We all have twenty-four hours in a day, but some people are able to achieve much more in that same time than the rest of us. Sure, it all depends on our lifestyles, habits and priorities, but anyone (even you!) can learn to efficiently manage their time on a daily basis.
Now, this isn't just a skill that will help you out in school, but something that will stick with you for life. It’s so crucial to organise your time wisely and give priority to matters that... well, really matter. Which is why today, we introduce to you the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle.
What is the 80/20 rule?
Basically, this rule states that roughly eighty percent of outcomes come from twenty percent of causes. In other words, a small percentage of the work you put in creates an outsized effect.
This rule was developed by Italian economist Wilfredo Pareto (hence the name!). One day, he discovered that eighty percent of his country’s land was owned by twenty percent of the population. Thinking about this observation, he noticed that similar ratios started to pop up almost everywhere in almost everything. For example, he saw that twenty percent of his plants bore eighty percent of the fruits.
Let’s put this in terms of how it can affect your life as a student. Out of all the time you spend studying for your exams, twenty percent of it makes up for eighty percent of your mark. Why? It could be that twenty percent is where all the serious study was done, or you managed to nail the significant topics that held the most marks, or this was where you really focused on your weaknesses. Whatever it was, that small percentage created an outsized effect.
If you’re a bit of a math fanatic, then, in essence, it is a power-law distribution between two quantities. If there is a change in one quantity, it will create a relevant change in the other one too.
Where can the 80/20 rule help?
Now you know what the rule is, let’s figure out how it can help you!
Through this rule, you can learn to prioritise your tasks. The idea is that out of your entire task list, completing twenty percent of those tasks will create eighty percent of the impact for that day.
Let's say you've got quite a few bits and pieces of homework to do. All of them are of varying lengths, require varying efforts, and are due on different dates.
Out of all that homework, sort out the most important ones – the ones that are due soon or hold a big coursework grade. Now list them from most urgent to least. Work your way through the list, by taking on the major ones first.
After you've done the essential assignments or homework, take a chill pill – take a break and come back to the small stuff later.
This doesn't have to be specifically for schoolwork; it can literally be any task you may have, chores or even guitar practice. Identify the tasks which will have the most significant impact and do those first.
Decision-making and problem solving:
Ever been stuck with a problem you just can't get your head around? Or maybe you've got a few too many options to choose from? Well, lucky for you, the '80/20 rule' can also be applied here to help you prioritise a solution.
Whenever you’ve got a problem you need to solve, clearly state it in plain language on a piece of paper. Now, move on to identifying the causes of the problem(s). Start with the '5 W's' (who, what, when, where and why). This will help you get a basic layout for the problem(s) you are facing.
If you have multiple problems (as people usually do), try to group similar ones together. It may be that one solution can help solve multiple issues.
Finally, once everything is laid out in front of you, develop a plan to target the most significant 20% of your problems first. Once those are out of the way, you’re free to tackle the smaller ones. Even though you will focus on solving fewer issues, the impact will be significant as these are the major ones, taking up your time, focus and potentially money.
Focus is something a lot of students all around the world struggle with. Thanks to our rapidly evolving technology, we are surrounded by gadgets of distraction. Sure, they can be useful when you need them, but they can also lead to procrastination and laziness.
Let's say one out of five time-wasters (movies, social media, games, YouTube, staring into empty space because you don't want to get up) is responsible for eighty percent of your wasted time. Those are just some of the examples above, but whatever it is, it's stopping you from what you need to get done.
We’re not saying you need to quit all of the above cold turkey. But by eliminating, or at the very least minimising your main distraction, you could free up eighty percent more time to focus. Imagine how much further you could get with that much time in your assignments, exam study or just everyday homework.
What are the benefits of the 80/20 rule?
If there’s one thing to take away about the 80/20 rule, it’s the benefits it has for time management. By applying this rule in various areas of your life, the way you use your time will become more efficient. Like anything else, it takes practice, but by mastering this rule you will be surprised to see how much more you can get done in a short time period.
It will help you figure out your priorities (what's most important to you) and understand which tasks can create the biggest impact.
It increases daily productivity; your work capacity will skyrocket once you learn how to use this rule to your advantage.
That massive mountain of work will become easier to manage as you learn how to segment your work and give each task the appropriate amount of time.
We could keep going on… but the more time you spend here, the less you have out there, so learn this rule, practice it at any opportunity you get, and then it's easy as cake!
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