Warren Buffet’s two list strategy to prioritise success

“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.”  H. L. Hunt

If you are anything like me, I always have stuff to do.  There are things to achieve over the long term and things that you have to tick off your to-do list today.  One of the biggest challenges for a busy person is to prioritise so that you can focus and achieve your goals.

I came across this blog by Scott Dinsmore, where he shared the story of one of Warren Buffet’s employees.  More specifically, the strategy that Warren Buffet uses to help his employees determine their priorities and actions.

Since Warren Buffet is one of the world’s wealthiest people, it may be worthwhile to have a look at what he does.

Warren Buffet’s 3-step process for prioritising success

Step 1: Know what you want – list your top 25 goals.

Warren Buffet asked one of his pilots, let’s call him Steve, a few years ago to write down his top 25 career goals.  Steve took some time and wrote it down.

Write down your top 25 goals.  You can make it career goals, life goals, or even shorter term goals like what you want to achieve this week.  Write down anything that comes to mind as being important to you.

Step 2: Pick your top 5 goals

Then Buffet asked Steve to review his list and circle his top 5 goals. Flint took some time and decided on his top 5 goals. 

Review your list and circle your top 5 goals.  The goals that you want more than anything else and that is most important to you.

Step 3: Focus and eliminate

Steve now had two lists: one list with his top 5 goals, and the other the list of 20 goals.  Buffet then asked Steve: “but what about these other 20 things on your list that you didn’t circle? What is your plan for completing those?” Steve replied confidently “Well the top five are my primary focus but the other twenty come in at a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit as I’m getting through my top 5. They are not as urgent but I still plan to give them dedicated effort.”

To which Buffet responded: “No. You’ve got it wrong Steve. Everything you didn’t circle just became your ‘avoid at all cost list’. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”

The lesson here is to know your “Top 5 Goal List” and your “Avoid At All Costs List”.

If you compare the two lists, you will see that the goals on your top 5 list are where you should be spending your energy and time.  It is easy to spend your time on the “Avoid At All Costs List”, as these are goals that are important to you.  But if you really look at this last list, you will see that these items are distractions.

Where are you spending your time?

Find your top 5 goals.  Eliminate ruthlessly.  Limit your options. Distractions never end.  Decide what you are not going to do.  Review your goals every day.

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