Warren Buffett is the 4th richest man in the world with a net worth of nearly $70 Billion Dollars. If you measure success from a financial perspective, then it’s safe to say he’s done quite well for himself.
Buffett is extremely disciplined when it comes to how he spends his time. He makes it a point to always read for 80 percent of his day, which he says gets him to about 500 pages a day. Plus, he’s got to be ready to trade during the 9:30 AM to 4 PM window that the US markets are open.
The foundation of Buffett’s success in prioritizing how he spends his time is the Two-List Strategy.
Buffett’s Two-List Strategy
The Two-List Strategy was first documented by Buffett’s personal pilot, Mike Flint (he’s a pretty cool guy, having also flown four US Presidents). According to Flint, he was asking Buffett’s advice about pursuing his career goals. Buffett then instructed him to go through a 3-step exercise.
- Write down your top 25 career goals. Flint did so, writing the goals down on a sheet of paper. (You could also do this step with goals for a shorter timeline, such as quarterly or yearly goals)
- Next, review your list and circle your top 5 goals. Flint took some time here, making his way back and forth through the list, eventually deciding on his top 5.
- At this point, you’ll have two lists: list A with the circled top 5 goals and list B with all the rest. Buffett told flint that from now on, list A will be his real goals list while list B will be his Avoid-At-All-Costs list. Buffett says about list B: “No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”
The tasks that have the greatest likelihood of derailing your progress are the ones you care about, but that aren’t truly important.
— James Clear
Be Ruthless With Your Priorities
Every action you do has costs associated with it. No matter how small the action, it will cost you something in time, money, and mental energy. You must be careful since all three of those resources are limited.
For any goal, you’ll be able to achieve it much faster if you spend more of those resources on it. It’s obvious: the more time, money, and mental energy invested, the more progress you can make. If you have just one goal, you can put all of your resources towards achieving it and get to the finish line in the shortest amount of time possible.
Those same resources can’t be applied effectively across 25 different goals — you’re spread too thin. You don’t have enough resources to make noticeable progress on any of them. Over time, the lack of progress will become demotivating.
That’s where Buffett’s advice comes in: be laser-focused on your top goals and ignore the rest. That way, you’ll be able to maximize your progress and your chances of successfully achieving those top goals.
That’s not to say that the other 20 goals are unimportant. It is very easy to justify spending your time on them.
We can acknowledge them and say they’re important, but not as important as your top 5. They’re not worth it if it means sacrificing anything from your top 5. Once you complete the top 5, feel free to go for some of those bottom 20. But until then, they don’t deserve your investment.
Spending time on all 25 will have you end up with 25 half-finished projects.
Being laser-focused on your top 5 will get you 5 fully achieved goals that you’re truly happy with. Then, you’ll have the resources to work on to the rest.
Always remember that when you say yes to something, you also say no to something else.
Stay laser-focused on the most important things, and you will be successful in achieving your goals.
“The difference between successful people and really successful people, is that really successful people say no to almost everything”
— Warren Buffett