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Warren Buffett’s top productivity trick: The 25-5 Rule

Warren Buffett, the legendary investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is known for his incredible success and wealth. However, one of his most profound contributions to the business world might be his approach to productivity. In various discussions, including interviews and public speeches, his friend Bill Gates has revealed a key productivity hack used by Buffett that is both simple and transformative.

This hack, often referred to as the “25-5 Rule,” is a straightforward method for prioritising tasks and staying focused on what truly matters.

Origin of the 25-5 rule

The story of the 25-5 Rule dates back to a conversation between Warren Buffett and his personal pilot, Mike Flint. Flint had been working for Buffett for a decade and wanted advice on how to better manage his career goals. Buffett suggested a three-step exercise:

List your top 25 goals

Flint was asked to write down his top 25 career goals. This could include anything from business aspirations to personal achievements.

Circle your top 5

Next, Buffett instructed Flint to review his list and circle the five most important goals. These were the goals that Flint deemed most critical to his success and happiness.

Avoid the other 20

Finally, Buffett emphasised that the remaining 20 goals were not merely less important—they were to be actively avoided until the top five were achieved. These lesser goals, while still significant, were distractions that could prevent Flint from achieving his most important objectives.

Bill Gates on the power of focus

Bill Gates, a close friend of Buffett, has often spoken about the impact this advice had on him. Gates, known for his rigorous work ethic and innovation at Microsoft, has highlighted how Buffett’s simple yet effective approach to prioritisation has influenced his own methods.

In a post on Threads, Bill Gates shared an article titled “How to be Less Busy and Happier” by The Atlantic, stating, “It took far too long for me to realise that you don’t have to fill every second of your schedule to be successful.” He added, “In hindsight, it’s a lesson I could have learned a lot sooner had I taken more peeks at Warren Buffett’s intentionally light calendar.” This sentiment echoes a previous interview with Bloomberg where Gates, sitting beside Buffett, marvelled at the emptiness of Buffett’s calendar compared to his packed schedule. “I remember Warren showing me his calendar. You know, I had every minute packed, and I thought that was the only way you could do things,” Gates remarked.

Warren Buffett's Productivity Hack Revealed by Bill Gates

According to Gates, the essence of Buffett’s productivity hack lies in its ruthless focus. By identifying and committing to a handful of critical goals, one can eliminate distractions and ensure that time and resources are devoted to what truly matters.

Practical application of the 25-5 Rule

For many professionals, the challenge is not identifying important goals but maintaining focus in a world full of distractions. Here’s how you can apply Buffett’s 25-5 Rule to your own life:

Create your list

Begin by listing your top 25 goals. This exercise alone can be enlightening, as it forces you to consider what you truly want to achieve.

Prioritise ruthlessly

Out of the 25, select the five most important goals. These should be the ones that align most closely with your long-term vision and values.

Commit to your top 5

Devote your energy, time, and resources to these top five goals. Make a plan for how you will achieve each one, setting milestones and deadlines.

Avoid the temptation of the remaining 20

This step is crucial. The other 20 goals, while important, should not take up your focus. They are potential distractions that can dilute your efforts and impede progress on your top five goals.

Review and adjust

Periodically review your goals to ensure they still align with your overarching objectives. Adjust your top five as necessary, but always maintain a clear focus.

Benefits of the 25-5 rule

Increased clarity: By identifying your top five goals, you gain clarity on what truly matters, helping you to make better decisions.

Enhanced focus: Concentrating on a few key goals helps you to avoid distractions and maintain a laser-like focus on your most important objectives.

Better resource allocation: With clear priorities, you can allocate your time, energy, and resources more effectively, increasing your chances of success.

Reduced stress: Knowing that you are working on what is most important can reduce the stress that comes from feeling overwhelmed by too many competing demands.

Warren Buffett’s productivity hack, as revealed by Bill Gates, offers a simple yet powerful method for achieving success. The 25-5 Rule encourages ruthless prioritisation and focus, enabling individuals to concentrate on what truly matters and avoid the distractions that can impede progress. By applying this rule, you can enhance your productivity, achieve your most important goals, and ultimately lead a more focused and fulfilling life.

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