A Guide to Making Smart Decisions

Warren Buffet allegedly has a system for making smart decisions called the 5/25 Rule. I say allegedly because I’ve never found a primary source; it’s just one of those things that get repeated in articles and podcasts and YouTube videos, but never cited. It’s not a bad idea, though, and is worth a look.

Start by making a list of 25 things that you want to do. Call it a bucket list, if you want. I made a few variations myself. One was general life goals. Projects I want to work on is another. There’s a list of places I want to visit. Bullet journal collections are perfect for this, by the way. If you can’t immediately come up with 25 things you can revisit your lists periodically and develop them over time.

Next comes the hard part. Pick your Top 5. Don’t worry about what’s easy, or what you think is the most achievable. Narrow it down to the 5 things on the list that you want the most. Call them out. Highlight them, underline them, circle them, whatever you like. Those are the 5 you’re going to focus on.

Now ignore the other 20. Not forever. You’ve got them captured. They won’t be forgotten. It’s just that they’re going into what David Allen would call a “someday/maybe” file. Pay no attention to them until you’ve accomplished the Top 5. Otherwise, they become a distraction.

Smart Magna Cartas

This is the point where I start creating magna cartas for my Top 5. I know what I want, but what does achieving that look like? I begin to get some specificity, which leads into my turning it into a SMART magna carta. Those Top 5 are now goals, and each of those goals has the beginning of a plan.

And look, nothing is set in stone. If you’re planning a trip to Prague because it’s in your Top 5, but an opportunity to go to Paris comes up, go. Paris might be in the 20 you’re supposed to be ignoring. If you get a chance, go. The Top 5 is what you’re focusing your time, resources, and attention on. When something good falls in your lap take it. The only reason to say no would be if it blows up your plans to go to Prague.

You’re not throwing away that lower 20. They’re not abandoned dreams. All you’re doing is de-prioritizing them until you get the things you want more. Use that as incentive to achieve your Top 5 faster.


2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Have you ever heard of a MoSCoW analysis? It’s often used in software development but it could have more general applications. When deciding what you are going to do in a given project, you determine what Must be included, what Should be included, what Could be included and what Would be included (if only you had more time or other resources). If you reach the Must haves, you have a minimum viable product (MVP), but it’s probably pretty bare bones and won’t have everything the client wants yet. These added bits are the Should have, and once you get there, if there’s spare time or resources you can consider the Could have stuff, that would be nice but isn’t necessary.

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