Have you started lots of projects but struggled to complete them? Do you find it difficult to focus on your top priorities? Do you know what your top priorities really are?
Warren Buffet, one of the world’s most successful business men, has a simple yet challenging ‘2-List’ strategy to maximise focus and boost your productivity. This strategy, used by Buffett to help his employees determine their priorities and actions, is best illustrated through ‘The Story of Mike Flint’ (Clear, TIME, 2015):
Mike Flint was Buffett’s personal airplane pilot for 10 years. One day Buffett got him to do a 3-step exercise to help him master his career priorities:
Step 1: Buffett started by asking Flint to write down his top 25 career goals on a piece of paper.
Step 2: Buffett then asked Flint to review his list and circle his top 5 goals. After some deep thinking, Flint decided on his 5 most important goals.
Step 3: At this point, Flint had 2 lists: the 5 items he had circled made up 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 straightaway.
Buffet then asked him about List B – “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. “
At this point Buffet 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.”
Items 6 to 25 on List B are things of value no doubt, but when you compare them to your top 5 goals, these items become distractors. Allocating time, energy and focus on secondary priorities is often the reason why we have 15 unfinished projects instead of 5 finished ones.
We challenge you to pluck up the courage and eliminate your secondary priorities until your primary ones have been successfully completed.