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Applying the 10-80-10 Principle to Art

You may have heard of the 10-80-10 principle of survival. This principle states that if we were attacked by zombies right now, 10 percent of the people we know would be extremely prepared and able to handle themselves well enough to survive, at least in the short-term. Eighty percent of the people would be in shock initially and have to work hard and learn to survive, but would at least have a chance at survival. The final 10% would be destined to be zombie food; they would make the wrong decisions, panic, and destroy the chances of survival for others around them.

Long before the 10-80-10 principle was associated was zombies, it was a commonly used in sales, education, and many other fields to explain various concepts. Taking the 10-80-10 principle outside of its normal application, it can help you manage your time as you work on art projects that you have been assigned as part of your college curriculum.

If every art student had his or her way, all of the assignments they completed would be self-created. There would be no required projects, and students would complete what they wanted to achieve the course requirements. Unfortunately, this would lead to little learning and growth as a major goal of an art education is to expose students to alternate techniques and to teach them how to respond to promoted assignments as a way to prepare them for the job market.

So, how can some rule about zombies help you do better in school? It’s easy. First, instead of thinking about the 100 percent in terms of people, think about it in terms of your time. If the amount of time you will spend on a given assignment equals 100 percent, then the it makes it easy to understand how the 10-80-10 principle can be applied.

For the first 10% of the time you spend on the project, you will want to give it your all. This means you are going to go above and beyond. Your focus should be at laser level. Have out highlighters and sticky notes. Read the assignment ten or more times. Review your notes and lectures. Make sure you understand any rubrics and that you know exactly how the project is going to be scored. Then, make a plan of what you are going to do. Sometimes it is tempting to just get started. The desire to complete the project outweighs the common sense that you have to know what you are doing before you do it!

The 80% is when you will complete the bulk of the project. Of course, you will still try your best, but it is okay to stop and start as needed, to listen to music while you work, to take breaks, and to otherwise treat the assignment as you typically would.

For the final 10 percent, you will bring your critical eye to the piece. Think back to the rubric. Look for any way that you can improve the project. Tweak the things that can make it better.

By applying 10-80-10 to your assignments, you will be better able to tackle assignments and won’t find yourself struggling to fit in things you forgot to include because you didn’t read the instructions closely enough.

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