The Art of Using "Target Zoning"


Most of us organizing and productivity consultants have heard of the Pareto Principle or 80/20 Rule by now and maybe even use it with our clients to make them understand how so much of what we have, we don’t use. What was once created by an economist, Vilfredo Pareto, as a mathematical formula in 1906 to describe unequal distribution of wealth in Italy, has actually become a universal principle and an effective tool for management. The 80/20 Rule means that in anything, a few (20 percent) are vital, and many (80 percent) are trivial.

We can apply the 80/20 Rule to almost anything and as organizers we can use this as a tool with many of our clients for things like how you manage your time in the day to how many books or movies you keep on the shelf to the number of clothes or shoes you keep in your closet. I have added my own twist to this rule by implementing a target as a visual aid to help my clients understand how to think in terms of prioritizing their needs when organizing their spaces. Many of my clients are visual processors and some have said this actually gives them a better understanding of how to think in these terms. This visual aid can be used in just about any area.

For example, when I am in the office working at my desk, my target center is sitting in my chair at the computer. I am in the center of the bulls-eye. The bulls-eye represents the 20% of the things I need to use daily 80% of the time. For example, my computer, pens, paper, planner, printer, stapler, calculator, file drawer, etc. are all things I use everyday. If I am sitting in my chair, my target 20% should be within an arms reach of me in any direction and accessible without moving. Things like bookshelves that hold my reference books and things I occasionally refer to would not be right by my side. Each ring of the target past the bulls eye represents items that are used with less frequency until the outer ring is reached. Many times, these items are unnecessary items, seasonal items, or very rarely used items. Those items in many cases are determined if needed and usually stored appropriately and out of sight.

When working in rooms that serve multiple functions or have several zones created, you will want to break down the activities used in each area and create several targets. For example, when creating your kitchen centers; (food prep, food storage, cooking, cleaning, serving), you can use the same guidelines. Set your target center in each zone and build around it. We can apply this to our closets, in our garages, in children’s playrooms and even when scheduling our days. If we apply the 80/20 Rule in the sense that only 20% of the things you do during your day really matter, then make sure that the things that are priority and requiring productivity are not what suffers, if your schedule has to shift or be altered.