The Biggest Threat to Your Top Priorities is This

It seems you always have a lot of things to get done and never enough time to do them. Worse, some of the things you need to get done end up not getting done or at least not getting done when they should.

Why is it so hard?

One solution is to prioritize. But even then you get stretched too thin and your ambitions outstretch your capacity.

Which reminds me of a story about Warren Buffett. Everyone knows Buffett as a legendary investor, but few know that one of his greatest strengths is his ability to prioritize. It was something his personal pilot discovered when he went to Buffett for career advice. Buffett asked him to do three things. First, to write down his top 25 career goals. Next, to circle his top 5 goals. Then, to take a hard look at the goals he didn’t circle. Those, Buffett said, “… just became your avoid-at-all-cost list. No matter what, those things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”

It’s not the obvious non-priorities you need to fear. It’s the almost top priorities. Because it’s the almost top priorities that deflect your attention, diffuse your focus, and divert your time. Don’t give them some of your attention; give them none of your attention.

I recently experienced this. Once I decided to get serious about writing a book — something that had been simmering on the back burner for years — I knew I had to make it a top priority and I had to make sacrifices. The most painful sacrifices were two things I love: fitness and mountain activities. It kills me even to write that. But I know myself well enough to know that if I didn’t sacrifice those “almost top priorities” they would have simply siphoned away too much time from writing. Choosing not to do them was a constant reminder and helped me focus on what I needed to do. Write the book.

All of us have a lot of things we need to get done. Prioritize your priorities. Then, avoid the almost top priorities.

Make it happen.


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