People call Warren Buffett the Sage of Omaha for many reasons.
The secret to the Buffett’s success? If you look at how rigorously empty he keeps his calendar, you get the impression that he’s a master prioritizer — and a story we spotted on Scott Dinsmore’s productivity blog shows how we might gain that mastery.
While we haven’t confirmed the story with Buffett, it goes like this: One day Buffett went up to his pilot named Steve and jokingly said to him that “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.”
To help him with that, Buffett asked Steve to list the 25 most important things he wanted to do in his life.
Then Buffett asked that he review each goal and choose the five most crucial ones.
After considering a moment, he drew circles around five fantastic goals, confirming with Buffett that yes, indeed, they were his highest priorities.
And the rest?
“What about these other 20 things on your list that you didn’t circle?” Buffett asked. “What is your plan for completing those?”
Steve knew just what to say.
“Well, the top five are my primary focus but the other 20 come in at a close second,” the pilot said. “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.”
Buffett suddenly turned serious.
“You’ve got it wrong, Steve,” he said. “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 five.”
Here, Buffett shows that he doesn’t just understand the value of companies, but also the value of time.
Similarly, he once urged Bill Gates to keep his schedule as clear as possible, keeping himself free of the crush of requests that come to a person of Gates and Buffett’s stature.
“You’ve gotta keep control of your time,” Buffett said, “and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.”
And with figuring out your priorities — and sticking to them — you can set your own agenda. So decrees the Sage of Omaha.
Thanks to Lifehacker, where we first saw the story.