Warren Buffett’s 5/25 Rule Could Save Your Career

setting priorities
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Setting priorities is one of the most important things you can do to get ahead in your career. Warren Buffett’s 5/25 rule can help.

It can be hard to know where to start when you have so many things you want to do. Setting priorities isn’t just about working your way through your to-do list, though. It’s also about establishing longer term goals and working toward them.

This is an issue that Warren Buffett, billionaire and philanthropist, knows a little something about. Legend has it that his 5/25 rule did wonders for the career of his personal airplane pilot. Can it do the same for you?

Here’s how it works:

Step 1 – Brainstorm all your goals

The story goes something like this. Buffett once asked his pilot, Mike Flint, who’d been working for him for a long time, to work through an exercise. They were talking about Flint’s career goals when Buffett proposed the activity.

First, Flint was asked to list 25 goals. (This is a decidedly high number. But, it’s important that you follow the exercise exactly if you decide to try it yourself. This is a brainstorming exercise of sorts. Aiming for 25 will help you dig deep.) The goals should relate to career and to life in general, he was told. What 25 things would he like to accomplish most?

Step 2 – Prioritize

Next, Buffett asked Flint to put his list in order of importance. (If you decide to follow along, take your time. This is a lengthy and somewhat arduous process. But, it’s revealing, too. You’ll learn a lot about what matters most to you through the exercise.)

Other versions of the tale say that Buffett asked him to circle his top five goals at this stage. Either way, the idea was to help Flint hone in on his most important priorities. What are the five most important goals on the list?

Step 3 – Focus

Finally, Buffett gave Flint a little advice. He told him to focus on those top five goals exclusively. In fact, he told that he wasn’t to allow himself to work on anything else from the list until those top five were accomplished. These lesser goals were to be back-burnered in a major way – essentially eliminated until the top goals are fulfilled.

The idea is that spreading yourself too thin doesn’t allow for the kind of focus and prioritization necessary to make real progress. Instead, when you set a single-minded focus upon your most important goals, and ignore everything else intentionally, you’re better able to make progress.

This process is something any professional can use, even if just as a reminder. Goal-setting is great, but focus and prioritization are essential.

How would you live your life differently if you were following Warren Buffett’s 5/25 rule?    

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