Knowing exactly what you want from your life and committing to it in the form of goal setting can be liberating or overwhelming, depending on how you approach it.
It is common knowledge that you can not do more than one thing at a time and do it well so even though setting goals can offer a sense of direction, it will not automatically turn into clarity or focus.
Do you struggle with what to do first? Do you wonder if focusing on one thing will take time away from everything else that you have set out to do? Do you ever end up with a lot of half baked projects with none of them fully completed to your satisfaction?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then this piece of advice from Warren Buffet might help. Hailed as the “The Sage of Omaha” for his astute business mind with success spanning across decades and industries, it is safe to assume that the third richest man in the world knows exactly how to expend his time and resources.
Below is a story on how he chooses to prioritize, as recounted by personal development and habits expert, James Clear.
The Story of Mike Flint
Mike Flint was Buffett’s personal airplane pilot for 10 years. (Flint has also flown four US Presidents, so I think we can safely say he is good at his job.) According to Flint, he was talking about his career priorities with Buffett when his boss asked the pilot to go through a 3-step exercise.
Here’s how it works…
STEP 1: Buffett started by asking Flint to write down his top 25 career goals. So, Flint took some time and wrote them down.
STEP 2: Then, Buffett asked Flint to review his list and circle his top 5 goals. Again, Flint took some time, made his way through the list, and eventually decided on his 5 most important goals.
STEP 3: At this point, Flint had two lists. The 5 items he had circled were List A and the 20 items he had not circled were List B.
Flint confirmed that he would start working on his top 5 goals right away. And that’s when Buffett asked him about the second list, “And what about the ones you didn’t circle?”
Flint replied, “Well, the top 5 are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort.”
To which Buffett replied, “No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. 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.”
Makes sense, doesn’t it? It is easy to justify spending time on goals you have already decided are important to you, so you need to make sure that there is also an order to which goals you need to accomplish more than others, and then eliminate the distractions until you are ready to focus on them.