What Is The 80/20 Rule? I Oxford Open Learning
The 80/20 Rule

What Is The 80/20 Rule?


The 80/20 Rule And How It Can Help You Study

Do you ever feel as though you are working harder and harder yet still waiting to see the results you are looking for? Do you look at the long list of all of the things you are supposed to do and feel overwhelmed and unsure as to where you should make a start?

We can all struggle with drains on our time or energies. So ensuring that we are investing both in the right places is key. It is also vital if we want to avoid feeling stressed or experiencing burnout. For many students looking to see results, this is where they begin to consider the phrase, ‘work smarter, not harder’.

In psychology, the 80/20 rule – otherwise known as the Pareto Principle – dictates that 80 percent of the results will come from only 20 percent of the causes. We can see this all around us when we begin to look; 20% of the world’s population have 80% of the wealth, 20% of criminals commit 80% of crimes and 20% of students will achieve grades of 80% or higher.

So, if we want to ensure that we are part of these 20% and achieve the very best possible results, we should be thinking about the ways in which we can use this principle to our advantage!

How Does The 80/20 Rule Apply To Our Studies?

When we are looking at this principle in relation to our education, the primary factor we should consider is that 20% of the time you spend studying will be leading to 80% of the results you see. By reflecting upon the activities you carry out when you are studying you will be more likely to be able to identify what is leading to the best results. Do you spend hours and hours reading textbooks then find yourself short of time when writing the essay? Do you invest plenty on producing flashcards but very little putting the theories into practice? If, on reflection, you find that the time you are spending studying isn’t as effective as it might be then it’s worth rethinking your approach.

Additionally, it is usually the case that 20% of the content you are required to cover will be at the heart of 80% of the assessment of your understanding. Whilst it is never advisable to ignore any of your course content, by recognising the knowledge, skills and comprehension you are required to demonstrate in order to achieve the results you are looking for, you can ensure that you focus your attention on these areas.

How Can We Use The Rule To Our Advantage?

So, if we are looking to use this principle to ensure that we are able to work smarter, not harder, these simple strategies are a good place to start…

Consider the course content

Take some time to look at the way in which the course you are studying is organised. What topics or modules are most heavily weighted? Is there any overlap when it comes to the knowledge you are expected to gain? What does the assessment look like? Once you understand the areas that come up the most, you can make them your focus and priority.

Plan your time

This sounds obvious, but making certain you spend the time you have well is key when it comes to working more effectively. Give most of your time to the task you have identified as the one that will have the greatest impact. It will always feel like you could have done with more time, so knowing that you have spent the time you did have well will feel reassuring too.

Focus on skills

Whilst knowing a lot about a subject is clearly important, often it is perfecting the skills you are required to demonstrate that can take up the most time. Whether writing essays or something more practical, practicing and refining the skills required will usually lead to the best results.

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