January 27, 2016

Saved by the 80% Rule

Ironing aprons after the Spring Sale at my church reminded me of a pleasant childhood memory.  Remember when your mom taught you to iron by having you iron handkerchiefs?  This was a simple task I did successfully the very first time.  I had forgotten how soothing it is to iron flat fabric that does not have darts or gathered curves that accommodate breasts and shoulders.  However, it is easier to get every wrinkle out of a dish towel than a canvas apron.  This got me to thinking about the 80% rule.  These aprons do not have to be ironed perfectly.  They are going in to be stacked in a box until next year and will come out a little wrinkled anyway. 

Business managers use the 80% rule to keep down costs.  Some tasks that are 80% correct will not affect the bottom line while others have to be closer to perfect.  For example, when I walk I need to be very close to vertical.  The rule says you need to think about striving for perfection because the last 20% takes nearly as many resources as the first 80%.  Business managers are paid to decide when a company should spend the extra resources to approach perfection.  I wish I had known about the 80% rule when I was married.  When my husband did not smooth out the bedspread perfectly I would have known that this is an acceptable business practice. 

I do not know where I got the idea that ALL work has to be done perfectly ALL the time.  I used to be a perfectionist, but now I think perfection should be a conscious decision rather than a habit.  When I am tired I don't pull the stroke card.  I live alone so I cannot cop out when I am an exhausted caregiver.  I use the 80% rule.


  1. Rebecca, boy, does that bring back memories. My mom had me ironing pillow cases. I enjoyed the work in the summer, of all times, because the iron board was set up in the basement in front of the old black and white RCA tv. I would watch the old movies that were on the local channel before cable was in the Denver area.

  2. The 80% rule sounds like a very good way to look at things.

    Separate topic .... I now love aprons with big pockets. I never wore an apron before but a stroke friend pointed out if you don't have two hands free to carry things, extra pockets are a real blessing.

  3. Excellent. I have recently been thinking about my own perfectionism. Not compatible with stroke symptoms - that's for sure!