2 min read

Tiny Thoughts: Prioritizing What to Work On

Tiny Thoughts: Prioritizing What to Work On
Photo by Chris Leipelt / Unsplash

I have a lot of interests and ideas.  I bet you do too.  And it’s great to explore new topics or activities.  But if you want to really make progress, build a business, become an expert, or produce something of value - you need to focus.  You can’t do a little bit of one thing and then switch to something else when things get hard or boring.  You need to commit to a few things for a period of time to make real progress.

There is a story about Warren Buffett and his pilot (the story may be not entirely true but the message is a great one).  The story goes that Buffett’s personal pilot was figuring out his own career goals when Buffett suggested the following exercise:

1. Write down your top 25 career goals.

2. Review this list and pick the top 5 that are most important to you.

3. Now focus on the top 5 and actively avoid the other 20 so they don’t distract you.

The idea here being that the other 20 goals are still interesting enough to you that they can seduce you into working on them but are not as important as your top 5.  You should actively avoid these because you might convince yourself they are worthwhile at the expense of your most important goals.

Of course it is great to explore new topics and certainly OK to pivot as things change in your skill-set, life, etc.  You really just want to ensure you don’t let your other interests distract from your top focus.  Especially if things are tough or feel they are getting stuck on one of your top goals, don’t pivot into a lower importance goal because you can make easy progress at the start.

I think pivoting to something new and re-prioritizing your list is a very nuanced and separate topic.  Occasionally re-assessing your path is a good thing.  But when you do it unplanned, when you pivot away from your main goal because things are tough, you may just be getting distracted by these other goals that aren’t as important to you.

Our time is precious because it is finite.  There is an opportunity cost to how you spend your time.  Focus on your most important goals and actively avoid the rest.