How to Set Priorities

There are a number of strategies you can use for setting priorities.

Here are just a few:



Work out what you want

What is really important to you?

How would you like to live your life?

Would you like to be healthy and vital? Write it down.

Would you like to have more fun with your family and feel the love? Write it down.

Write down the things that are truly important to you, the things that ten years from now will make you proud.

Now is not the time to worry whether what you are writing down is feasible or not. Just write down the things that are important.

And keep in mind that if you write down ten things or more, then you are probably mixing the urgent with the important. The important cannot be more than three to five things.



Think about the things you are doing every day.

Write them down. How much time do you spend in each area? The way you spend your time is a statement of what your priorities are.

For example, wake up, eat breakfast, go to work…

Highlight the tasks that you do daily that are in line with your priorities.

For example, if you walk to the bus stop, then this step helps your health (which you mentioned in step one as important). Highlight it.

The highlighted stuff is the important stuff that you do every day. Everything else is urgent.



Assess how satisfied you are with the way you are spending your time

Next, think about the most important areas of your life (e.g., career, relationships, personal development, finances, health, fun, service etc).

Rate each area in terms of how important it is to you. Use a scale of 1-10 with 1 being “not important” and 10 being “vitally important.

Now rate how well are you living each of these areas. How satisfied are you with the amount of time that you spend on this area? Rate this on a scale of 1-10.

Look back at those areas that you rated as very important (8, 9 or 10). If there is a gap of 2 or more points between how important an area is and your satisfaction rating, chances are that you are feeling a lack of balance because there is a gap between what is important to you and what you are actually doing.



Set new priorities to start doing more of the important things in your life

Next step in reordering your priorities is to figure out what important activities are missing from your life. As you review each question, write down the activities that come to mind.

What is the most important thing in my life right now?

Where would I want to spend more time?

Where would I want to spend less time?

What areas need my attention now (e.g., school, talent, health, relationship)?

Write down your activities in the order that feels most important to you. This is your new list of priorities. When setting your priorities, choose just 2-3 to really focus on. If you have a longer list, put the others on a “someday” list to focus on later.



Run a test week.

Now that your schedule is more open, it’s time to experience the freedom of it. Try your new life for one week. See how it works out.

Maybe you will notice that you should not have delegated some stuff, but some other stuff could actually be deleted from your life.

Try this for a week to see in practice what works for you, and then make appropriate changes.

It might take you a couple of weeks to clear the clutter from your life, testing what activities should go, stay, be delegated, or better organized, but it’s worth it!



Put in your life more of the important stuff.

Now that you are firmer in what goes and what stays, it’s time to start putting the important stuff in.

Go back to step one. What is it that you want? Health? Love?

Live your priorities. Keeping things simple and focused makes it so much easier to actually live your priorities. Take time each morning to remind yourself of your priorities, and to put them into your schedule. Block off time each day for your top goals or priorities, so your life will actually reflect the priorities you set.

You don’t have to go over-the-top with this. For example, if you feel you still don’t have enough time to go to the gym for an hour, then don’t put that in your schedule.

Put in what you think is absolutely feasible, no matter how small or imperfect it seems.

The fact that you think you should be working out for five hours a week does not mean that you have to start doing this on Monday.

A more feasible, sustainable way is to start by doing something that is in the vicinity of where you are but in the direction of where you want to go.

For example, if twenty to thirty minutes of daily exercise is your plan to better health, but you are currently at point zero, then start with five minutes.

Five minutes is close to where you are (zero minutes) and in the direction of your dream (twenty to thirty minutes a day).



The ABCDE Method for Setting Priorities

Step 1:

The process of setting short-term priorities begins with a pad of paper and a pen. Whenever you feel overwhelmed by too many things to do and too little time in which to do them, sit down, take a deep breath, and list all those tasks you need to accomplish. Although there is never enough time to do everything, there is always enough time to do the most important things, and to stay with them until they are done right.

Step 2:

The best method for setting priorities on your list, once you have determined your major goals or objectives, is the A-B-C-D-E method. You place one of those letters in the margin before each of the tasks on your list before you begin.

“A” stands for “very important;” something you must do. There can be serious negative consequences if you don’t do it.

“B” stands for “important;” something you should do. This is not as important as your ‘A’ tasks. There are only minor negative consequences if it is not completed.

“C” stands for things that are “nice to do;” but which are not as important as ‘A’ or ‘B,’ tasks. There are no negative consequences for not completing it.

“D” stands for “delegate.” You can assign this task to someone else who can do the job instead of you.

“E” stands for “eliminate, whenever possible.” You should eliminate every single activity you possibly can, to free up your time.

When you use the A-B-C-D-E method, you can very easily sort out what is important and unimportant. This then will focus your time and attention on those items on your list that are most essential for you to do.



Just Say No

Once you can clearly determine the one or two things that you should be doing, above all others, just say no to all diversions and distractions and focus single-mindedly on accomplishing those priorities.

Much stress that you experience in your work life comes from working on low-priority tasks. The amazing discovery is that as soon as you start working on your highest-value activity, all your stress disappears. You feel a continuous stream of energy and enthusiasm. As you work toward the completion of something that is really important, you feel an increased sense of personal value and inner satisfaction. You experience a sensation of self-mastery and self-control. You feel calm, confident and capable.

Resolve today to set clear priorities in every area of your life, and always choose the activities that will assure you the greatest health, happiness and prosperity in the long term.