few methods that will give us those things, leads to increased happiness and greater success. Living the 80/20 Way explains why ‘less is more’ isn’t just a saying, but a sure-fire method to achieve your goals and live your best life.   Goodreads

Year published:  2004

Buy book:  Amazon


Quotes from the book


Living the 80/20 Way (Richard Koch)

More can be less


20% of what we do leads to 80% of the results

  • 20% of your tasks produce 80% of your results. 20% of your activities lead to 80% of your happiness.
  • 20% of what we do leads to 80% of the results; but 80% of what we do leads to only 20%. We are wasting 80% of our time on low-value outcomes.  

We can boost the quality of our lives by focusing on the 20% and dumping the rest

  • We can sharply boost the quality of our lives by changing our use of time. If we do more of the few things that make us happy and productive, and much less of the many activities that take most of our time but don’t lead to high levels of happiness or achievement, we can improve our lives in a sensational way — all with less effort!
  • Concentrate on the really important things that get amazing results. Do only the few things with greatest benefit.
  • Whenever you spot a 20 percent activity, run to it, surround yourself with it, immerse yourself in it, patent it, make yourself its expert, worshipper, high priest, partner, creator, propagandist, and indispensable ally. Make the most of it. If the most appears to be more than you can imagine, multiply your imagination.

Modern life tries to get more with more  

  • Picture millions slaving on the educational treadmill. Or working in dark Satanic towers for pinch- mouthed bosses and mean-spirited corporations. Could they all be barking up the wrong tree?
  • We’re becoming utterly transfixed by one obsession — more with more. We want more money, more goods, more friends, more relationships, more sex, more attention, more comfort, more houses, more travel, more gadgets, and more public acknowledgment. We are prepared to pay dearly for these aspirations. We worry more and spend more time, more attention, more energy — and, frankly, more of our souls and ourselves — to work to invest or pay for more stuff.
  • It is not innate greed that propels us toward wanting more with more. It is the structure of modern life and its compelling, insidious assumptions. Modern life insists that success is a matter of more money, that more money means more work, that there is only a fast track and a slow track, and that the fast track requires us to lay out huge effort for huge rewards. We worry about how we’re doing, we work more than we want, we buy more than we can value, and we cut ourselves off from the simple joys of romantic love, family, friends, and abundant time.
  • More with more leads to less fraternity and happiness; more with less leads to a life of higher quality, worth, and deep personal satisfaction.
  • The vast majority of our desires don’t lead to more than fleeting happiness. To be happy we need to focus our demands, boiling them down to the few that are most important to us and result in our happiness.
  • The advertising and marketing industry has rendered us addicted to joyless comparison and acquisition of goods — our economy revolves around the pointless, never-ending race for more.
  • More with more is just a wet dream for misguided yuppies.

The 80/20 way is about getting more with less  

  • It is only by focusing on what is genuinely important to us — the few people, relationships, activities, and causes that we really care about — that we become centered, authentic, powerful, loving, and loved. There is no other way.
  • Focus on less is more: what is important for your happiness — satisfying work, a sense of personal purpose, and above all a few high-quality relationships — which require, and will amply repay, unstinting time and emotional commitment.
  • If speeding up takes us nowhere, slowing down can take us everywhere. Contrary to common opinion, less is more. Only by concentrating on the few important and vital things, and refusing to worry over the mass of trivial ones, can we find happiness. Only by doing less can we live more. Only by insisting on more with less can we fulfill our individual destiny.

Benefits of the 80/20 way


The 80/20 way dissociates effort from reward

  • Make a great mental leap: dissociate effort from reward. Focus on the outcomes that you want and find the easiest way to them with least effort, least sacrifice, and most pleasure. Concentrate on what produces extraordinary results without extraordinary effort. Be efficient but relaxed. First, think results. Then get them with least energy.
  • What is the 20 percent of your time when you achieve 80 percent of your results? Do more of it! What is the 80 percent of your time when you achieve little? Do less of it!   
  • Cultivate lazy intelligence.
  • A hard-working person is often too busy to spot what’s really significant. A lazy person wants to do as little as possible and so concentrates only on the essentials. What’s really productive is a lazy person who thinks new thoughts and is focused on making them happen. Thinking is often disturbing, sometimes even frightening. Burying ourselves in trivia is less threatening.
  • For most of us, the only way to create something new and valuable is to slow down, do fewer things, chill out. If you really love what you’re doing, you don’t need to be lazy.

Focusing on the 20% brings greater time abundance, happiness and success

  • Lasting happiness cannot be gained through consumption. Happiness requires active participation in what we value. To do things well, enjoy them, and take pride in what we have done — these fertilise happiness.  
  • Enjoyment, not effort or education, is the key to success.
  • In success as in everything else, less is more. Quality is more valuable than quantity, giving is more satisfying than consuming, abundant time trumps abundant goods, serenity is better than striving, and love given generates love received. What we all want deep down is abundant time, security, affection, peace, tranquility, spiritual awareness, self-confidence, and a sense that we are expressing ourselves and creating things of great value to other people.
  • True success is being able to spend our time how we like, fulfilling our unique talent, being valuable to people we value, and being loved.
  • If we must compare ourselves to our neighbour, is it better to compare relative wealth or happiness?

Step out of drudgery into a world of imagination and inspiration

  • Stepping out of a life of duty, where everything runs on predictable lines dictated by other people, into a life created by your own imagination. Forgetting about hard work and using the greatest of all human attributes, our ability to move between the world as it is and the world in our minds. Thinking, imagining, creating, enjoying.
  • The whole edifice of modern civilization rests not on drudgery, muscle power, repetition, or long hours of work, but on insight, inspiration, inventiveness, originality, and enterprise.
  • On moving between where we are now, in the real world, and the world we dream up in our minds and then make real.

Advice for living a 80/20 life


Focus only on things that matter  

  • If you are exceptionally selective and find the few things that matter deeply to you, life acquires a purpose and meaning way beyond what it had previously, when you were somewhat concerned about a large number of issues.
  • Conventional wisdom is not to put all of your eggs in one basket. 80/20 wisdom is to choose a basket carefully, load all your eggs into it, and then watch it like a hawk.

Focus your expertise

  • Have you been told to gain broad experience? Don’t. Focus all your energy on one area. Become expert on a narrow front. Know 99 percent about 1 percent of something.

Ask yourself these key question

  • Focusing on our 80/20 destination means solving the riddle of less is more for each individual. What are the few vital characteristics or results that will make us happiest?
  • What will give me a much better result for much less energy?
  • Could I take the small part of my time that most excites me and make a career out of it?
  • Happiness islands are the small dollops of time — the special, glorious times — when we’re happiest. How can you create more of them?

Cultivate select habits  

  • A few great habits are vital because without continuous renewal we can lose things we’ve worked very hard for.
  • It’s for you, not me, to decide which high-payoff new habits to cultivate now. Examples could include daily exercise, meditating or quiet thinking each day and daily intellectual exercise.
  • A few habits can have a phenomenal effect on our happiness throughout life — we get a massive bonanza from a little upfront effort.
  • We get more happiness with less effort if we carefully select a few excellent habits we’d like to have and master these.
  • If we do a few hugely worthwhile things that are hard to start with, we’ll find before long that they become easy.

Take time to think  

  • The most successful people change the world not through sweat and tears but through ideas and passion.
  • By deliberately cutting back on what we put into the task and yet asking for much more, we force ourselves to think hard and do something different. This is the root of all progress.
  • Thinking hard may sound a bit frightening, but isn’t it much better to do a little hard thinking, arrive at a much better result, and avoid a lot of hard doing?

Slow down and do less  

  • Time is like that: cussed when we try to speed up, a dear friend when we slow down. Richard Koch
  • To detonate your time revolution, slow down. Stop worrying. Do fewer things. Chuck your to do list, make a not to do list. Act less, think more. Reflect on what really matters to you. Stop doing anything that isn’t valuable, that doesn’t make you happy. Savor life.
  • Swim against the tide of acceleration. Be unconventional, even eccentric. Purge your diary. Dump your cell phone. Stop going to meetings or events that bore you. Reclaim time for yourself and the people you care about.

Have an 80/20 life objective

  • Does the 80/20 destination reflect what you truly want and care about? Does it mirror your individuality? Is it unique to you? Does it bolster the best of your talents and emotions? Does it focus you? Will you avoid squandering energy on many other things? Does it exclude lots of objectives that currently soak up a large part of your energy? Is it short enough for you to remember all the time? Does it excite you? Is it a dream life for you?

Focus on growing your strengths and passions, not your weaknesses  

  • We all have special gifts, unique imaginations, our little bit of genius: the spark of life that’s wholly ours.
  • Correcting our weaknesses, the most we become is mediocre. If we hone our few super- strengths, insist on behavior that is authentic and true to our inner selves, and unreasonably demand more with less, the sky is the limit.
  • Could I take the small part of my time that most excites me and make a career out of it?
  • Stars are not all-rounders. The top people have massive strengths — and equally massive downsides. Their weaknesses don’t matter. What leads to extraordinary results is concentration on the strengths, honing these to Olympian standards.
  • “Flow,” is those moments of peak happiness when time stands still, when you find yourself doing exactly what you want to be doing, never wanting it to end, rather like the happiness islands discussed earlier.
  • Flow derives from a sense of personal mastery and active achievement. Work that is matched to our strengths — that leads to clear and positive results — gives enormous satisfaction.

Know what is important to you and what you want

  • To find meaning in life, we have to reach inside ourselves: define the few things that we care about, the things we want to love and devote ourselves to, the things we are good at and enjoy. Having found these things, everything else is trivial. Fulfilled and happy creating more with less, we can safely ignore the shrill fad for more with more and “Faster! Faster!”.
  • Everything you want should be yours: the type of work you want; the relationships you need; the social, mental, and aesthetic stimulation that will make you happy and fulfilled; the money you require for the lifestyle that is appropriate to you; and any requirement that you may (or may not) have for achievement or service to others. If you don’t aim for it all, you’ll never get it all. To aim for it requires that you know what you want.   

Only spend money on the few items that really make you happy

  • Only spend money on the few items that really make you happy. Spend more on the 20 percent that gives you 80 percent of pleasure, and less on the rest.
  • The evidence is overwhelming. Being moderately well off means that you are happier than if you were very poor. But once you are well fed, clothed, and housed, getting wealthier probably won’t make you happier.
  • Money is something we trade our life energy for.
  • Of Yale’s 1953 graduating class, only 3 percent set written financial goals — similar to our 80/20 destination. Twenty years later, researchers discovered that these 3 percent had more money than all the other 97 percent!
  • Money is a means, not an end. Money is for freedom, not slavery; for security, not worry. Unless money is used to give you greater freedom and happiness, accumulating money is a burden.
  • Never buy in a market that is rising or falling fast.

Live a simpler life, focusing on what you love

  • We add most to the happiness of those we love when we are happy ourselves. We are happiest when we simplify our lives down to the essentials that work best for us.
  • We take items off our lists. Less work. Less shopping. Clear closet clutter. Give away things we don’t need. Recycle them.
  • We don’t have to say “yes” when people ask us to do things. We just ask ourselves, “Is this something I really want to do, is it part of the life I want?” If the task doesn’t connect in some way with our purpose, we say “no.”
  • We do less. We enjoy more.
  • Less is more — dump the stressful and unrewarding parts of our lives. There is always a way, if we are determined.
  • How about fewer expensive pleasures and more simple ones?
  • Which tasks clutter your life, yielding little happiness or results?   How can you chop them?
  • La dolce vita, a life that challenges and stretches you in the way you want, free from worry and the tyranny of more with more.

Put most time and attention into your few most important relationships.

  • Carl Jung, the great psychologist, said, “We need other people to be truly ourselves.” We make sense of life through relationships.”
  • “There’s only one happiness in life,” wrote George Sand, “to love and be loved.”
  • Almost certainly, 80 percent of the satisfaction from our relationships flows from 20 percent or fewer of the relationships.
  • Put most time, energy, attention, creativity, and imagination into our few most important relationships.
  • Redirect energy so that at least 80 percent of “relationship energy” goes into your few key relationships.
  • Don’t do for others what you would like yourself. Do what your partner wants.
  • Aside from family, whose death would leave you desolated? Count those people. Those are your key friends, the 20 percent who contribute 80 percent of meaning and value to you.
  • In devoting energy to a large number of relationships and to work, they deprive themselves of the meaning and joy that flow from a few central relationships and one love affair.
  • The action implications should be plain. Go for quality rather than quantity. Spend your time and emotional energy reinforcing and deepening the relationships that are most important.
  • For both personal and professional relationships, fewer and deeper is better than more and less deep.   
  • I haven’t got time for many friends. Nobody has, that is, if they are to be real friends.  Abraham Maslow

Thoughts on emotions and action

  • The problem with positive thinking — and with much advice from self-help gurus — is that it can be unrealistic and lead us to deny our emotions. Kidding ourselves that black is white does not usually work for long.
  • All of us are bound to continue having “negative” emotions: feeling down, anxious, angry, or weak. These emotions are valuable, because they tell us something useful about ourselves.
  • Emotions should be accepted, not crushed. We should use our deliberate, thinking capacity to “talk to” our emotions and reason with them. Treat emotions like people with whom we disagree. Instead of interrupting them, “have a cup of tea” with them, let them have their say, admit your feelings — and yet resolve to act positively.
  • But the book I bought told me not to worry about feeling timid, just to take some positive action.
  • It’s easier to change a few of the things we do than the things we habitually think and feel. Take the few right actions and your feelings will take care of themselves.

Tips on reading  

  • Books can be read far faster.  Never read a book from cover to cover, except for pleasure. When you are working, find out what the book is saying much faster than you would by reading through. Read the conclusion, then the introduction, then the conclusion again, then dip lightly into any interesting bits.
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