"You want 80% to be rest areas and 20% areas of detail"
"80% of this geometry should be interactive and 20% non-interactive"
"As long as we get it 80% right, the extra 20% doesn't matter"
The problem is, none of these things have anything to do with the 80/20 rule. So let's get it right, because this is an important one if you want be a faster artist.
The 80/20 rule states that 80% of a system will be affected by 20% of the variables in it. So that 20% matters a lot. 80/20 doesn't mean that everything divides neatly into that ratio, or that that 80% should be one thing and 20% should be another. Instead, it's a principle of resource allocation.
So as an artist, what is that 20% of your process that takes 80% of your time or resources? There are multiple answers to this question. Here are some ways it applies to me:
How often do you get a painting to the point where it's looking good and you start feeling like you're just about done, only then you spend way more time finishing the painting up than you did getting it to that point? For me, this is true nearly every time. If you paint in detail or care about your brush strokes, this is just a fact of life.
But to make use of the 80/20 rule, you need to do more than identify the problematic 20%. It may be useful for setting proper expectations, but you won't get any faster to know that.
Where the 80/20 rule becomes useful in this case is by applying it in another related area. If I were to uniformly apply detail across this painting once I finished the block-in, it would have taken me three times as long. So instead, once I got to hour 3 or 4, I tried to identify the 20% of the painting that would likely demand 80% of a viewer's attention. Then I focused a disproportionate amount of time and effort developing those areas. The remaining 80% of the painting then fell naturally together in support of the high-attention areas. This is the magic of the 80/20 rule: tackle the correct 20%, and the other 80% often falls into place.
What are some ways that the 80/20 rule could be used to speed up your process?