Warren Buffett’s ‘3-step’ 5/25 strategy: How to focus and prioritize your time like a billionaire

Warren Buffett uses highly effective strategies that help him to get more done in a few months and years, than most people achieve in a lifetime.

Starting from scratch, Warren Buffett, a prolific investor and the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has built a fortune of wealth—a net worth close to $89.2 billion. [1]

Buffet’s awe inspiring investment success in a wide range of industries, alongside his modest lifestyle and consistent high level of performance over several decades, has made him a cult figure in the world of entrepreneurship and finance—“The Oracle of Omaha” is considered to be one of the greatest investors of all time.

It’s easy to attribute Buffet’s investment and business skills, or even his work ethic, to his consistent high level of success over the decades.

And although these factors play an important role in his success, there’s more to this than meets the eye.

Just like most high achievers, Warren Buffett uses highly effective strategies that help him to get more done in a few months and years, than most people achieve in a lifetime.

One of these is called the 5/25 strategy. It’s a simple 3-step process that will help you to better focus and prioritise your time on what really matters.

Here’s how it works.

Warren Buffett’s 5/25 strategy

A few years ago, before an airplane takeoff, Warren Buffett walked up to the pilot of his private jet, Mike Flint and jokingly said to him, “The fact that you’re still working for me, tells me I’m not doing my job. You should be out, going after more of your goals and dreams.”

Buffett then walked Flint through a simple, quick process to gain clarity on his priorities and achieve his goals.

Here’s the exact 3-step process (you can follow along and write these down):

Step 1: Write down your top 25 goals.

The first thing Warren Buffett asked Flint to do was to list the most important career goals he wanted to achieve in his lifetime. These would total to 25 goals.

Step 2: Draw a circle around your top 5 goals.

Once Flint compiled his list of 25 career goals, Buffett asked him to draw a circle around his top 5 most important goals. Flint was hesitant because each goal was important to him, but nevertheless, he circled five goals.

Then, Buffett asked, “Are you sure these are the absolute highest priority for you.” Flint replied, “Yes.”

Step 3: Focus on Your Top 5 Goals and Say No to the Rest

After the brief discussion, Flint said to Buffett, “Warren, these are the most important things in my life right now. I’m going to get to work on them right away. I’ll start tomorrow. Actually, no I’ll start tonight.”

Buffett replied, “but what about these other 20 things on your list that you didn’t circle? What is your plan for completing those?” Flint replied swiftly, “Well the top five are my primary focus but the other twenty come in at a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit as I’m getting through my top 5. They are not as urgent but I still plan to give them dedicated effort.”

After a brief moment of silence, Buffett looked straight into Flint’s eyes and said, “No. You’ve got it wrong Steve. 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.”

The 5/25 strategy in everyday life

Although Buffett’s advice to Flint involved career goals over his lifetime, you can apply the 5/25 strategy for better focus and prioritization of your everyday goals.

Here are some examples …

If your goal is to get fit and stay healthy.

Using the 5/25 strategy, write down your top 25 health goals i.e. to lose 20 pounds, sleep early and wake up early, stop eating junk food etc. Then, circle your top 5 health goals and focus on these only.

If your goal is to grow and scale your business.

Using the 5/25 strategy, write down your top 25 business goals i.e. to create new products and services, hire more staff, invest in marketing. Then, circle your top 5 business goals and focus on these only.

If your goal is to build meaningful relationships.

Using the 5/25 strategy, write your top 25 relationship goals i.e. spend more time with family, spend more time with friends, build business relationships etc. Then, circle your top 5 relationship goals and focus on these only.

Say no to the inessential

We have a limited amount of time and energy to achieve our goals each day. Yet, more times than not, we spread ourselves thin by chasing too many goals at the same time.

As a result, we get easily distracted, lose focus and fail to consistently follow through on our plans.

Warren Buffett’s 5/25 strategy is a simple, effective tool that will help you to focus, prioritize your most important goals and achieve consistent progress in your life.

The 5/25 strategy is a reminder that it’s not what you do, it’s what’s you don’t do, that drives your productivity and performance.

By practicing ruthless elimination—including the things you care about—and focusing on your very few, but truly important goals, you’ll consistently achieve your goals for a lifetime.

What are you choosing to say no to today? Choose wisely.

Mayo Oshin writes at MayoOshin.com, where he shares practical self-improvement ideas and proven science for better health, productivity and creativity. To get practical ideas on how to stop procrastinating and build healthy habits, you can join his free weekly newsletter here.

A version of this article originally appeared at mayooshin.com as “Warren Buffett’s “3-step” 5/25 Strategy: How to Focus and Prioritize Your Time Like a Billionaire.

Footnotes

  1. Buffet’s net worth amount is the latest figures shown on Forbes magazine.
  2. There’s different variations of the Flint and Buffett story, although this was the closest match I could find through various sources. Regardless of the exactness of the story, the philosophy and strategy of the 5/25 rule is highly effective for productive living.