Setting Goals with your "Not-to-do" List

Learn Why Warren Buffet Uses a Surprising Three-Step Goal-Setting Process

by Diane Berenbaum

We all have goals; usually, far more than we can achieve. As we strive to accomplish more and more, our to-do list grows and grows. Eventually, it hits a point where we feel stuck or frustrated. In fact, our list of goals may get so long that we get overwhelmed by it; and don't know where to start (and we may not start at all).

I read that Warren Buffet has been using a goal-setting process for many years that works for him. He shared it with his pilot, and I’m sharing it with you now.

1.    First, Warren Buffet asked him to write down 25 goals he wanted to accomplish in his career.After brainstorming, his pilot came back with the list. 

Warren said that the key is to never, ever diverge from this list until he feels confident in his abilities in each category. 

2.    Warren Buffett looked at the list and said, "Great. Now I want you to circle the five things that matter to you most.” His pilot obliged, but struggled prioritizing just five career goals.  

After considering his options, he narrowed the list and circled his top five.

3.    So, he ended up with two lists—his five most important goals and the 20 other secondary goals. 

Warren asked the pilot what he believes he should do with the two lists. His pilot said, "Well, I'd primarily do the five goals on my first list, then the 20 other goals would be secondary. I'd get to them if I had time."

Warren Buffett said, "No. You've got it all wrong." Then, he told the pilot his answer.(You might be surprised by his answer. In fact, most likely it’s not the one you might expect!)

We all have goals; usually, more goals than we can handle. As we strive to accomplish more and more, our to-do list grows. Eventually, it hits a point when our list is so large and our goals are so plentiful, that we don't know where to start. In other words, we feel stuck. Many of us would attempt to prioritize the tasks, or delete or outsource the ones that don’t seem critical or important. 

But, Warren Buffett disagrees with this strategy. To him, prioritization is not the answer for managing goals. Instead of a primary list of five goals, and a secondary list of 20 goals, Buffet told him to “avoid the secondary list at all costs, throw it away, ignore them, hide them.”

And, then he said, “Do whatever you have to do to never do those 20 goals until every single one of your five most important goals are completed.”

Next time you do something, consider Warren Buffett's advice. Write down 25 goals. Choose five that matter. Eliminate the rest. 

If a task comes up, or you found something new to read, or a webinar or program to attend, ask yourself this question - Is it on my NOT to-do list? If so, eliminate it. Don't do it. In the end, you’ll make progress quicker than you ever could have imagined.

You can do anything. But not everything.
Diane Berenbaum is a long-time contributor and former editor of the MAGIC Service Newsletter. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a consultant, coach, and facilitator. Diane is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® .
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