The 5/25 Rule

The story goes that Buffett one day approaches his pilot, Mike Flint, after realising that Flint had worked for him for the past 10 years. He wants to discuss Flint’s career goals and how he can help him achieve them.

“The fact that you’re still working for me”, Buffett jokes, “tells me I’m not doing my job.”

To map out his goals, Flint was asked by his employer to conduct a simple exercise. It would change the way he viewed his priorities forever.

The first step in this exercise was to list down 25 things that Flint wanted to accomplish in the foreseeable future. Nothing was off the table.

Secondly, Flint was to rank these items in order of importance and circle the top five. Prioritising his goals was more undoubtedly challenging than listing them, but Flint managed it.

Just when it appears as though the most challenging part of the exercise was over, Buffett asks Flint a seemingly simple question: “what are you going to do with the remaining 20 items?”

“Well the top five are my primary focus but the other twenty come in at a close second”, Flint explained. He goes on, “They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit as I’m getting through my top five. They are not as urgent but I still plan to give them dedicated effort.”

At this point, Buffett’s expression changes a little. He responds sternly:

“No. You’ve got it wrong. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”