Sure, you laughed at the picture, but was it because you either had to laugh or cry? One of the chapters in the book Small Steps, Big Changes: Eight Essential Practices for Transforming Schools Through Mathematics that impacted me the most was Chapter 4, The 80/20 Rule. The authors quote Stephen Covey: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” We would all agree that there is not enough time, energy or money to do everything we want to do in our classrooms. The trick, then, is to decide how you will use your resources to best meet the needs of your students.
So think about your job. Of all the activities related to your job, which are the most important for reaching your goal. Wait! You don’t have a goal? Well, that’s the first step. As a math coach, my goal is to improve math instruction on my campus. Here’s where the cost-benefit analysis comes in. As I plan my activities, I should be spending my time on activities that will improve math instruction on my campus. See how that works? If you think of every activity and decision you make looking through the 80/20 lens, how could you not make better choices?
Here’s how Confer and Ramirez sum up the 80/20 Rule:
- Always “Keep the end in mind.”
- Do a cost-benefit analysis for decisions: before committing your time, energy, and money, consider your perceived benefits and your costs–what you won’t be able to do if you decide to take that action.
- Identify whether the benefits are likely to have a direct payoff for your goals and whether it is worth giving up the cost.
- Work toward making decisions that allow you to spend 80 percent of your time, energy, and money on the things that matter most, and 20 percent on things that have less payoff.