According to the interwebz, Warren Buffett uses the “25/5 system” as a macro-productivity exercise. It works like this:
1. Write out a list of 25 things that are important to you, or that you’d like to complete at some point in the near future.
2. Circle the 5 most important things from that list.
3a. Allocate all resources to the undertaking/completion of those 5 things.
3b. Put the other 20 things on a not-to-do list; abandon them.
The assumption this strategy rests upon is as follows: focusing on less things that matter more is better than focusing on more things that matter less. But what if we take it further? What if we instituted another phase? Still, we begin by making a list of 25 things that we care about or would like to accomplish. Still, we choose the top 5 from that list, focus our resources on them and put the un-chosen 20 on a blacklist. But in addition to that, we choose the most important thing from the 5, and make that the first thing we do every single day. Let me give you an example.
The five things that are most important to me are meditation, reading, writing, moving, and playing. If I had to choose the most important of them, I would say meditation, if only because it’s a meta-activity whose benefits positively modify every other thing that comes in its wake. But I handle meditation as part of my morning ritual. So I’m left with four things to choose from. Which is most important? Which should I choose to tackle, first thing, every single day? Reading? Writing? Movement? Or play? The answer is simple, as much of the good in my life is a derivative of it; reading. With that in mind, I can easily formulate the outline that my every morning should have.
1st. Wake up.
2nd. Complete my morning ritual.
4th. Handle the other three things.
There’s another, simpler variation of the same exercise. I’d like you to imagine that, tonight, after you lay your head on your pillow and drift off to sleep, you will not wake up. To go to sleep is to die. Now, with that in mind, answer the following question:
What are the things you would most regret not being able to do?
Likely, you have a few answers. With them, do the same thing as above: select the single thing that you’d most lament not being able to do should you die tonight, and then change whatever needs to be changed so you can work on that thing at the start of every day.
The above tiny reflection on death, regret and prioritisation can change your life. I know, for it has changed mine. I got bogged down recently, doing this, chasing that, getting nowhere and feeling like nothing. But as soon as I realised that there was one thing that, should I die in the near future, I’d lament not being able to accomplish, it gave me a sense of clarity and energy. It helped me decline more and accept less. It compelled me to brush aside the insignificant and spend my peak hours—those before the sun rises—on the most important thing.