To-Do List Exercise That Helped Build a Billion-Dollar Business

To-Do List Exercise That Helped Build a Billion-Dollar Business

Deskera Content Team
Deskera Content Team
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Warren Buffett is the third wealthiest man in the world and is considered one of the largest investors ever to live. Warren Buffett reads most of the day, keeps his calendar free most of the time, doesn’t keep a computer in his office, delegates most of his work, and doesn’t chase unproductive things. That doesn’t make him lazy, but just too focussed on his goals.

What's interesting is that Buffett accomplished success by doing less, not by doing more than his peers! Warren Buffett has worked incredibly hard and has been extremely enthusiastic about what is most important to him. It's called the focus.

Focus is what you need to build a billion-dollar business. There is a thin line between being effective and being efficient. Many entrepreneurs have lots on their to-do lists and try to effectively handle several tasks each day, but that doesn’t make them efficient. Efficient entrepreneurs guide and execute and concentrate on what doesn’t work for their business rather than on what works. This is the famous Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list.

Table of Contents

  1. What is the Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list?
  2. Why Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list is a list that shouldn't be done
  3. How to make a Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list
  4. The Relevance of Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list in the world of business
  5. Step 1 – Make your list 1
  6. Step 2 - Plan to address list 1 first
  7. Step 3 – Don’t get distracted by the Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list
  8. Step 4 -  Work smart not hard
  9. Step 5 - Avoid the haphazardness of Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list
  10. Case study 1
  11. Case Study 2
  12. Conclusion
  13. Key Takeaways

What is the Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list?

Billionaire Warren Buffett brutally prioritizes strategies in his business. The Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list has a story background:

Buffett's pilot Mike Flint once asked him how to prioritize his career goals. Buffett asked him to follow the below-mentioned steps:

Step 1: Write down the top 25 objectives on a piece of paper

Step 2: Circle the five most important and most influential goals

Step 3: Bifurcate the tasks between two lists. Write 5 goals in one list and the other 20 goals in the second list. Flint agreed that he wanted to sort the top 5 goals first and pay more attention to achieving them. But he wanted to prioritize the other 20 goals, so he said he told Buffett, meeting all these 25 goals would probably lead him towards success. The first five are the most noticeable, but the other 25 are also important, so he shouldn’t completely ignore the other 20.

Buffett gave him a BIG NO to this and explained the Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list to him.

He told Mike that he was wrong in thinking like that and that that was one of the biggest mistakes many businesses make.

He told him that list 1 – which contains his top 5 goals are his to-do list, while the remaining 20 in the sheet do are the components of his Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list.

The Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list should be avoided at all costs. He explained that these are the next set of 20 things that you will only be able to achieve when you meet the top 5. The other 20 items are on the list that shouldn't be done, no matter how important they may seem.

Why Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list is a list that shouldn't be done

The Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list (20 goals) should not be taken seriously. This list could be a threat to your ambition, or entrepreneurial importance. Meeting every goal does not show that you are serious. It may sound paradoxical but ignoring the goals on your Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list is a very effective way to increase your productivity. For this reason, your to-do task list should only include the top 5 goals, not the second level of 20 goals.

How to make a Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list

You can try doing this - Create a to-do list for tomorrow, encircle the top 3-4 tasks which should be accomplished the next day, and put the remaining in list 2.

List 1 is your to-do list for the day. The remaining items you listed on a separate piece of paper should be avoided as of now, as these tasks can distract you and hamper your accomplishment of list 1.

You can do these tasks only after you have completed the first two or three items on your to-do list.

The Relevance of Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list in the world of business

Step 1 – Make your list 1

When running a business, the goals you mention in list 1 – your top 5 priorities are the things you need to accomplish the most. These are the tasks that create the greatest value for your company and solve the biggest problems, generating the most revenue and laying the best foundation for future success.

For small and medium enterprise owners, some examples of top priority goals could be generating revenue for your main business, producing sales, maintaining low costs, making efforts to reduce requirements, or creating a robust reporting system so that employees can focus on their work rather than administrative tasks.

Step 2 - Plan to address list 1 first

Make a note of exactly what you need to complete the task and compile and arrange the list of required tools you may need. Relax and get ready to start your day with a full sprint.

Step 3 – Don’t get distracted by the Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list

All the 20 tasks which have been mentioned in list 2 are nothing else but a distraction. These should be postponed till the tasks in list 1 have been performed. Improve your productivity more by eliminating things that are scattered.

Step 4 -  Work smart not hard

You just need to work smartly to meet your goals in a short time for success. Don’t consider time-driven goals but concentrate on efficiency and productivity drive goals that can help you achieve more in less.

Step 5 - Avoid the haphazardness of Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list

You could be working hard, multi-tasking on several tasks every day, depicting your brilliance, but what if half the projects and mostly completed products bring zero results and sales. You must pay attention to detail, but if you limit the number of details, it is even better.

It is the human tendency to get distracted and to achieve it all. But this doesn’t necessarily lead to success or goal accomplishment. Expand your willpower and concentrate on your top priorities saying no to everything else that comes in between.

Imagine how much you can achieve if you put all your energy into only 20% of the important list. Imagine how fast your company can move forward if employees stop wasting time on unnecessary tasks and projects just for work. Now you can start developing your business and work as a millionaire. Everything starts with creating the first Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list.

Case study 1

Let's say George wants to start an e-commerce clothes business. If he is asked to jot down his top 25 goals for his business development, he would probably, write these down:

  1. Find capital to invest
  2. Create a budget
  3. Select a company’s name
  4. Select an entity
  5. Establish a company
  6. Purchase a domain name
  7. Set up a website, and a social media channel
  8. Get a Blogging and a business email account
  9. Determine the best delivery service, provider
  10. Select the best CRM software
  11. Get a business credit card
  12. Open a commercial bank account
  13. Submit business tax
  14. Pay for yourself
  15. Find your own office space
  16. Polish your online marketing skills
  17. Establish a strict daily/monthly schedule
  18. Decide which features to outsource
  19. Outsource and delegate your work
  20. List products
  21. Develop a brand identity
  22. Find an A / B testing tool
  23. Build partnerships with other companies
  24. Create a long-term marketing plan
  25. Launch an e-commerce site

Everything on the list makes sense but trying to do everything at once is the secret to failure. Using the Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list, George must prioritize these 25 tasks and bifurcate them into two lists.

His list 1 may contain:

  1. Establish a strict daily/monthly schedule
  2. Establish a company
  3. Polish your online marketing skills
  4. Find an A/B testing tool
  5. Create a long-term marketing plan

These are the first steps to a successful e-commerce business. Once you understand these, you can focus on the other items on the list.

Case Study 2

Next, we focus on Tim, who is an SEO consultant and works for companies' digital marketing strategies. His Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list focuses on things that he should not do or avoid being successful in his work. His list of top objectives would include:

  • Do not stress yourself
  • Don’t overwork
  • Do not take random calls
  • Do not let people waste your time with their useless conversations. Your time is very precious
  • Don’t carry your phone everywhere
  • Don’t waste your time with customers who generate low profits or are high-maintenance clients
  • Do not check emails in the morning and at night
  • Do not take a call or fix a meeting that is not on the calendar
  • Eliminate unnecessary things that take away your time

By following these rules, he can say no to distracting and disturbing things, reminding you of small achievements that you might not otherwise notice.


The concept of a Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list that should be treated as a distraction and shouldn't be done is, in theory, and is very similar to the idea in Gary Keller’s and Jay Papasan’s book The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. The book and the Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list have a similarity in that states multitasking can go in vain and may not generate results as expected.

The Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list is all about prioritizing work and avoiding distractions that can hamper your top tasks. It will only make you more successful, more at ease, and make your life easier.

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Key Takeaways

  • The secret to Warren Buffett's success is to improve your concentration and prioritize your life goals, business objectives, and daily chores
  • Instead of doing more, he recommends doing less
  • He once told the pilot that he had to do three things to reach his goal - write down his top 25 goals and then circled the top five most important. Then place the remaining 20 in list 2 and forget about them till the time goals in list 1 have been achieved
  • Ignore everything in the Warren-Buffett-not-to-do-list until you reach the top five
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