Mario Cardinal

"The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" – Marcel Proust

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Make ‘To-Do Studio’ Works and the 80-20 Rule

For those who follow this blog and my entrepreneurial journey, you know that for several years now, I have been building a SaaS called To-Do Studio. To-Do Studio’s mission is to provide a collaboration platform that drives everyone to get involved.

For several months now, my only focus has been to make to-Do Studio works (which is why I haven’t published much on this blog lately). Day after day, month after month, with my business partner Erik, we fine-tune our software to accurately deliver what it promises.

The challenge is twofold, not only must the software be a viable solution that drives everyone to get involved, but also the product must be simple and easy to understand so that team leaders can easily adopt it.

Software Development and 80-20 Rule

Last summer, we thought we were close to the launch. We had an 80% advanced version, ready to start testing with real users. Unfortunately, finishing the last 20% was difficult. We’ve learned the hard way that in terms of the volume of work, getting the product to work “for real” and validating that it delivers on the expected promise is usually the most time-consuming and labor-intensive task. In our case, it will have taken us almost a year.

It’s difficult because the complexity grows exponentially. Each new line of code (whether to supplement or rewrite a feature) must fit together and mesh consistently with existing code. In addition, more often than not, the code must be adjusted to stay up to date with developments in external components and libraries. This slows down the velocity. The more we advance, the more the efforts increase. This is why the last 20% remaining often represents more than 80% of the total effort.

80-20The 80-20 rule is known as the Pareto principle. Pareto principle is an adage which asserts that 80% of outcomes (or outputs) result from 20% of all causes (or inputs) for any given event. In general, a goal of the 80-20 rule is to identify inputs that are potentially the most productive and make them the priority (80% of results come from 20% of effort).

More generally, the Pareto principle is the observation that most things in life are not distributed evenly. In our case, the distribution is reversed because we are interested in 80% of the effort required to achieve the remaining 20% (20% of remaining results come from 80% of effort).

Diet and 80-20 Rule

We can apply the 80-20 rule in several situations. For example, since several months now, I have been following a diet that applies the 80-20 rule. It is based upon the old Confucian practice called hara hachi bu: Stop Eating When You’re 80% Full. Instead of consuming more than 2500 calories as I used to do, now I consume between 2000 and 2100 calories per day (I am allowed to eat more the day I exercise). It works. I lose an average of 1 pound per week. Soon, I will achieve my goal of regaining my healthy weight.

Energy Principle and 80-20 Rule

Justin Jackson, co-founder of wrote about 80-20 rule lately in this blog post entitled The 80% Energy Principle. He applies the 80-20 rule not only to the diet but to all areas of his life, seeking to consume no more than 80% of his energy.

I totally agree with Justin. Now that I am getting older and looking for balance, I try to stay at a level of 80% full in every areas of my life: work, home, family, community, finance or personal well-being.