How the 80/20 Principle Can Help You Become a Better Parent

It’s a struggle that every parent has to deal with—there simply isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. And while you’re well aware that a little self-care will help you be a better mom (and overall person), who actually has time for yoga when you’re shuffling kids to birthday parties and cleaning crayon marks off the walls? According to Jamie Glowacki, author of Oh Crap! I Have a Toddler, there’s a solution and it’s one that has given her three more hours each day. It’s based around the Pareto principle.

It’s pretty likely that you’re already familiar with this concept. The general idea of the Pareto principle is this: 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. The theory originated from the work of Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, but it can be applied across a range of fields. In a garden, for example, 20 percent of the plants will produce 80 percent of the produce. Or in software, fixing 20 percent of the reported bugs eliminates 80 percent of the errors. (You get the idea.)

How does this apply to parenting? Well, it all comes down to time management. Translation? Twenty percent of how you spend your time is giving you 80 percent of your outcomes. (Meaning that the majority of how you spend your time is, well, not giving you much of anything.) So all you need to do is figure out what you’re super effective at and what your time drains are. That’s not exactly an easy feat, but Glowacki has a six-step method to help you break it down.

1. Figure out what you would do with your extra time.

Be as specific as possible and write down exactly what you would do if you had more hours in the day (Think: “Go out to dinner with my partner” and not just “Spend more time with spouse.”)

2. Decide on your priorities.

Take some time and figure out three daily, weekly and life priorities. A daily one might be tidying up the house, a weekly priority could be spending time with friends and a life priority could focus on healthy eating and regular exercise for the entire family.

3. Identify the time drains.

Be honest with yourself and write down three areas of your life that you spend a lot of time on. (Such as checking emails, texting, doing laundry or cleaning up after your kid.) The idea isn't to cut these things out (although, wouldn't that be nice?), but it will help with the next step... 


4. Call out "fake productivity."

According to the Pareto principle, 20 percent of what you’re doing is producing almost all of your results. That means that 80 percent of your actions are what Glowacki calls “fake productivity.” Identify those actions from the step above where you feel like you’re doing something but really, you’re just messing around. (Bingeing on Netflix instead of going to sleep might come to mind.)


5. Make a plan.

Now that you’ve figured out all the ways you’re spending your time ineffectively, come up with some ideas for how to fix the problem. This will depend on your individual goals, but here’s a helpful example: If you find yourself constantly picking up toys throughout the day, stop. (Yes, this is considered “fake productivity.”) Instead, pick up toys once a day, right after you put down the baby for the night.


6. End the culture of busy.

Admit it—every time someone asks you how you’re doing, you respond with a, “Oh, I’m so busy.” But Glowacki says that you can control the busy. How? Stop signing your kid up for activities, re-examine your to-do list and ask yourself, ‘What’s the least I can do?’

And there you have it. Now, the only question is, what will you do with all that extra time?

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...