If you want to truly embrace the 80/20 approach to learning new tech tools, having a cut-throat attitude when it comes to narrowing the list of skills you should focus on is key. Remember, you're figuring out what's important FIRST and then you're focusing your time and energy on learning those skills only.
So how do you take all the information that's out there and come up with the skills to focus on?
The Secret to Getting to the 20%: Focus on the Practical Skills
In my past life in Human Resources, Microsoft Excel was a tool I used daily. I wanted to be an advance user of Excel so that meant that I needed to learn about macros and pivot tables. The problem with learning those two skills was that I never used them nor did I have a practical reason to use them.
I did, however, need to learn how to use VLOOKUP. I did a lot of reporting and would have to grab data from one report and insert it into a separate spreadsheet (accurate reporting was a given). VLOOKUP was a godsend for this reason. Since I was using VLOOKUP almost daily, I very quickly mastered it.
You are what you practice most.
~ Richard Carlson
It can be very sexy to want to learn everything. But if you never practice those skills, you most certainly won't retain them (it's not like riding a bike).
Figure out the 20%, then focus on learning those skills.
3 Steps to Deconstructing a Tech Skill
When you're deconstructing a tech skill, you're looking for the key concepts, important sub-skills, and the necessary components and tools required to learn how to master the skill. Here are three steps to deconstruction:
Define your target performance level.
This is where the exercise to discover your why comes in. Once you sure why you're learning this skill, you'll be able to describe what you're trying to achieve and what you'll be able to do when you're done.
Deconstruct the skill into sub-skills.
Josh Kaufman, an expert on rapid skill acquisition, recommends that you find resources that you can quickly skim to establish an initial list of sub-skills. Amazon is a great resource, as you can typically browse through the table of contents of most books, and the chapter titles could easily be your list of sub-skills. Check out a few of the best-selling/popular books for ideas.
Research each sub-skill then eliminate the non-vital skills.
Armed with a list of sub-skills and a defined target performance level, you can now research each sub-skill to determine whether it's necessary to meet your target performance level. It is doesn't contribute to your target performance level then it should be removed from the list of skills. Question the applicability of each sub-skill before finalizing your list.