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5/25 for writers

My top ten time management tips

I’m writing a series of blog posts about my favourite time management techniques to celebrate the launch of the new edition of my book The Small Steps Guide to Goal Setting and Time Management. Each pro tip is in two parts – the first post tells you about the technique, the second applies it to the writing life – apart from this one which is in three parts!

Quick re-cap

Quick re-cap. If the fairly widely reported anecdote is right, Warren Buffett’s shared his method of goal setting with his personal pilot. It involves making a list of (maximum) 25 of your bucket-list level ambitions. Then you choose the top five, and do everything you can to actively avoid the others on the list. Get the top five done. A related time management method, from by Gary Keller, is called ‘The One Thing’ – pick the one thing that will make a difference and do that. Michael Hyatt talks about a ‘big three’, based on value-led goals, that you’ll accomplish over a week.

5/25 for writers

In the first post on this idea, I pointed out some of the problems with it (and those apply here too) and then I followed up by discussing how neurodivergent thinkers might use these Buffett-Keller-Hyatt techniques. This current post is called 5/25 for writers, because Warren Buffett’s goal setting method is oftern referred to as the 5/25 rule.

So how can writers best use this goal-setting method? It’s easier to learn this approach by doing it, so here are the first two steps. Write down your responses as you go along:

  1. Spend some time mulling over what you want to achieve as a writer. It’s a cliche, but there are no right and wrong answers, only answers that are true to you. Do you want to win the Booker or Forward prize? Become a bestselling cosy crime writer? Lead writing-as-therapy workshops? Go on – or lead – amazing writing retreats in beautiful locations? Get a play produced? Become a self-published nonfiction writer? Take as long as you like over this stage. I don’t want to achieve anything, I simply want to write is a valid response too, of course, but you probably would have stopped reading this by now if that’s what you wanted!
  2. Cross off anything that isn’t in line with your values, or that you don’t actually want to achieve anymore. Sometimes these things can hang around in our heads until we write them down, which is why this step is important. It’s ok to let them go! You can read an extract from the book on Jane Friedman’s blog where I talk about this idea in more detail.
  3. You’ll find step three below.

Everyday goals and habit goals

Have you noticed that, if you follow Warren Buffett’s advice, the 25 goals you write down will be big, lifetime goals? There are other kinds of goals, more everyday goals, not bucket-list level, that don’t get included. It might be that these are subsiduary tasks – and goals in their own right – that come under the umbrella heading of one of your bucket-list level goals. ‘Do yoga regularly’ might not be a lifetime goal, whereas ‘learn to live healthily with chronic pain’  or ‘set up a yoga and writing retreat in Goa’ might be.

As Michael Hyatt and others have pointed out, you might well have habit goals (write regularly for a year, for instance) and achievement goals (publish my third novel). It’s possible that a habit goal will contribute directly to the achievement goal. Turning up to write regularly leads to finishing a novel, for example.

You might also need to make your goals bigger. When doing the initial Buffett brainstorm, dream big! For example, instead of ‘get published’, get bigger and more specific and go for ‘become a bestselling crime writer’, if that’s what you want.

I’m pointing these things out because they affect how we approach the 5/25 rule as writers. All this means that step three is: check over your list of writing goals and decide whether some are actually part of other goals. At the same time get bigger and more specific if you can.

Now come up with a top five

So now you are ready for steps four and five. At this stage I find it’s helpful to visualise myself achieving the goal, to work out if I genuinely want to achieve it:

  • Come up with your top five writing goals.
  • Do everything you can to avoid working on anything else.

You’ll find resources, plus more on what to do next, in the previous two posts on the 5/25 rule: Buffett it and One Thing and Neurodivergent Thinking.

More soon. Until then, happy writing,

Lou xx

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