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How to Get Your Priorities Straight and Stick to Them

Sometimes it’s hard to put your priorities first instead of the things that we want to do.  It’s a beautiful day, there’s a new movie out, you want to spend time with friends; we can usually find unlimited things that we’d rather be doing than the things we are supposed to be doing.  There is usually that little voice in the back of our head reminding us of our responsibilities.  But do we listen to that voice?  Well, maybe sometimes.  But, probably not as often as we should.  The thing is, prioritizing your responsibilities before all the fun stuff actually has a greater payoff.  What’s the payoff and how do you get it?  You have to get your priorities straight and stick to them!

Where Do You Start?

The first place to start is the most obvious.  You need to identify what your priorities are.  You can even start by listing out the have-tos and the want-tos. The have-tos will be all of the things that are required to do whether it is professional duties, legal obligations (pay your taxes), or personal responsibilities.  The want-tos are all the plans, activities, and goals that aren’t necessarily have-tos but they are things that will give us personal fulfillment or enjoyment.  Once you list out those things and put them into categories you can then start rearranging your list by putting the most important things at the top of the list. Usually, these are the things with the most severe consequences or highest payoffs and then work your way down.

Rid Yourself of Non-Essentials

Do a personal and professional cleanup.  This may start when you are listing out your priorities.  You’ll find that there may have been things that you’ve been putting on your daily task list that isn’t necessary or that can be avoided altogether.  We also tend to do a lot of busy work that really doesn’t net us anything in the end.  Think about what you spend your time on.

If you aren’t using concentrated efforts to focus on your priorities then what are you doing and is it worth it?  Things that tend to take up a lot of time but aren’t important are usually items that we can cross out or skip over.  Next, start considering things that take up significant amounts of time. Determine if you can improve your current strategy.  Look for time savers, help, or changes that can make things more efficient and productive.  The goal is to work smarter, not harder.

Keep Track

A great way to find out why your priorities might not be where they should be is to keep track of what you do and even in some cases what you don’t do each day.  It’s important that you note the things that you don’t get accomplished that are important for you to accomplish.  Sometimes it is surprising how much procrastination, non-essentials, and complete avoidance we allow in our lives.  Be honest and make sure that you have a clear understanding of what is important to you.

Priorities Payoff

Finally, the good part!  The most surprising and wonderful thing about prioritizing your tasks, getting your have-to’s done, and starting with your most important tasks is that you actually end up with more time for the want-to’s.  You may not believe me at first, but once you take some time to analyze and prioritize you’ll find all sorts of different places to gain efficiency.  Also, just having those want-to’s in mind as a goal pushes you to do what needs to be done.  You’ll have your eye on the prize and the great thing is that you won’t have to feel guilty about enjoying the want-to’s when you get there.

Have more tips on setting your priorities straight? Drop them in the comments below!

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