Critical tools for setting priorities so you can get everything done

Critical tools for setting priorities

Here’s this week’s Q&A:

“When I get really busy at home and at work, everything seems important and I don’t know where to start. How do I prioritize my tasks?”

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all of your daily tasks, especially with all of the distractions from technology, interruptions from colleagues and family members, and new responsibilities arriving all the time.

You can determine what’s a high priority and what’s not by answering these three critical questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What do I want?
  3. How am I going to get it?


Before you can know what’s most important, you need to know exactly what you want and where you’re headed. What may be a personal priority for others—like buying a brand new car or going to grad school—may not be a priority for you. Or, at work, you may want to focus on your manager’s priorities if you want a good review and a promotion.

Here are some additional guidelines to help you determine your priorities:

1. Build a strong house.

The values you have make up your foundation, and the activities you pursue—like being responsible, spending time with your family, and being a good friend—are your pillars that support the roof. Without a solid foundation and strong pillars, your house will collapse.

First, remind yourself of your values. This may seem basic, but countless people don’t actually live by their values.

Second, understand what your most important load-bearing pillars are. For example, your pillars might be finances, health, relationships, and so on. Decide for yourself which are the most important pillars keeping up your roof.

2. Take care of the foundation and the pillars.

With the foundation and pillars in place, you must now maintain them. Start by minimizing activities that weaken your foundation and pillars.

If you declare that health is a central value to you, then two of the pillars must be nutrition and exercise. But if your lifestyle includes two six-packs of beer every day, over time your house will start to weaken.

Essential priorities include nutrition, exercise, sleep, relationships (including the one with yourself), spirituality, and earning a living (hopefully by doing something you love). So much of the structure of your house depends on these things. When you fail to take care of them, you get sick, you feel emotionally vulnerable, you strain relationships, and you put at risk your ability to make money.

How would it feel if the people closest to you were suffering because you didn’t take care of these priorities?

3. Make most of your decisions with the foundation and pillars in mind.

This is all about making responsible choices. If you really want the life you dream of, then you need to be willing to do what it takes to get it, even when it’s hard, inconvenient, or doesn’t seem like much fun.

If one of your pillars is being debt-free, then buying something you want but don’t need may not be the best decision for you. If one of your pillars is health, then it’s not smart to stay up late watching TV when you know you need the rest.

It can be easy to commit to your values and pillars when it’s quiet and there’s nothing competing for your time and attention. To stay on track, deal with distractions, and improve your ability to say no to people, I recommend deciding in advance how you’ll handle these situations.

Knowing who you are and what you want is hugely important in so many aspects of your life. You need to ensure you’ve really thought about these things as you build your plan for getting where you want to go—they’ll provide you with the ability to focus on what will take you there.


About Joe Serio

Dr. Joe Serio is a keynote speaker, trainer, and author who helps the people in your organization navigate resistance to change so they can move forward successfully.

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