Achieving more with less?

Book Review: “The 80 20 Principle — The Secret of Achieving more with less” by Richard Koch

3 min readApr 4, 2021


Multitasking or focusing on 1 or 2 goals at a time? It is always a dilemma as we all wanted to achieve more while having decent quality. But it is hard to balance both of them — at least for me (sigh) But how will you choose?

Most people choose to put average effort into many things rather than superior efforts to few important things. However, this book suggested that people who achieved most are selective and determined, they choose to work less and targeted a limited number of goals rather than pursuing every available opportunity.

This book mentions 2 key ideas that most interested me
1. 20% of the time lead to 80% of happiness or what we value
2. 80% of time yield no low achievement and happiness

We only give 20% of time to things that give us most happiness or little effort to achieve great performance. It is hard to imagine if we double our time (not even saying using 80% of the time) to do such activities, how much our happiness or performance will improve

Some Takeaways From the Book

So how can we achieve more with less?

1. Do things you like and make it your job

Our goal is to eventually reach equally happiness both at work and outside work — spending 80% of time in work and leisure that gives us more than 80% of happiness

You can choose to work less if outside work is happier, or vice versa, change lifestyle or work more if working is happier. But as a student, there are still lots of opportunities to explore what we like and good at, and pursue high value and satisfaction activities in both areas.

Richard suggested making a “happiness and achievement list”, and find a common ground between activities that require the least amount of time but have the greatest achievement or boost most happiness to you. These are the areas that you should spend the most time on. Then start increasing 20% of the time doing these activities. And eliminate the time used to those low-value activities that require most of your time but don’t have good results

2. Think about a lifestyle that gives you most time and flexibility to do something you like

It may be self-employed or even just going to the gym in the morning but not at night. Do things that are most comfortable to you. This means setting boundaries for yourself and choose your obligations with intention.

There are often chores that we hate but ‘unavoidable’, eg job meetings, schoolwork, lunch dates… Ask yourself whether it is a must to do it. If the answer is ‘no’, skip it. I am not encouraging you to skip all the work you dislike but to think about is it really ‘unavoidable. The book mentioned that we often do things just to meet social standards and expectations or even just follow what others are doing.

Find the lifestyle that suits you. Know what your priorities are and spend the majority of your time doing them. Use the remaining time (20%) to do really unavoidable chores

My point of view

Achieving more with less is not about having good performance in many things, but striving for excellence in few things.

After reading this book, I think about what are the 20% of things that contribute to 80% of my happiness and achievement.
Spending time with family and close friends, exercising, having some alone time …. brings me the most joy. So I spend most of my leisure time doing these activities rather than hanging out with a large group of people, painting — activities don’t bring as much happiness as above.

I also focus on 1–2 goals at a time, this gives me more time and energy to concentrate on them. Last semester, I aim to improve my GPA and mental health. I said ‘no’ to many gatherings, hang-outs. I also gave up many toxic relationships to re-center and focus on myself more. Eventually, I received a satisfactory result and no longer feeling anxiety all the time. This gives me confidence that doing less indeed achieves more which resonated with the book.

Rather than getting more things done, choose to do few tasks only at a time with superior effort — Choose quality over quantity.