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Goal Getting

How to Use the 5/25 Rule to Successfully Win at Life

Written by Leon Ho
Founder & CEO of Lifehack
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Sitting down and setting your life goals can be exciting and motivating. It gives us purpose, sets clear intention, makes us feel productive and creates the feeling of moving forward.

But have you ever started out making a mental or physical list of your goals only to end up with quite a few? Then when you start acting on them, they either end up cast aside or only half achieved? Having goals has been drummed into us from an early age but are having all these goals actually hindering us?

The 5/25 rule solves the problem of having so many goals. It is a tool that you can use to prioritize your goals so that you can realistically focus your efforts and succeed.

The 5/25 rule was previously linked to Warren Buffett, but the immensely successful American businessman and philanthropist recently denied coining this rule.[1] Buffet may not have created this rule, but it is still useful as a tool for clarifying and refocusing your goals. [2]

How to Follow the 5/25 Rule

The success of the 5/25 rule comes down to eliminating, sometimes important goals, in order to focus on the few that will truly bring the success we desire.

Creating Your List

The 5/25 Rule can be broken down as follows:

  1. Write down a list of your top 25 professional goals.
  2. Mark the 5 most important goals that you feel are most important.
  3. Make the remaining 20 goals into separate list and hang onto it! (We’ll come back to it later)

Note for step 2 that these 5 goals will be the most urgent goals to focus on. Carefully choose the goals that are most directly linked to your overall success.

Let’s Look at an Example:

Carla works for a tutoring company that serves as an after school program for middle school kids. She’s been with the company for 4 years and has a Bachelor’s degree in English.

Carla has many ideas about what she wants to do for her success and for her community, but she wants to focus on moving up to a managerial position in the company for more financial and professional security.

She decides to use the 5/25 rule to help her organize her goals.

Carla’s Step 1: List Top 25 Professional Goals

  1. Learn new social media editing software
  2. Research Master’s in Business Administration programs
  3. Spearhead food drive for soup kitchen
  4. Spearhead outreach program for schools in rural areas
  5. Spearhead mural project for local schools
  6. Shadow weekly manager meetings
  7. Attend yearly conferences for educational leadership
  8. Take online training course for new standardized tests
  9. Revamp tutor training curriculum
  10. Overhaul attention analytics system
  11. Plan successful New Year’s Party for staff
  12. Learn new editing program
  13. Organized school supply drive for surrounding schools
  14. Revamp social media campaign
  15. Organize book drive for current students
  16. Revamp survey collections from parents and students
  17. Revamp employee evaluation forms
  18. Spearhead revamped employee checkin meetings
  19. Take training course for online learning
  20. Revamp summer reading program
  21. Surpass last year’s overall student reading improvement rate
  22. Spearhead mixing individual and group tutoring program
  23. Recruit new math specialist
  24. Spearhead new science courses
  25. Take certification course in teaching math

Carla considers how her company offers pay incentives for employees who attain higher education. She also observes that managers in higher positions tend to be chosen for their initiative in increasing recruitment and retention of middle school students.

With this in mind, she moves onto Step 2.

Carla’s Step 2: Choose 5 Goals

  • Research Master’s in Business Administration programs
  • Spearhead outreach program for schools in rural areas
  • Overhaul retention analytics system
  • Spearhead social media campaign
  • Revamp survey collections from parents and students

Carla now has two separate lists – the list of 5 goals and the list of 20 remaining goals.

Carla’s Step 3: Focus

Carla decides that she will focus primarily on her top 5 and work towards the other 20 when she could find the time.

But let’s stop right there. Remember, the success of the 5/25 rule is to eliminate goals that will not directly help us achieve overall success.


Carla should really focus solely on the top 5.

Why? Because that list of 20 is essentially a distraction.

Average People Don’t Know They Should Avoid Seemingly Important Things

The reason we often never succeed with our goals is that we don’t prioritize and focus. While everything may seem important at the time, the 5/25 rule helps us zone in and focus on what will truly help us excel and get us to where we want to be.

It’s human to get demotivated and distracted -–two feelings that can be the death of our goals. The bigger the list of goals we have, the more chance there is to give up and move on to the next one in the hope that this one will succeed.

According to research, people often tend to set unattainable goals. When setting these goals, we often times don’t set measurements in achieving our goal and tend to become overconfident when the goal is set to match our self-esteem.[3]

It’s not to say that we can’t reach for big goals, but instead it’s about being strategic. The 5/25 rule is one method to help.


Make Sure You Keep the “Avoid-at-All-Cost List”

Minimizing has become a hot topic when it comes to living the best life we can, and this also applies to our life goals. Like our material possessions, it can be hard to make a decision to throw certain goals out of the window when they feel important to us. But the process itself allows us to work out our priorities and what’s truly important.

Instead of throwing the list of 20 away completely, label this your avoid-at-all-costs list to serve as a reminder of what not to focus on.

This is the list that will decrease your time and focus and, ultimately your success. In other words, if you start working on this list you are in danger of having 20 half-finished goals instead of 5 completed ones.

Avoid Keeping Goals Because of FOMO

Sometimes letting go of goals leads to FOMO also known as the fear of missing out. When we hang onto goals because of FOMO, this itself can lead to procrastination, stress, and spreading ourselves too thin trying to accomplish everything without a honed in focus.

When we let certain goals go, our focus is more centered. Sometimes, it’s not the right time to pursue something whether it be moving to another country or starting a business. By using the 5/25 method, these five most important goals can take you to where you want to go.

Even focusing on the smaller list at hand, these goals may take a vast amount of time, commitment, and energy to accomplish. Learning a new language or getting a master’s degree are both challenging and rewarding goals that open up professional and personal growth.


Final Thoughts

Whatever your top 5 goals are, whether you want to learn a new language or skill, or work towards a particular career goal, make a conscious effort to stick to these. Keep motivated to achieve these goals, and don’t wander onto your second list. Remember, your time investment is key to success, and this time will be compromised the more goals you take on.

Get the success you want: prioritize efficiently, focus intently, and stick to it.


Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

How to Use the 5/25 Rule to Successfully Win at Life

The 5/25 rule is a tool that you can use to prioritize your goals so that you can realistically focus your efforts and succeed.

The rule says to narrow down a list of your top 25 goals to 5 that truly speaks to you.

Keep a list of the other 20 goals as reminders that these goals are distractions from your true goal.

Remember: the success of the 5/25 rule comes down to eliminating, sometimes important goals, in order to focus on the few that will truly bring the success we desire.

Featured photo credit: Danny Howe via unsplash.com


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