The 80/20 Law - Maximum Results With Minimum Time
, by Tom Hess
Have you ever
noticed how some players, who practice less, seem to make more progress than
others who practice more? That can be really frustrating for people in the
second group! If you are like most guitarists, the following two statements
are approximately true (whether you are aware of it or not):
of your practice time brings you only about 20% of your total progress.
of your practice time brings you only about 80% of your total progress.
No, I didn’t just pull
these numbers out of the air. These statements are based on Pareto’s Principle
- (The 80/20 Rule). It would be too lengthy to go into detail about the
origins and facts behind Pareto’s Principle here, but I strongly recommend
reading the full story behind this great principle. Go to: http://about.com/
and then type in Pareto’s Principle in the search box. I’ll just tell you
Pareto’s Principle has been proven true in many areas of human life,
industries, economies, time management and many other areas of the human
existence. It effects us all, not just in music, but in much of what we do and
are involved in.
The basic idea, as
it applies to guitar playing, is how long you practice is not always as
important as what you choose to focus your practice time on. This is not about
efficiency or time management. This is about obtaining “maximum effectiveness”
with whatever amount of time you can invest into practicing.
Lets say there are
two guitar players (we’ll call them John and David), the first player (John)
practices 30 minutes a day is making good progress and the other guy (David)
practices 90 minutes a day and makes less progress than John. What are the two
things you might expect David to say about John?
“John must be practicing more than I am, so of course he is
getting better results.”
“John must have more natural talent than I do.”
In our example the
first statement cannot be true. Although it is possible the second statement
could be true in rare cases, it is not as likely as it would seem. David failed
to see that John’s better results probably were due to what he focused on and
how effective his practicing was.
To be effective you
must have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish each practice session,
then you must analyze your current skill level in each area you will be
practicing. Then you are ready for the Powerful practice of implementing the
80/20 rule to practicing which I state as this:
weak area that is preventing your strengths from being used to the fullest potential,
is a weakness you must overcome as soon as possible. These weaknesses are part
of your important 20% that you should focus on, because overcoming these weaknesses
will likely bring you 80% of the total progress you want.
weakness that does not interfere with the implementation of your strengths to
the fullest potential is usually non-essential. These weak areas are part of
your non-essential 80% of what you probably currently focus on (whether you are
aware of it or not) that will likely bring you only 20% of the total progress
If you are having a hard
time following this, it probably is because you have not sufficiently
researched Pareto’s Principle. Again I urge you to check this out at the link
If you change this
one approach to your practice time on a consistent basis, your results will
massively improve. You can accomplish a lot of positive forward momentum in
your playing even if your practice time is limited. But please do not
misunderstand me, I am not implying, in any way, that short practice sessions
are as good as longer ones, nor that short practice sessions are a substitute
for longer periods of serious practice time. What I am saying is “effective
short practice sessions” can be very valuable when longer sessions are
If you already know
that tomorrow, you will have only 20 minutes of practice time possible, you
might be tempted to just say, “forget it, what can I accomplish in 20 minutes?
I’ll wait for the next day when I know I will have an hour to practice. Don’t
do this to yourself, because daily consistency is the best fuel for forward
momentum. Use that 20 minutes and pack it with practicing on what really
matters, don’t sit around and play a bunch of stuff you already know how to do
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Copyright 2006 by Tom Hess.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.