How to Use Warren Buffett's 5/25 Rule to Advance Your Career

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Valerie L. Sizelove375
Freelance writer, mom of four.
April 23, 2024 at 6:30PM UTC
Are there things you’ve been dreaming about for years? Perhaps your eyes are set on a big promotion, landing a job in the perfect location or earning a set amount of money. Maybe you’re someone who is so overwhelmed, you can’t even begin to think about goals.
Effective goal setting is a difficult process, but it’s essential if you want to achieve your dreams. The 5/25 rule by Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, offers an easy way for you to identify and work toward your most important goals.

What is the 5/25 rule?

The 5/25 rule is an exercise Warren Buffett used to help his pilot of 10 years, Mike Flint, identify his own career goals. Apparently, Buffett was concerned that Flint had worked for him so many years. He felt that Flint should instead be growing in his career, following his dreams. So, he approached Flint and showed him the 5/25 rule.
It’s a three-step process that anyone can use to focus on career, health, home or any other area of life. When you’re done, you will have narrowed down your most important goals and learned the key to achieving them. Here’s how to use this goal-setting exercise in your own life:

Step one:

Write down 25 long-term goals. You can also write down 25 goals you want to achieve within a week, or even a day.

Step two:

Look over your list while determining the urgency and importance of each goal. Circle the top five goals that you feel must be achieved.

Step three:

Now, you should have a circled list of your top five goals and another list of 20 that didn’t make the cut. According to Flint, Buffett said you need to put all your time and energy into those top five goals while avoiding the other 20 at all costs.
When we focus on too many things at once, we’re unable to truly master each thing. The less important goals take precious energy away from the very important goals, making them feel drawn-out and unattainable.
This isn’t an easy fix to solve all your problems. It’s meant to help you identify your important goals and invest all your energy into them. There may be other important goals on the list that didn’t make the top five. That’s OK. If you keep up with this process, you will eventually get to those goals too.

How to apply it in your life.

Coming from a successful businessman who’s achieved many of his goals, the process makes sense when you think about it. The other 20 things on your list serve as distractions from the main things you want to accomplish. By instead focusing all that energy just on your top five goals, you will eventually reach them. Eliminating outside distractions allows us to zone into the important goals at hand. It’s then that we’re more likely to reach them.
The 5/25 rule is primarily viewed in the context of career, but you could adapt the 5/25 rule to cover any area in your life, such as fitness, finance, career or home. Here are some examples of times you might want to try using the 5/25 rule.

When choosing a job after college.

Write down the top 25 jobs you’d consider. Go through your list to find the five careers you feel strongest about. These five careers will be the sole focus of your job search. This way, you’re likelier to land a job you really want instead of wasting your time applying to unimportant ones.

When choosing priorities in your current career.

Start by identifying 25 tasks you feel are important to work performance. Then, identify and circle the top five tasks of the utmost importance. This will give you an idea of where to focus your efforts, ensuring you’re completing your most important tasks.

When organizing your home.

Everyone’s doing it (thanks, Marie Kondo!). Organizing and decluttering your home is the newest big thing. But if you’re like me, taking one look at your home makes it feel like a huge mountain to climb. Use the 5/25 rule. Write down 25 tasks you think are important in achieving your decluttered home. Choose just the top five, and get going. You will feel successful when you see how much those top 5 tasks really made a dent.

The 5/25 lesson.

This method won’t solve everything. You may need to reach out and find more resources on how to set goals and how to effectively minimize distractions.
However, the most important lesson you can learn from the 5/25 rule is the value of focus. Focusing on a few things at a time means you devote more time and energy to those things, giving them the attention they deserve. Once you complete those first five goals, you’ll no doubt feel more successful.

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