Post Updated on April 30, 2020
Do you struggle to get things done because everything feels important? There’s not enough time in the day to do it all, right? If you silently said yes in your head, you probably don’t have a clear idea of what your priorities are.
Without clear priorities, it’s difficult to manage your time and make progress on your goals. You might even be overwhelming yourself by trying to take on too many responsibilities.
The truth is that our ability to move forward and accomplish our goals often depends on what we decide to prioritize. Once you’re clear on your priorities, you’ll be able to make better and quicker decisions that guide your life choices.
If you’re struggling to define your top priorities in life, I’ve created a simple exercise to help you get clear on what’s important. Plus, I’ll show you the quick and easy diagram I use to define my priorities so you can do it too!
What Are Priorities?
“A priority is the concern, interest or desire that comes before all others.”vocabulary.com
Our priorities are the areas of our lives that are meaningful and important to us. They’re usually activities, practices, or relationships that we want to put genuine effort and time into.
Priorities imply that a hierarchy can be followed for different areas of your life and/or work. Rather than feeling like everything is important, priorities help you to choose what you need to focus on first.
When I figured out my top priorities, it helped me realize that I don’t have to do everything. Now when I want to tell someone no, it’s much easier to say, “That isn’t one of my priorities right now.” I don’t feel guilty for saying no, and it doesn’t feel like I’m making excuses to get out of something.
Instead of contradicting myself by prioritizing something one day and something else the other, I could finally be more disciplined with my time.
When you think of priorities, you might be picturing the day-to-day tasks you have to accomplish. You’ve probably seen the priority matrix that helps you to decide what needs to be done first.
For the sake of this post, I’m going to talk about high-level life priorities. Knowing your life priorities will ultimately help you decide how you prioritize your day-to-day tasks. You can’t do that effectively unless you know your life priorities.
The difference between priorities and goals
A reader reached out to me and asked about the difference between priorities and goals. She was trying to stay focused in school while reaching certain goals but she wasn’t sure what her goals and priorities should be.
In my opinion, goals are the bigger picture, tangible milestones that you’re trying to achieve (e.g. get a certain GPA). Priorities are the things that you need to say yes or no to in order to reach that goal.
For example, in order to get a certain GPA, your priorities would need to be studying and staying focused in class. You’d need to say no to anything that distracts you from doing that (like socializing), at least until you’d finished your studying.
Why You Need Clearly Defined Priorities
My goal every single day is to have mental clarity. When I let shiny object syndrome take over and try to prioritize all the things, I get stuck in my head and find it hard to make decisions.
I don’t want to be overridden with anxiety wondering whether I’m making the right choices in my life or not. I want to feel confident in my decisions. That’s why I think priorities are so important.
Priorities help to:
- Reduce indecision about where to dedicate my time
- Structure my day in a meaningful way
- Easily say yes or no when I get requests from others
Ultimately, priorities help you set and stick to boundaries. As you’ve probably experienced, trying to do everything on your to-do list can spread you thin and lead to burnout. I used to have a hard time saying no, but being crystal clear on my priorities has helped to make that easier.
Maybe you’re thinking, “But what if my priorities change? Won’t life get boring if I stick to the same ones all the time?” Priorities can obviously shift, and they should shift over time. But I’ve learned that in order to make progress and not get burned out, it’s important to focus on a few things at a time until they no longer serve you.
Examples of Priorities
Before I get into the how-to of setting priorities, I want to share a few examples of priorities in case you’re unsure of what they look like.
Here’s are examples of priorities you might have:
- Personal Growth
The list is endless, so it’s up to you to figure out what is most important to you.
I have both life and blog priorities. Since I work for myself, I need discipline and priorities to make sure I’m not spreading myself too thin.
My blog priorities:
1. Income generators
- contract work
- product creation
- sponsored posts
- blog posts
- weekly newsletters
- responding to emails and comments
- social media following
- email list
- blog page views
My life priorities (as of April 2020):
1. Be financially free
- make choices that help me pay off debt and build a future
- home-cooked meals
- weekly coffee dates with my mom and sister
- staying in touch with friends
Of course, my priorities will look different to yours depending on what’s going on in your life. When trying this exercise for yourself, remember to ask yourself what you’d like to focus on based on your personal needs and interests.
How to Choose your Priorities
Visualizing what you want your future to look like will help you to figure out what you need to prioritize in order to achieve your goals. Trust me, it’s not as woo-woo as you might think.
From there, you can begin defining your priorities with the following exercise:
The Life Priorities Exercise
1. Make A List
Write a list of all of the things you do on a regular basis. At the end of the list, write down the things you wish you had time for on a regular basis. Go back through the example list of priorities if you’re stuck.
2. Categorize Your List
Whatever you do or want to do on a regular basis, try to group these tasks or events into categories. For example, if you exercise and meditate daily, you could put that into an overarching ‘Wellness’ category.
3. Choose Your Life Categories
From there, choose only three categories of your life to focus on over the next 3-6 months. Ask yourself, ‘If I only focused on improving three areas of my life, which ones would I choose?’
Rather than trying to prioritize five things, the rule of three helps you narrow it down to the most important things.
4. Write Them Down
I’ve included a free printable for you to write down your top priorities so you can keep them somewhere you’ll be reminded of them often.
You can also take this method one step further and draw separate Venn diagrams for each of your priorities. That way, you can get clear on exactly what those priorities look like.
Watch the Video
Click here to watch on YouTube.
What are your top three priorities in life?
I hope this post has shown you the importance of setting priorities and how you can define yours today. Now that you know your top priorities, you’ll know exactly how you should be spending your time. As Scott Caan said, “Good things happen when you get your priorities straight.”
Don’t forget to grab a copy of priorities worksheet here!