The 90:10 Rule

What is the 90:10 rule and have you experienced it at work in your life?

Have you ever spent hours on a project only to get so close but feel like you just aren’t moving the needle any further? Have you felt the frustration of knowing you’ve nearly created a master piece but find yourself staring blankly into your screen or canvas paralysed unable to discern how to finally finish it?


Well then, you’ve most likely experienced the 90:10 rule without even knowing it! The 90:10 rule is a thought that was shared with me by Craig Groeschel who is a phenomenal leader in the US. It suggests that when we work on a project we will often bring it to 90% completion and then end up struggling to move the needle the final 10%. Often spending the same amount of time in the final 10% as it took us to create 90% of the work.


For example say it took you 3hrs to complete 90% of an artwork. Then you reach a road block, where you know it’s almost there so you begin to think ‘how can I add the final touches to make this piece PERFECT’. That strive for perfection, or 10% more can then sometimes/often take us another 3hrs!!


How did we get to this point where we were on track for completion in the time we allocated and quoted for and then as if it were all of a sudden (which is wasn’t) it blew out by double? I don’t know about you but this is one of the most frustrating experiences in my design process. When time just seems to erode and slip through my fingers.


So what can you do about it? I think the answer is self awareness. Being aware of the 90:10 rule and when it comes into play has been a massive win for me and my career. Not only just in my career but in any skill that I learn. Once I recognise that I’m approaching the 90% point in a project I’ll often take a short break from my desk, get some fresh air, grab a drink, feel the sunshine, call a friend etc. Just something that breaks the flow that I’ve been in for a few hours. Although this seems anti-intuitive to be breaking flow - it actually gives me fresh eyes when I return and a couple of things can happen.


After reaching the 90% mark, taking a quick break and then returning may allow you to see one of the following:

  1. The project isn’t 90% complete, it’s actually finished! 100%! Awesome winning!
  2. You immediately see where you could improve the project to bring it to completion in the most efficient way. Winning!
  3. You may now feel confident to send the project to your client to gain their thoughts before finalising. Winning!


**Real Life** Literally as I’m writing this, I sit here and have hit the 90% mark (sometimes it feels like a wall) and begin to stare blankly into the screen! Luckily I’m aware of it and able to get up from my desk and grab a drink of water and come back. (Be right back…) Alright let’s wrap this baby up!


The 90:10 rule isn’t as conclusive as the law of gravity, however I definitely feel there’s something at work here, would you agree? I’d love to know what you think. It may be a feeling you’ve been aware of for sometime now and reading this you’re finally able to identify it. Or maybe now as you begin to work you’ll notice it when you get there. Or you might be a complete beast and smash right through to 100% completion every time, therefore rendering the 90:10 rule BS haha! Everyone’s different in the way we operate, however I know from experience that it’s nice to know that someone else gets where you’re at, right?


Thanks for reading and being part of this community, I hope it brings you value.

Keep growing your hustle muscle!

Ryan Bowles

1 comment

  • Aimee Guzman

    I’ve never heard of this 90:10 rule but it makes so much sense! Thanks for the input.

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