80/20 Rule

This is a rule that I tend to follow with many aspects of my life. I have heard it described in many different ways over the years. Find the 20% that makes 80% of the difference, just worry about the major things (20% and not the little things (80%) and a few others out there. The way that I look at the 80/20 rule is to keep balance in your life when it comes to fitness/financial goals of mine. The rule goes like this: If 80% of the time you follow your plan, then the other 20% of the time will not make or break the goal that you have set. The following are a few real life examples to help better explain this concept.


From a fitness perspective, there are a few ways to look at the 80-20 rule. One way is to look at your frequency of exercising. You can break this down, yearly, monthly or even weekly. If you are exercises 80% of the time (292 days a year, 24 days a month or 5 days a week) the fact that you don’t exercise for a few days shouldn’t derail your whole goal. Life can get busy, we all know this, and there are times when we have more free time than others. The important thing is to make time for that 80% and to focus on that, not the other 20%.

The other way that you can look at this rule would be to look at your intensity. Again, look at 5 days in a week that you are trying to exercise. If your intensity of exercises is low for 1 or 2 of these days it’s not a problem. Low intensity exercises are different for everyone but a few examples would be a brisk walk, yoga, stretching or body weight movements. The other exercises during the week should be at a higher intensity as long as you are physically healthy to tolerate this type of activity. Doing something is always better than doing nothing. Do not give yourself the excuse to not do anything.


You will begin to see how you can use this concept in many different aspects of your life. When it comes to nutrition, the 80-20 rule is one that has helped me maintain my weight and nutrition goals. The key word used here is to MAINTAIN. When I was looking to make big changes and reach even bigger weight loss goals, this is not the rule I used. In fact, for a few years I ate basically the same meal for an entire year for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When you get to a point where you would like to maintain where you are at, this is a rule that helps me keep my sanity.

You are able to break this down just like your frequency of exercising but you might even break it down by the day. 80% of the time, you make smart nutrition choices. You eat healthy and reasonable, but the other 20% of the time (1 meal a day, 1-2 days a week, holidays throughout the year) you may make some not great choices with your nutrition. I do not like to use the term “cheat day” because of the negative sound that it has and that it makes you feel like you are doing something wrong. This is designed to make you feel that on special occasions or times that you just don’t feel like cooking, that it is alright to have a few beers, eat some pizza and enjoy your time with friends.


The last area that I will cover with the use of this “Rule” is in your finances. This may be an area that some may not agree with when attempting to reach FI (Financial independence) but I think it is more important during this time than ever. We can easily get caught up in the end goal (FI or other) and forget that we should enjoy the process on the way there. Happiness is something that you will need to have during and after your journey. You will not be able to just “flip a switch” once you get to the goal that you have set and magically be engulfed with happiness. Spend that 20% on items that are important to you. Have a date night with your partner, save to go to that concert or sporting evert or spend a little bit of money to hang out with friends or family. Don’t just struggle and be unhappy in the pursuit of FI or other financial goals you have. In the end, that 20% will keep you motivated and continue to be happy with the process.

These are just a few ways that you can implement this rule to help keep you motivated and achieve the goals you have set for your life. Pick one area of your life and give this rule a try!

Ian is a Certified Athletic Trainer, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Corrective Exercise Specialist and all around active person. Comment below to ask questions, give feedback or interact with him!