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The 5/25 Rule

"People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things."
Steve Jobs

This is a simple strategy to understanding your priorities. The approach and the accompanying anecdote is attributed to Warren Buffett the famous investor.

To get the most out of this post, I recommend you take a sheet of paper and follow along.

As the story goes, Buffett was once talking to his long time pilot Mike Flint about setting priorities. Warren first asked Mike to make a list of his top twenty-five goals. 

Drawing - a list of your top 25 priorities

When Mike was ready, Warren asked Mike to rank the twenty-five in order of importance.

Drawing - your top 25 priorities ranked in order of priority

When Mike was ready Warren asked Mike to split his list into two, and to put his top five goals on one sheet and the remaining goals on another. 

When Mike was ready Warren asked: "Mike what are you going to do with your top five goals?"

Mike: "I am going to focus my energy on getting those accomplished."

Warren: "And what will you do with the goals on the second list?"

Mike: "Well, I will try to work on those as well, but obviously spending less effort on those, because they are not as important as the top five."

Warren: "Mike, I would do it differently! If you are truly committed to achieving your top five, then only look at the list with the five goals and NEVER look at the second list again."

Drawing - the 5/25 rule explained on a single page. Sometimes you need to give up stuff, to get closer to things that really matter to you

Based on the date in the corner of the drawing, I made this sketch a bit over a year ago. I listed my twenty-five goals at the time and split them into two lists. To be absolutely frank with you, I did not consistently follow through on Warren's advice and I ended up trying to achieve all twenty-five goals over the past year. Needless to say, I made some progress with most of my goals, but I did not achieve breakthrough progress with my top five. I am now revisiting my list of twenty-five again. For the coming year, I will look at my top five every day, and never the second list. I am curious to see what will happen. 

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