Starting Well With The Pareto Project

So, those of you who read my blog haven't been lately! (That is unless you've read some old posts!)

That is because school started about 8 days a go and my whole life has been immersed in starting well. Getting organized. Putting things in place to help my year.

This summer, I read a lot about productivity, organizing, and goal setting. Call it part of turning 40, but these are things I've been getting.

We know that the Pareto Principal talks about the 80/20 rule. That 80 percent of our success will come from 20 per cent of people. However, I realized this summer that could 20 per cent of the issues in my room cause 80 per cent of the problems!


So, I listed — what are the 20 per cent of things that are giving me the 80 % of my success in the classroom. Then… I listed the 20% of thing that were giving me 80% of my problems.

My 20% of problems included:

  • My color laser is the only one in the school that is publicly usable and it caused many interruptions.
  • People walked behind my desk and knocked me throughout the day to get to the laser.
  • The ink cartridges stored in my room invited interruptions.
  • People seeking status updates on technology issues caused interruptions.
  • There was no way for people to add information to a technology issue without interrupting me.

What resulted was a day of constant interruptions and little irritations. And the little things make a big difference.

So, after really looking at the 20%, I created my “Pareto project” which included:

  • Moving the color laser to a place beside the door causing less interruptions.
  • Moving my desk to a T format which doesn't allow anyone to walk behind me.
  • Moving Ink Cartridges to the Office Supply area out of my room.
  • Setting up a trouble ticket tracking system on Fogbugz which let them see their updates and email updates to the trouble ticket as well as producing a timecard for the amount of time I spend on each issue.

These were things I could control. Yes, they may seem petty but they were interruptions. Now, I'm finding that attacking my 20% that are causing 80% of the problems is producing quite a big payoff. Yes, I'm still stressed and have too much to do, but I am interrupted far less and when I am it is for bigger issues.

So, ask yourself:

What are the 20% of things you do that give you 80% of the positive results in the classroom?
What are the 20% of things that cause 80% of the problems in your classroom?

Start by attacking the problems and thinking of flow and how you can remediate/ eliminate the problems.  Then, look at spending more time on what works and eliminating things that don't.

OK, gotta run spend time watching my son play in a scrimmage game at school.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Mdixongchs August 21, 2010 - 10:18 am

Great post Vicki! I’ve been focusing on the 80% of the problems and not what the underlying issues. Time for me to sit down and make my own Pareto Project.

teachies August 21, 2010 - 7:23 pm

This is a very interesting spin on the Pareto concept. I’d be interested to hear your take on the idea that 20% of your work amounts to 80% of your effectiveness. I’ve thought about it a lot as a teacher. Maybe I’m highly effective and more of what I do is really important. Of if it is true, then how do I find out which 20% is the efffective part?

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