Tom Peters called intuition our greatest gift. It’s the feeling we get when what we are seeing doesn’t match up with the facts we think we know; it’s the sudden move we make without thinking that saves us from disaster; it’s the voice that tells us the truth rather than what we would like to hear.

Intuition is the ability to make quick and sound decisions based on a minimum of information. For instance, take a look at this paragraph…

Cna yuo raed tihs? I cdn’uolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonemnel pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rsereeachr at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteers be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig, huh? Yaeh, and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

Isn’t it astounding how easily we can decipher words with information that is ambiguous, garbled, or less than complete? We are wired to see underlying patterns, fill in the gaps, straighten out the miscues, and discover the hidden meanings. The same is true of our innate ability to make decisions.

Applying the 80/20 Principle to our thinking can help us make smarter, faster, more intuitive decisions. The 80/20 Principle (also known as the Pareto Principle) is pervasive in our world:

  • 80% of traffic jams occur on 20% of roads.
  • 80% of beer is consumed by 20% of drinkers.
  • 80% of classroom participation comes from 20% of students.
  • 80% of profits come from 20% of customers.

In most situations, you can gather 80 percent of the relevant information in the first 20 percent of the time available. Generally, the remaining 20 percent of the data (which would take the remaining 80 percent of your time to obtain) would not substantially improve the quality of your decision. Your intuition is good enough to organize the data and fill in the gaps, just as it did in those nonsense paragraphs a few pages back.

Specifically, here’s how you might apply the 80/20 Principle to your next big decision. First, identify the top five pieces of information you need to make the decision. Then, decide which four of these five are highest in priority. Once you’ve gathered this information, you will have roughly 80 percent of the information you need, and the remaining 20 percent is less important. Now, harness all of your experience and your intuition to fill in the blanks and make a great decision—even faster!

Find six more pretty good habits you can swap for really great results in Winners Always Quit.