When you say you’re from Omaha (as I am), the first thing that usually comes to people’s minds is Warren Buffett. The “Oracle of Omaha” is one of the best-known businessmen and most successful investors ever. A friend recently sent me a blog post with a great story of a Buffett technique for managing priorities and reaching goals.

Buffett was advising a friend (his personal airplane pilot, actually) on prioritizing and acting on his career goals. This was the simple 3-step exercise he recommended:

  1. Write down your top 25 career goals. If you’d rather focus on the next year or the next five, instead of your entire career, that’s fine. In no particular order, write them down.
  2. Take some time away from your list before you return and review it. Read through your goals, think about them, and circle your top 5. What 5 things do you most want to accomplish in your stated period of time?
  3. You now have two lists. List A has 5 items, List B has 20.

Now I’ll ask you the same question that Buffett asked his employee. How will you prioritize the goals on these two lists?

Buffett’s pilot said that he would start on the top 5 goals immediately while working on some of the other 20 here and there as time allowed. This seems like a reasonable response to most people.

Buffett’s response? Forget about List B. All 20 items on that list are now on your Avoid At All Costs list. No matter what, those goals don’t receive any attention until you’ve accomplished everything on your top 5 list.

It can be difficult to eliminate working on goals that are for all intents and purposes, positive things. But every minute you spend on one of the lower tier goals takes away from the possibility of completing one of your priority goals.

This doesn’t mean you can’t return to these goals once you complete the top 5. In fact, if you complete those top goals, how much higher do you think the chances are of completing the others? Remember: priority management works best when you are laser-focused. And besides, would the Oracle of Omaha steer you wrong?

What systems have you used for managing priorities? Are you looking for guidance and accountability in trying to reach your career goals? Let me know in the comments or reach out to me at scott@doubledareyou.us.

photo credit: airman descending a staircase via photopin (license)