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  • Yas Ahmad

How to say “No” based on Warren Buffet’s priority exercise.

Updated: Sep 10, 2022

Owen Choi our Tech TA Lead has put an agenda topic in our monthly TA leads meeting. The agenda:

“More of a reminder, we've seen a huge amount of change in Tech TA and TA in general in the past few weeks. I've been critical of meetings and invites and relentless prioritisation. Feel free to question people and necessity to ensure you have time to work and spread this to your teams.”

It’s a great reminder and I wanted to share this with the wider team. This exercise by Warren Buffett can help us. It is a 3-step exercise for establishing priorities:


  1. Make a List: Write down your top-25 priorities on a piece of paper. I personally find it hard to come up with 25, so I've done the exercise with 10 in the past. Basically, just write down all of your professional priorities.

  2. Narrow the List: Go through the first list and circle only the top 3-5 items. These should be the absolute top priorities in your professional life. These are the items that will have the greatest impact on your trajectory—the compounders. These are the items that TRULY matter.

  3. Split the Lists: Write down the top 3-5 priorities on one list. This is your focus list. Write down the other items on another list. This is now your "avoid-at-all-costs" list.


The idea here is that it is impossible to have more than 3-5 core priorities. By separating the list into "Priorities" and "Avoid-At-All-Costs" we create a very clear red line that separates our Yes and No.


This is your first line of defense: When new opportunities arise, pull out your list and make a quick assessment of whether it falls into one of your priorities or if it should be avoided at all costs.


This forced elimination breeds focus. I first heard about this from the Curiosity Chronicles Newsletter. It's definitely worth following.


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