The 80/20 Rule & Your Survival (VIDEO)

When I was a classroom teacher, I could always spot the troublemakers no later than the second day of school. They were the ones who didn’t bother trying to make a good impression, while everyone else was clean, shiny, and overly polite.  In due time, this small number of kids would take up a good portion of my time as I worked to keep them focused on learning and out of trouble.

Looking back, I’d say that roughly 20% of my students caused about 80% of classroom disruptions.

This breakdown, 80/20, turns up over and over again, almost eerily so.  It was Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist who lived in the early 1900’s, who first observed that 80% of the peas he harvested from his garden came from 20% of the pea plants.  Looking beyond his own backyard, he noted that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the population.  In time, Pareto’s Principle, as it came to be called, was noted to have applications far beyond a harvest of peas or distribution of wealth.  In fact, it has implications for how survival-minded individuals can allocate their time, money, and energy.

Spot the 80/20 Rule in your own life

When I was preparing material for the webinar, “5 Survival Rules You Can’t Afford to Ignore,” I collected together all the knives in my kitchen.  I had quite a pile of bread knives, steak and santoku knives and many, many others.  When I set aside the knives I actually used on a regular basis, it was quite apparent that the 80/20 Rule was at work in my own kitchen!  I reach for the same 6 or 7 knives over and over.

My daughter loves to paint and has a large collection of acrylic paints in every color of the rainbow. However, when it’s time to buy new paint colors, the list is almost always the same: white, black, yellow, red, and blue.  In other words, about 20% of the colors in her paintbox!

In what ways do you see the 80/20 Rule in action in your own life and home?

image by HVargas

Applying the rule to survival

So what does all this have to do with preparedness and survival? Quite a lot, actually!  Consider first the collection of tools you have collected.  In your tool box or garage, you probably use the same 20% far more than the other 80%.  When you go camping or hunting, only about 20% of your supplies are most vital to the success of your trip.  When you go to the shooting range, you likely take the same firearm(s) every time!

I have a large box of various over-the-counter medications that I’ve been collecting, but you know what we use most often? Ibuprofen, cough syrup, and Benadryl.  Among my essential oils, I use lavender and eucalyptus most often.  Clearly the lesson here is to stock up on these items far more than any of the others.

The important point about the 80/20 Rule and these tools and supplies is that it helps you identify what you use most often and, possibly, what is most likely to break or be consumed most quickly.  With that in mind, those are the items that need back-ups and back-ups to the back-ups!  (See Rule of 3.)

Survival skills and vital knowledge

The 80/20 Rule has been called the rule of, “the vital few and trivial many.”  When it comes to skills, knowledge and survival, there certainly is an 80/20 breakdown with a few skills being most vital to survival and the rest, not so much.

Consider the skills that you have mastered.  If you could pass down only 3 or 4 to your children or grandchildren, and you knew those skills could make the difference between life and death, which would they be?  Classical guitar?  Hunting and field dressing game?  Cooking from scratch?  Scrapbooking?  Identifying wild plants that are safe to eat?

Knowing which skills are most important will improve the survival odds of your family now and teaching them to the next generation will do the same for them.

Here’s what’s most important…

Regardless of where it’s applied, the real value of the 80/20 Rule is that it reminds  us to focus on the areas, the people, the knowledge that is most important.  None of us have unlimited time, money and energy.  Each day we have to determine what steps to take to become better prepared for an uncertain future.  Each day we have to decide how to allocate our time.  The smartest way to do that is to look for ways to apply the 80/20 Rule in your  own life and home.

The video

I’ve recorded a short video that shows how to apply the 80/20 Rule to other areas of preparedness, including food storage and establishing a “survival community”.  You can watch it right here!

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

© Copyright 2012 The Survival Mom, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Survival Mom
The following two tabs change content below.
I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

Latest posts by The Survival Mom (see all)

I want to receive updates and
EMP survival reports!


  1. MikeM says

    Hello Lisa,

    You should consider knocking your OTC meds down from 20% to 13%. I stock the heck out of Ibuprofen and Benadryl, but I have never, and will never, spend a dime on cough medicine. Check this write up on web md – one of the few health sites I give *some* trust to:

    From all the studies there is not a measurable benefit from taking them. Also they can harm young children. No benefit – some risk – thats a loser in my book. If I want to elicit a placebo effect I’ll use honey in tea.

    I know that wasn’t the point of your nice article, but I thought I’d just chime in.

    • Leslie says

      Good call on the cough medicine. I worked at a hospital, and the pediatric ER doc preached the same–OTC cough medicine has shown no efficacy.

    • clark says

      Benadryl? That’s nasty stuff:

      Studies Prove That These Drugs Make Your Brain Stop Working… by Dr. Joseph Mercola

      There are other similar articles and studies.

      We used to suffer from allergies and such for years until we got on the Primal diet (80/20 for me so far) and started taking vitamin D3, now we no longer suffer,… at all.

      Plus, it’s been about three years now since we’ve had a cold of any kind.

      YMMV I suppose. And in a long term SHTF situation a Primal diet may get tossed out the window, the vitamin D3 may run out, and you might really need the Benadryl no matter the consequences? Hopefully not ever though.

      I’d replace some (a lot/all) of the Benadryl with D3.

      Also, I’m not certain, but I’d bet most of the doctors on Web MD are in bed with Big Pharma and are not exactly trustworthy, it’s your dime though.

      • clark says

        Oh, and I don’t know if cough medicine is bad for you in the long run or not (probably is) I haven’t looked into it, but when I did use it, there most certainly was a measurable benefit from taking them, study or no study, the stuff was effective. Again, YMMV.

  2. Stealth Spaniel says

    Sometimes I can get absorbed by “stockpile, stockpile” and this will give me the opportunity to exam my goals and skills. Rice for instance-the only family members who really love rice are the dogs. Useful food for canines, but we will only be eating it when we are desperate. Why did I buy so much? Oh yeah-that “essential prepper’s food list”!! This can allow me to refocus on prepping-that is useful to me.

  3. Casey says

    After 2 years of prepping, I’m finally getting around to my 20% — learning to pasteurize water. And teaching my kids to do the same. Contaminated water is probably the biggest killer of children in the world, and without the water treatment that we western countries so take for granted, the same could happen here in the U.S. So far, the easiest and quickest method we’ve tried has been the “AquaPak” Solar Water Pasteurizer. Here’s a video on it:

  4. KhaphiriFlux says

    1/2 cup piping hot water, 1/2 cup apple cider vineagar, 2 or 3 tablespoons local honey. mix all together and sip. Works wonders!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *