Not really a balanced universe: I

You would like to hope that the effort you put into something would reap equivalent results. For example, if I put 50 per cent more effort into cleaning up my house, I should get 50 per cent more shine. Or, conversely, if I did half as much work, it would look only half as good.

Common sense, right? But a book I've been reading says no. Richard Koch's The 80/20 principle argues that in almost every area of life, results are not directly related to effort. He says that 80 per cent of results flow from just 20 per cent of the causes.

This '80/20 principle' was first discovered by an Italian economist, who studied wealth patterns, finding that whatever the time period or the country, the pattern of imbalance became predictable. Roughly 80 per cent of the money went to 20 per cent of the people.

In research done by others, generally 20 per cent of products account for 80 per cent of sales, 20 per cent of motorists cause 80 per cent of the accidents, 20 per cent of the carpet in your house wears out, and 20 per cent of your clothes are worn 80 per cent of the time.

I've heard it said that in churches that 20 per cent of the people do 80 per cent of the work. In my own, limited, experience I'd say that it is anecdotally true.

So what does that mean for me? In terms of house cleaning, perhaps I need to focus on the 20 per cent of the work that gives the best-looking results. It's true that no matter if the toys are all put away, having a dirty floor still makes it all look grotty. And vacuuming takes me 15 minutes once a week compared to at least 45 minutes daily (accumulated) of picking up toys.

In other areas of life I know that I get the best results from things I enjoy doing. I write a better blog than I do a tax return (and if you think my blog is rubbish, you ought to see my tax return.) So perhaps I'd be better to focus on the things I do well and outsource the rest. Hmm, there goes cooking the dinner...

This principle could have interesting ramifications in church.

What gives the greatest results in the life of the congregation? Everyone always says prayer! But instead of trying to get the whole church to prayer meetings (and let's face it, everyone never comes and those who does come always get discouraged by the lack of everyone else), why not hand-pick the 20 per cent best praying people in the church for regular gatherings. The prayers will be enthusiastic, the discouragement will disappear, and the entire church will reap the results.