Warren Buffet’s “2 List” Time Management Strategy

Warren Buffet’s “2 List” Time Management Strategy

With a net worth of 71.4 billion, Warren Buffett is the second richest man in America (only behind Bill Gates).

Given his success, both professionally and philanthropically, there’s no argument that this man knows how to manage his time effectively.

I read an article not too long ago on James Clear’s blog that explains how he has been able to achieve as much as he has.

He uses a simple 3-step strategy.

Step 1: Write down your top 25 career goals. (These can also be goals that you wish to complete on a shorter timeline — like 25 things you wish to accomplish this year, or even this month — and they also don’t have to be limited to career goals).

Step 2: Review your list and circle your top 5 goals. (If you’re following along at home, pause right now and do these first two steps before reading step 3).

Step 3: You should now have two lists: the 5 things you circled are List A, and the 20 things that you didn’t circle are List B. List B is now your Avoid-At-All-Cost List. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.

Eliminate ALL Distractions

Before reading about this 3-step strategy, I had this thing called an Impossible List, which is a cool variation to a bucket list.

Basically, while a bucket list is full of dreams and aspirations you hope to achieve someday, the impossible list is something you actively live out and work towards everyday. Rather than waiting until you’re on your deathbed, the impossible list forces you to start taking action now. This is good.

But the problem with an impossible list, for me at least, was that I had a hard time focusing on my priorities.

Everything on my impossible list was something that I cared about, or I wouldn’t have put it on there in the first place. But that was the issue — I wanted to do it ALL.

Unfortunately, as David Allen, creator of the Getting Things Done (GTD) time management method, says:

“You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” – Tweet This

It’s easy to recognize and eliminate (or at least minimize) the obvious distractions, like TV and social media. It’s not so easy to eliminate things that are important to you — things that you might consider “second priority items”—when you don’t even recognize them as distractions in the first place.

But if they’re not the MOST important things, that’s exactly what they are—distractions.

James Clear brings up a good point when he says that “even neutral behaviors aren’t really neutral. They take up time, energy, and space that could be put toward better behaviors or more important tasks.”

Anything that’s not directly helping you achieve your most important goals is, directly or indirectly, preventing you from achieving those goals.

So take some time to figure out what your top 5 goals are, focus on those, and stop wasting time on everything else.

Image Source: Flickr: Time is Money

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Stefano Ganddini

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  • Matt

    What if you have less than 25 things?

  • KJ

    Awesome blog, just discovered it a few days ago from Reddit!

    Quick question about this is how did you reconcile your Impossible List with your 2-List system?
    Was the 2-List system just a way of prioritizing your Impossible List or did you end up doing away with the Impossible List?

    • All I’m focusing on right now are my top 5 goals. Everything on my impossible list (that’s not on my top 5), is essentially a part of my avoid-at-all cost list.

      • KJ

        Thanks for the follow up!

        How long term is your top 5 goals? I’m curious since a lot of the things on my B-list are things I do want to accomplish (getting fit, etc) but there are things on my A-list that are highly important to me that may not take me years to achieve.

        • Good question.

          My answer: Not that long-term. All of my top 5 goals are achievable within 6 months, or less.

          For example, one of my goals is to write and give away a free eBook to my subscribers. This is a pretty short-term goal that I hope to finish by the end of the month.

          Another one of my goals is to reach 1,000 subscribers on this blog. This one is a little bit out of my control and harder to predict how long it will take, but if my subscriber rates continue at their current rate I should be able to reach it by May.

          I also have a goal of going backpacking in Europe immediately after graduating. There are a lot of factors that make this a difficult goal (money, timing, planning, etc), but by putting it on my top 5, I am committed to making it happen, one way or another.

          I hope this helps.

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