If you’re looking for a contemporary business success story, it’s hard to top legendary investor Warren Buffett. Many business owners would probably pay handsomely for insights into his approach, but as it turns out, he gave that information away for free.
For more than a decade, Buffett relied on Mike Flint as a personal pilot. One day, Flint and Buffett began discussing Flint’s career objectives. As the story goes, Buffett instructed Flint to complete a simple exercise: Write down your top 25 career goals.
Flint took some time to reflect, and obliged.
Once Flint completed the list, Buffett had another step for him: Review your list and circle the top 5 goals from the list.
Again, Flint obliged.
Buffett encouraged Flint to start tackling his top 5 goals right away.
And what about the other 20 items? Flint assumed that they were still important, just a lower priority. He figured he’d start with the top 5 and fill in with the other goals whenever he had a chance.
Instead, Buffett said that the other 20 items were no longer goals. Instead, they were items to be avoided “at all costs.”
What?! What kind of crazy person encourages someone to deliberately avoid their goals?
A smart person, probably. Buffett reasons that anything beyond your top 5 goals is a distraction and dilutes your time, attention, and resources.
If Flint were to completely nail all five of his top goals, he could theoretically turn his attention to some of the other items on the list, but not a moment before. (And, realistically, by then it would probably be time to make a new list anyway.)
While the exercise was intended to clarify overall career goals, it could be applied to any list of priorities: What do you want to get done this week? This month? This quarter? This year?
Try the exercise. Let us know how it goes. To us, every case is our most important case.