Prioritize and Laser-Focus: Use the “Warren Buffett 5/25 Strategy” to Set Goals

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🖊 This article was last updated on October 3, 2019

An anecdote about Warren buffet is often told about Warren Buffett asking his long-time pilot to list his top 25 goals. According to the story, Buffett told him to circle 5 goals that are of highest priority to him. His pilot struggled to choose the top 5, as the other 20 were also important to him.

After that, Buffett supposedly told him to focus only on those top 5 goals, and avoid the other 20 until he has succeeded in his top 5. 

Watch Warren Buffet himself debunking this “myth”

Even though the advice can not be attributed to Warren Buffet (watch the video above to see Warren Buffet debunking this), the advice itself (prioritizing your goals and focusing on the most important ones) is actually very sound.

Nobody knows exactly how many goals one should have. But if you’re going to come up with your personal ideal number, here are 5 questions to ask yourself.

1. Are my top goals covering important areas of my life?

When deciding which areas of your life to set goals for, consider life coach Cherelle Palmer’s approach. She wants her clients to have at least one personal, career, and long-term goals. 

You can also look at the various dimensions in entrepreneurs Jon and Missy Butcher’s Lifebook program, and set goals for some of these. The areas include:

  • health and fitness
  • intellectual
  • emotional
  • character
  • spiritual
  • love and relationship
  • parenting
  • social
  • career
  • financial
  • quality of life
  • life vision.

Whichever areas you pick, make sure they are anchored on your own values and personal definition of success. Check in with yourself: “Are these goals mine? Do I really want these, or am I only pursuing what I think other people want me to do or be?”

The solopreneur journey is filled with twists, bumps, and detours, and an endless number of highs and lows. But if you draw inspiration from a deeper source, when you know WHY you are doing it, it’s easier to push through difficult days. 

A day in the life as an entrepreneur - by Derek Halpern

2. How many can I efficiently follow through?

According to Creating Your Best Life author and executive coach Caroline Miller, “There’s no hard-and-fast three, five, seven. What really matters is the personality type that you’re dealing with.” 

Some people might find it easier to focus on five big goals, while others will be overwhelmed by it.

When deciding how many goals to prioritize, think about your personality type and how many you can efficiently manage. Remember that success is not a sprint, but a marathon. It may seem exciting to pursue all our goals at once, but spreading ourselves too thin will only lead to stress and burnout, inhibiting our growth, and delaying our success.

3. Do my top goals support each other, or are they in conflict? 

Committing to jog thrice a week and climbing a mountain each year are like complementary goals. In this case, the goals feed into each other, and it’s easier to pursue them at the same time.

But putting up five unrelated businesses simultaneously might be a stretch, especially if you’re a solopreneur. They will be competing for your attention, your energy, and your time. Even if you are able to pull it off, you might not succeed as fast and as much as you would have if you opted to focus on building just one. 

This question is meant to help you see which goals might be contradicting, and which ones will support each other and propel you forward faster.

4. Are my top goals up to date?

You may have set your goals 5 or 10 years ago. At one point you’ve already felt that your priorities have shifted, or you already know this is NOT what you want to do. But you keep pushing forward because you believe that “quitters never win.”

The truth is winners actually know when to quit–right now let’s refer to this as “constructive quittism.” 

Losers quit when the going gets tough. Winners, on the other hand, quit for deeper reasons such as the business is no longer aligned with their priorities, or it goes against their values.

Determination and a capacity to see things through are definitely traits solopreneurs must have. Just make sure that your top goals are still your priority now. If you are sticking to a business or field only because it was what you finished in college, or because of sunk costs, you know it’s time to cross them off your list. 

Quitting the wrong things will boost your productivity, as you channel more time and energy pursuing goals that matter most to you.

5. Do I need to review and adjust my priority goals?

If you’ve identified your priority goals and have been focusing on those, congratulations!

Now take it a step further. Review your goals regularly. In her article “Don’t Set Too Many Goals for Yourself,” marketing strategist Dorie Clark shares that she sets two six-month goals instead of annual resolutions. 

Clark also quotes Rita McGrath, author of The End of Competitive Advantage, on how the best companies did quarterly plans, instead of annual goals. The successful companies remained flexible and quickly adapted to changes–both of which are crucial in today’s constantly evolving business environment.

Conclusion

Our time, energy, and attention are finite. By focusing on our priority goals, we increase our productivity and chances of success.

This strategy also simplifies how we manage our time. Following the Pareto Principle, we can look at our long to-do list and ask: “Which 20 percent would yield the biggest results on my priority goals?” 

Committing fully to our most important goals also simplifies saying “no.” We no longer need to agonize over whether to say “yes” or “no” to a good opportunity: If the goal supports Goal No. 25, it’s clearly on our not-to-do list.

For your business, what are your priority goal(s)? How often do you review these? 

How has applying the 5/25 Rule changed your life? I look forward to hearing your story.


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