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Time Leadership Not Management

I remember earlier this week, as I was scrolling through my newsfeed, I stumbled upon an interesting article on medium.com about Warren Buffett and his approach to time management. Some of the themes addressed in the piece was the idea of prioritization of your tasks, that doing less was actually more, and how controlling your instincts was at the heart of how you make wise choices in life. The lessons I discovered in this article and the impact it had felt so relevant because I was just finishing my own personal time management work for that week.

For about one year now, every week, I’ve been using former President Eisenhower’s time management Box Method, which organizes all your daily tasks into four categories, or boxes. The first is what tasks you should do now. The second, tasks you should do later. Third, tasks you should delegate to someone else. And fourth, tasks you should ignore and delete. Although this was working well for me, I noticed that my list of tasks to do now and later was starting to become monstrously long.

Tasks, such as creating more content for the show, all the way to learning foreign languages and playing the saxophone were starting to pile up. And I was beginning to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious about getting everything done. The title of the Warren Buffett piece was, “Really successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” And as I read more about it, the idea felt transformational. The author, Michael Simmons, explained that a simple assignment Warren Buffett gave his personal pilot, Michael Flint, was to first create a list of your top 25 goals that you have for the year. Then circle the top 5, and put the remaining 20 on a “avoid-at-all-costs” list. Then to spend 100% of your time focused on only your top 5 goals, at the exclusion of everything else, and not to add the remaining 20 until your top 5 had been completely, 100% accomplished.

Upon hearing this idea, I immediately went to my tasks and organized the top 25 and then the top 5. I was shocked at how hard it was to really select the top five things I wanted to do. So many choices, so many options, so many goals, and so many desires. With the act of really narrowing it down and picking my top five, I found myself getting clear on what was really important to me, as well as I felt a deep ocean of calm, peace, and poise, as I realized I can mentally let go of everything else.

So, my advice is to take leadership over your time this morning. When you start your day, I recommend that you do the same exercise that Warren did with Michael, to get clear on your top five goals in life right now, and really let go of everything else. I sense that by doing this exercise, you’ll get more done and you’ll also become clear. Sometimes, less is more, and enjoying a well-balanced, happy life is just as important as your career or anything else.

Thanks for joining me for another morning motivation segment of Innovators, where your future is now. You can listen to more episodes of Innovators on our website at c9digital.com. Thanks for joining me, your host, as always, Philip Lew, as we take you, the listener, on a journey from panic to power.


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Phillip Lew is the host of Innovators, a podcast audio experience that decodes the mysteries of exponential technology and the coming singularity. Phillip Lew is also the CEO of C9 Digital — the #1 firm specializing in building dedicated Philippines-based teams for clients across 9 core industries.

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