Focus Three – A simple technique for achieving outstanding success inspired by a famous billionaire

Focus ThreeThere is a lovely story about billionaire investor Warren Buffett helping his private jet pilot transform his life by prioritising his ambitions and focusing only on his top five goals.

In summary, Buffett got his pilot to make a long list of the things he wanted to achieve with the rest of his life and once the list was complete he asked him to highlight his top five.

After some deliberation the pilot who was already highly regarded within his profession, went on to circle the five he felt most important, leaving him with two lists: List A containing the top five and List B containing all the goals that were left over.

After confirming that he would start working towards his top five goals straightaway, the pilot added that he would try to get onto the remaining goals in his spare time; to which Buffett replied sternly that under no circumstances should he ever spend any time on List B – not until he had got everything that he wanted from List A!

This story highlights a common flaw among us all, where we feel we ought to take on everything and anything that comes our way – either through fear of failure or fear of missing out.

But by trying to do everything, we end up spreading our precious time and energy too thinly across too many things, which prevents us from gaining any sort of momentum or headway.

Buffett advocates the opposite – extreme focus – and this is a key part of his success, having consciously eliminated distractions throughout his life to focus on his investment business.

Had he been distracted by other opportunities or tried to pursue too many goals, he would never have become one of the greatest investors of modern times.

Limiting your scope to the three most important things

I love this story because it gives me permission to not feel guilty about not doing all of the things on my list that I feel I ought to.

And that is regardless of whether the list is my lifetime goals, team tasks or my personal daily to-do list – because knowing that it is ok to not get everything done, allows me the breathing space to apply my time and energy towards the things that matter.

Even so, I personally think that focusing on five goals is more than I can handle and to me three is the magic number – simply because it feels more manageable without giving me brain ache and more achievable without overwhelming me.

Exercise: Use the Focus Three technique to define your most important goals

The beauty of this technique is its simplicity – just three steps. However each step really makes you think about what it is you want out of life and how you can achieve it.

So here goes:

Step 1 – Create your long-list

  • Give yourself an hour or two and find somewhere quiet and relaxing to begin writing down all the things that you want to do or achieve during your lifetime.
  • Try not to worry about making your list perfect first time round and be prepared to capture everything, even if it sounds completely crazy or unrealistic.
  • Once you have done your initial braindump, try to categorize your ideas into different themes, such as health, career, business, finances, charity, etc.

Step 2 – Select your short-list

  • After taking a break, return to your long-list and review your ideas.
  • With careful thought and consideration, select the three ideas that you think are most important to you.
  • To provide variation, consider selecting one idea per theme e.g. one idea to improve your health, another idea to improve your wealth and a final idea to improve your family life.
  • With your short-list selected, be sure to file away your long-list in a safe place, so that you can add to it in the future.

Step 3 – Create and execute your plan

  • Take each idea in your short-list and work out what the endpoint or goal is that you want to achieve from it.
  • Then decide on the key steps that will enable you to reach your goals and think about potential milestones to ensure you are on track (you may want to try the Laddering Up technique).
  • Executing on your plan means sticking to your steps and not deviating onto other things or trying to complete too many steps at once.
  • Plans also change over time and this is a good thing as we learn from our experiences and use that learning to help our progress, so ensure you take the time to regularly review and modify your plan.
  • Keep your plan on the wall next to your desk or somewhere where you’ll see it every day.

And that’s it – three simple steps to help you define and reach your life goals.

Good luck and keep focused!