Setting Priorities: How to Keep First Things First
Years ago, I read Stephen Covey’s famed book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and the very first habit was, by far, the most important to me. Be proactive. But I also recognize that in order to be proactive AND effective, we must also learn to put first things first by setting priorities.
What You Need to Know About Setting Priorities
There is something to be said for knowing how to set priorities. Let me tell you: Doing the wrong thing well is just as counter-productive as doing nothing at all. One of the most valuable skills you can learn his how to prioritize your time. Prioritizing is not limited to making To-Do lists.
Prioritizing means figuring out which tasks will deliver the greatest results in support of your goals.
Don’t be alarmed by the word “goals.” Doing the laundry is a goal. If you set a goal to do all the laundry by noon, checking your email at 10AM is not a priority, even though it may be important and necessary. Whenever an action doesn’t directly support an active goal, that action is not a priority.
Tasks can be important and NOT be a priority. You should regularly take inventory of which tasks are important versus which tasks have the priority.
Probably the most obvious concept to remember about setting priorities is that there is no such thing as setting priorities without first setting goals. The only thing that makes an action a priority is the urgency of the need for its completion as it relates to your overall goals. You set different goals for every area of your life, so at any given time, you will have several parallel lists of tasks you want and need to accomplish at your job, for your career, financially, personally, and spiritually. And this is where things get tricky.
Each area of your life is as important as the other areas. They work together to build your life and lifestyle. Too often, we uevenly distribute our energy and other resources and we end up trying to minimize the stress that goes with running an unbalanced life. How does this imbalance manifest? We work too much or not enough; we don’t take time for spiritual enrichment; we don’t put enough energy into financial stability and end up spending more than we earn; or we pour everything we have into our families at the expense of other opportunities for growth.
Putting first things first means recognizing that your time, energy, resources and life span are finite. You only have so much to give and you only have so long to live. It is imperative that you create a plan that allows you to get the most out of the resources you invest.
Identify five core areas of your life and create a list of goals for each area. Then tailor your daily actions and activities to ensure you meet those goals within the timeframe you allot. Five good areas to start?