Gates is also quick to acknowledge Buffett as a teacher whose life wisdom has made a huge impact on his life. Gates learned from Buffett long ago to jealously protect the precious commodity of time.
The lesson passed from Buffett to Gates
Acknowledging one of Buffett's greatest strengths, Gates, the second-richest person on the planet, gives Buffett, the fifth richest, full credit for one basic life lesson that has led to his own success:
"No matter how much money you have, you can't buy more time," writes Gates. "There are only 24 hours in everyone's day. Warren has a keen sense of this. He doesn't let his calendar get filled up with useless meetings."
Setting the right priorities creates margin for Buffett to spend more time with his close advisers and the people who matter most to him, like Gates. "He's very generous with his time for the people he trusts. He gives his close advisers at Berkshire his phone number, and they can just call him up and he'll answer the phone," says Gates.
This takes focusing intently on what is essential for you, and your business, and blocking out distracting ideas, information, and opinions. The question to always ask in the course of your day is: "Is this important right now?"
To truly understand how valuable your time is, start by assessing your meetings. Useless meetings are certainly one obstacle in the path of being focused and making the most of your day.
And successful people, like Buffett and Gates, are keenly aware of centering their whole day around the things that matter the most. They manage themselves extremely well in order to manage their time to focus on that "one thing."
A few ways to practice a one-track mind to achieving intentional focus may include:
1. Following a predictable routine.
When you come into the office, your first priority of the day should be to avoid jumping into your email. Because once you open your inbox, game over. You'll be sucked into a whirlpool of others' needs and having to put out fires.
Instead, map out the first 30 to 60 minutes of your morning to a planning ritual that you can follow daily. Ask yourself, "What do I need to do to start the day well," and, "How much time should I allocate to each task?"
2. Keeping things simple.
Simplicity is a powerful approach to work. But simple can actually be harder than complex because it forces your mind to focus on your end goal. Conversely, juggling too many complex things that disrupt your flow -- whether more meetings or more strategies -- is a sign that you've taken your eyes off the ball. Instead of letting your day be ruled by unnecessary, complex distractions, pare things down by mastering a simple and smooth rhythm to your day.
3. Training your brain to say no.
According to research by Morten Hansen, a professor at UC Berkeley and the author of Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More, learning to say no allows you to minimize your obligations and attain greater focus. Consequently, not saying no may lead one to experience stress, burnout, and even depression.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was a disciple of this life principle. He once said, "People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done."