Genealogy: 80/20 principle

80/20 principleBy Barry J. Ewell

The most important task at hand is not necessarily the most urgent or easiest task; it’s the most important task. For example, I may have as one of my tasks that I want to go to a regional library to conduct research. While going to the library is important, calling the library and finding out information such as hours of operation, collections to search, and names of staff that can help me with my specific research are my first priority over going to the library.

Essentially I was applying the 80/20 principle, which tells us that 80 percent of our results will come from 20 percent of our inputs. By picking the most important task to work on, we’re making sure that it falls within the critical 20 percent. Also, by focusing 100 percent of our energies on this item, we’ll accomplish it much faster than we would have if we’d allowed ourselves to be distracted by interruptions—or worse, tried to multi-task and complete two or three items at once. It’s amazing how fast you can get something done if that’s all you work on. Items that used to sit on my to-do list for weeks, even months, began to disappear. I found that for every hour I put into preparation and planning, I saved myself twenty hours of work and found my ancestors three times faster.

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