Tackling Problems with Pareto!
Table of Contents
Forewarned is Forearmed
Let me just start by saying two things.
First: You can’t anticipate everything. It’s simply impossible.
Second: The tool we’re going to show you builds upon both personal and generalized experience.
We are about to introduce you to a tool called a Pareto Chart. However, we are using this tool simply as a way to introduce a concept. You don’t have to literally create a Pareto chart. (But if you do share it in our forums!) Rather, recognize that common problems are common and personal barriers usually boil down to a small handful of personal flaws. The idea of a Pareto chart allows you to bridge the gap between problems you can and can’t anticipate. What else helps to bridge that gap? Experience. That’s another reason why mentors are so important!
The Pareto Chart
We utilize these charts in business to count frequencies of events. A great example to the right shows how you can use a Pareto Chart to see what ailments patients come in the most frequently for.
A common use of Pareto charts in business is to flag common problems. Imagine you run a hotel. You have a finite amount of time, money, and energy. Your goal is to make your customers happy while using your limited resources most efficiently.
Now, as the hotel manager you have a list of complaints your guests have made in the past month.
- 7 guests complained about the room service.
- 32 guests complained about the hot water.
- 18 guests complained about parking lot noise.
- 5 guests complained about the breakfast buffet.
- 38 guests complained about the front desk staff.
Should you spend as much time or money on improving the breakfast buffet as you spend on training the front desk staff? No, of course not. Most of the complaints are coming from the (unfriendly) front desk, the (lack of) hot water, and the noisy parking lot! If you fix all three of them, you’ll fix 88% of the problems your customers face.
Using A Pareto Chart as a Pre-Med
The power of the Pareto chart is that it allows us to visualize this phenomenon and answer the question, “Where is the most valuable area for us to spend our time and energy?”
So how do you use a Pareto chart as a pre-med? Since, it’s really hard (read impossible) to anticipate all the challenges you’ll face as a pre-med or in medical school? Our advice is to try and learn about the most COMMON problems that face students and your own PERSONAL barriers. Just as a hotel’s Pareto chart is going to look different then one for Coca-Cola, your personal Pareto chart is going to look different then another student’s. So it needs to be a mix of COMMON problems and PERSONAL problems.
Adopting a Pareto Mindset
So again, you don’t have to literally create a Pareto chart. Rather just create a list of barriers to success – things are already a problem, or that you know will become a problem. Here’s a sample list below.
- Scoring highly on the MCAT. – Common problem
- Remembering Physics Formulas for exams and the MCAT. – Personal & Common problem
- Completing lab reports on time. – Personal problem
- Doing well in Organic Chemistry. – Personal & Common problem
- Obtaining sufficient volunteer hours. – Personal problem
- Writing a personal statement. – Personal & Common problem
- Staying Focused while studying. – Personal problem
- Meeting deadlines. – Personal problem
- Finding research. – Personal & Common problem
- Finding a Medical Student mentor. – Personal & Common problem
Now reorder the list so the things that worry you the most are up top. Do you only have a minor problem with meeting deadlines, finding research, staying focused, or getting volunteer hours? Those go on the bottom.
- Scoring highly on the MCAT.
- Remembering Physics Formulas for exams and the MCAT.
- Doing well in Organic Chemistry.
- Finding a Medical Student mentor.
- Writing a personal statement.
- Staying Focused while studying.
- Obtaining sufficient volunteer hours.
- Finding research.
- Meeting deadlines.
- Completing lab reports on time.
With that list created, spend most of your energy creating a plan to tackle the top 3 items first. Addressing those 3 items will hopefully calm the majority of your worries. Don’t let yourself spend as much time fixing the bottom 3 items on the list. It’s a poor usage of time and energy. This is what we mean when we say ‘adopting a Pareto mindset.’
One Last Note
While it’s a great idea to organize and tackle lists like this, doing it alone means you can only draw upon your own experience. Since this is the first time you’ve walked the path to becoming a medical student… you really don’t have a lot of experience yet. This is where it becomes important to connect with mentors. They can warn you about unseen dangers and calm your nerves over things you think may be a problem, but really aren’t.
The Path to Medical School Can Feel Long And Unclear
But never forget that we’re here to help. Do you have a question about something you just read in our BreakThru Learner Series?
Use the BreakThru Feed to Ask and Inspire others with your questions. Our Medical Student Mentors are always here to help you, for free, anytime.
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