To Maximize Your Focus and Achieve Your Goals, Try Warren Buffett's 2-List Strategy

If you should take career advice from anyone, Warren Buffett would be a good man to listen to. He's considered one of the most successful investors of all time and is consistently ranked one of the wealthiest humans alive with a cool $76.8 billion. Yes, that's billion, with a B. His advice for career success? It's all about lists.

Inside Buffett's Brain

According to the renowned billionaire, your career success is waiting for you in two separate lists. Buffett's two-list strategy for maximizing focus and achieving your goals has a little backstory attached to it, as reported by Scott Dinsmore. The story starts with Mike Flint, Buffett's personal pilot of 10 years. When Flint was talking with his boss about career priorities, Buffett stopped him right there to guide him through a three-step exercise. Feel free to follow along and try this at home, kids.

  1. Write down your 25 top career goals. Or, for a more short-term version, jot down the 25 things you want to achieve this year, or even this week. Got it?
  2. Take a good, hard look at what you've written. Out of those 25 items, circle your five most important goals. The big dogs. The most urgent.
  3. The items you just circled are in list A, and the remaining stragglers are in list B. Easily enough, you just made yourself a short list of priorities. But what about the 20-item list B? Back to Buffett and Flint ...

Flint told Buffett that he would start working on his top five goals right away and get to the other 20 in his spare time. According to Dinsmore, Flint said that 20 items on list B "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." Buffett replied, "No. You've got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn't circle just became your Avoid-at-All-Costs list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you've succeeded with your top five."

Your List Is Way Too Long; You Need to Cut It

Cutting the unneeded things from your life — negative people, bad habits, household clutter — is not too hard. Cutting out the things you care about is what's difficult. In Buffett's two-list strategy, you're basically eliminating 20 important career goals from your brain. This may seem counterproductive, but if there are five more important, more urgent items to tend too, even your other pretty crucial goals can just serve as distractions. These items are easier to justify spending time on; they are your goals, after all.

But if the time isn't right, the time isn't right. All or nothing, baby. As James Clear writes for TIME, "Spending time on secondary priorities is the reason you have 20 half-finished projects instead of five completed ones. Eliminate ruthlessly. Force yourself to focus. Complete a task or kill it. The most dangerous distractions are the ones you love, but that don't love you back."

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For more tips on how to be like the Oracle of Omaha, check out "Invest Like Warren Buffett: Powerful Strategies for Building Wealth" by Matthew R. Kratter. The audiobook is free with a trial of Audible. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Joanie Faletto September 8, 2017

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