The Two-List system
One of the most widely distributed stories around Buffett’s productivity details his Two-List System. The process is simple:
- Make a list of your top 25 business goals. When making this list, think about everything. Your day-to-day work, your long-term goals, and where you want to be in five years. Decide what will provide the greatest ROI and what will help position the business for future growth.
- Circle your top five priorities. You should now have a clear idea of what you want your future business to look like, and have goals of varying levels of importance. But the five goals you circle should be the goals that will most enable you to realise your business vision.
- Split the list in two. Take the highlighted goals and make a new list containing them alone. The other 20 goals form the second list; these are goals that are important, but not imperative.
- Focus on the five goals that matter. This is the crux of Buffett’s method – ignore the second list and only focus on the five important goals. Buffett’s view is that by trying to do too much, you lose sight of the strategies that build your future. Prioritising five goals gives you the clarity you need to be more productive.
Understand where you want to be
Sitting down to write your top 25 business goals can be a difficult process, but the results will show where you want to be and the ways you’re going to get there. It will also let you take stock of where you are now and where improvements can be made.
Remember that while the list helps you evaluate, improve efficiency and find new ways to grow, this process should be constantly evolving. Your top goals now may not be the same a year from now.
Spend less time on things that don’t matter
Buffett’s theory rings true for all businesspeople, but small business owners particularly. Running a small business involves keeping track of a plethora of jobs that need your attention. You’re doing everything yourself or with a small team, which makes it easy to get lost in the nitty-gritty and forget the big picture.
We all know the old adage that if you want something done right, you’ve to do it yourself. But trying to do too much can result in focusing on short-term problems at the expense of a long-term strategic future. While it may seem important to make sure everything is being done to perfection, spending too much time on the minutiae can actually hurt your business in the long run.
This is where delegation comes in. If you can surround yourself with competent people who you can trust to work independently, you’ll have more time to focus on the big picture. While you need to be there for guidance, the right people will allow you to take a hands-off approach.
Delegate these smaller jobs to the rest of your team and leave those top five goals as your main priority.
Focus on the things that do matter
The goals you circle, they’re all important. They’re what are going to really help your business grow and they’re why you’re doing it all in the first place. When putting the list together, it can be easy to back off from the big goals or the ones that are difficult to achieve. However, it’s these big picture objectives that need to be aggressively worked towards.
Streamlining how you work and how your business performs as a whole, ensures you’re constantly evolving your business to be more effective, more efficient and more productive.
If you’re still not ready to dump that second list of 20, see the research showing that multitasking can be detrimental to productivity. Cutting back on multitasking is exactly what Buffett’s system aims to do.
With that in mind, it’s time to delegate, prioritise, and spend your time on those top five goals. It worked for Buffett, and there’s no reason it can’t work for you and your business.
And once you have completed your top goals? Sit down, reflect on your success and get to work on the next five.