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Naomi Rothwell-Boyd, May 21 2023

Best Way To Reorganise Your Priorities In Life And Career

Why we need to set priorities in life

Setting priorities in life is akin to setting the course for a ship. Without this navigational guidance, we may find ourselves adrift in a vast ocean, uncertain of our direction. The need to set priorities becomes more apparent as we strive for success, both personally and professionally. 

Our lives are inundated with tasks, responsibilities, and potential distractions. Setting priorities helps us manage our time effectively, allows us to focus, aids in achieving our goals, and aids in stress reduction and decision-making. It's our compass in the journey of life, pointing us towards what truly matters​.

Imagining the future, five years from today, is a powerful exercise. It allows us to create a mental image of our ideal life and lays the groundwork for setting priorities that guide us toward that vision. This is not just about where we are now, but where we want to be. Making a list of priorities, including daily tasks and even unpleasant ones, is the quickest way to reach our life goals. It's the roadmap that bridges our present with our desired future​.

Setting the right goals is an integral part of this process. SMART goals - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound - provide a framework for clarifying goals and focusing effort. They serve as the building blocks for our list of priorities​.

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Equally important is the ability to say 'no' to tasks that do not align with our goals. Saying 'no' allows us to stay focused on our most important tasks and prevents us from getting sidetracked by less important ones. If we find ourselves overwhelmed by priorities, it might be a sign that we need to learn to say 'no' more often. This is not about being unhelpful, but about acknowledging that we cannot do everything and must focus on what truly matters to us​.

Goals in life are much more than mere tasks; they represent what we aspire to achieve, reflecting our personal values and ambitions. They give us direction, make us accountable, and pave the way for our best possible lives. When based on our values, they are meaningful, and striving for something bigger than our daily grind can lead to a sense of achievement and happiness. Life goals encourage us to use our inner strengths and passions, and setting priorities is the path that leads us to these goals​.

Remember, setting priorities is not a one-time task, but a lifelong journey. It's the rudder that steers our ship towards the shore of our dreams. Embrace this journey, and watch your life transform.

How are life priorities different from goals?

Goals and priorities, although seemingly similar, play unique roles in the journey towards a fulfilling life. Goals are the desired outcomes that give us a sense of direction, much like a destination on a map. They embody what we want to achieve and where we want to go in life. Be it personal development, mastering a new skill, or enhancing mental health, goals are the milestones that we set for ourselves. They are quantifiable and often time-bound, allowing us to track our progress and stay motivated.

On the other hand, priorities are the guiding principles that help us navigate our journey towards these goals. They are the choices we make about where to focus our time and energy, based on what's most important to us at any given moment. Priorities help us to stay focused, manage our time effectively, and make decisions that align with our values and desired outcomes. They determine how we allocate our resources - time, energy, and attention - amongst the various goals we have set.

Imagine your life as a journey. Goals are the destinations you want to reach, while priorities are the routes you choose to get there. For instance, if one of your goals is to improve your physical health by losing weight, then eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep may become top priorities in your daily life. Similarly, if your goal is to cultivate healthy relationships, spending quality time with family members and loved ones may take precedence over other tasks on your to-do list.

In essence, goals are about where you want to go, while priorities are about how you get there. Both are crucial for leading a more fulfilling life and managing competing demands. Priorities help to bring order to the chaos of daily life, providing a clear sense of what needs to be done first. They are an essential part of the decision-making process, helping us to eliminate distractions, make progress towards our goals, and ultimately, live our best life.

Decide What Really Matters To You In Life

Deciding what truly matters in life is a deeply personal and profound journey that can shape the course of your future. The process of determining what is essential to you starts with setting clear priorities, which is a critical skill to master for personal and professional success. Without clear priorities, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the multitude of tasks and responsibilities we face daily, making prioritisation crucial for effective time management, focus, goal achievement, stress reduction, and decision-making​.

Your priorities should align with your long-term goals. Start by envisioning where you want to be five years from today. Create a mental picture of your ideal future, and then think about the steps you'd need to take to make it a reality. It's important to note that your past does not dictate your future; what matters is where you are going. Making a priorities list, including the daily priorities and even the unpleasant tasks, will help you reach your life goals more quickly​.

As part of this process, you must learn to say no to tasks that don't align with your goals. This will help you stay focused on your most important tasks and prevent you from getting sidetracked by less important ones. If you find yourself overwhelmed with too many priorities, it may be a sign that you need to learn to say no more often​.

Setting life goals is another essential part of determining what truly matters to you. These are more than just survival needs or short-term objectives; they drive our behaviours over the long run. Life goals provide a sense of direction, make us accountable, and help us strive for happiness and wellbeing. They allow us to commit to something, provide feedback on our progress, promote happiness when aligned with our values, and encourage us to use our strengths​.

Determining what truly matters in your life involves setting clear priorities, learning to say no to less important tasks, and establishing meaningful life goals.

Example list of priorities that are often top priorities in life

Health and Wellbeing: Prioritizing health means making choices that promote physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. This could include maintaining a balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and taking time for relaxation and stress management.

Family and Relationships: For many people, family and close relationships are a top priority. This might involve spending quality time with loved ones, providing for their needs, and working on relationship-building activities.

Career Change and Professional Growth: This could involve seeking advancement in your current job, pursuing new job opportunities, or acquiring new skills and knowledge for professional growth.

Personal Development: Some people prioritize personal growth, which might include learning new skills, pursuing hobbies, reading, or other activities that contribute to a broader understanding of the world and self-improvement.

Financial Stability: Financial stability often involves making decisions that lead to a secure financial future. This might include saving for retirement, investing wisely, or paying down debt.

Leisure and Recreation: Balancing work with play is essential for overall wellbeing. This could involve prioritizing hobbies, travel, or other activities that provide relaxation and enjoyment.

Community and Social Involvement: Many people prioritize giving back to their communities or getting involved in social causes that they care about.

Spirituality or Religion: For some, spiritual or religious practices and beliefs hold a significant place in their lives, providing a sense of purpose and guidance.

Education: For those in school or who value lifelong learning, pursuing education can be a top priority. This could involve seeking a degree or simply learning about topics of interest.

Environmental Sustainability: For some, living in a way that minimally impacts the environment is a top priority, which could include activities like recycling, composting, or reducing energy consumption.

Benefits Of Defining Your Priorities

Defining your priorities is a vital step on the path towards a more fulfilling life. It's an essential part of personal development that fosters self-awareness and provides a clear sense of direction. There are numerous benefits to this process, even though specific benefits might vary based on personal preference.

One of the most immediate benefits of defining your priorities is it provides a clear idea of what's important in your life. It helps you to focus on the most important things, thereby enabling you to make progress towards your goals more effectively. Whether your top life priorities include family members, physical health, mental well-being, or a fulfilling career, having a clearly defined list of priorities helps you to stay focused and reduce stress caused by competing demands.

Defining your priorities can improve your decision-making process. When you have a clear understanding of what matters most to you, it becomes easier to make decisions aligned with your top priorities in life. This could mean choosing to invest time in personal development, pursuing healthy relationships, or setting aside enough time for self-care.

When your actions align with your values and priorities, you're likely to experience a better mood and overall happiness. You're also more likely to live a balanced life, as defining your priorities can help you ensure that you're spending time on areas that contribute to your physical well-being, mental well-being, and personal life.

With a clear priority list, you're able to distinguish between what's urgent and what's important. This distinction is crucial to avoid getting lost in the daily grind of to-dos and to ensure you're moving towards your broader life goals.

Having clearly defined priorities can contribute to your resilience. Life can throw unexpected challenges your way, but if you have clear priorities, you'll have a framework that can guide your response to these challenges. You'll know what areas of your life you need to protect the most and where you can make compromises if needed.

Become Self-Aware and Focus on Personal Development

Becoming self-aware and focusing on personal development is a journey that involves introspection, setting goals, and continuously learning about oneself.

Self-awareness starts with understanding your thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, as well as recognising your strengths, weaknesses, and potential areas for improvement. One way to increase self-awareness is through mindfulness meditation, which can help you become more present and attentive to your thoughts and feelings. Journaling can also be beneficial, offering a space to reflect on your experiences, identify patterns in your thinking, and gain a deeper understanding of your emotional responses.

Setting goals is another crucial step in personal development. Life goals are often long-term objectives that can guide our behaviours and decisions over time. By identifying what you want to achieve, you give yourself a target to aim for and a clear direction for your actions. Goals based on personal values can be especially meaningful and can contribute to feelings of happiness and fulflment. However, just setting goals isn't enough; you also need to take actionable steps towards achieving them.

An essential part of personal development is focusing on one's priorities. Determining what is truly important and where to focus your time and energy can help you move towards your goals more effectively. You should consider where you want to be in the future and think about the steps you need to take to make it a reality. Prioritising also involves learning to say "no" to tasks that are not important or don't align with your goals. This can help you stay focused on your most important tasks and prevent you from getting sidetracked.

Remember that personal development is an ongoing process. You'll need to continuously reassess your goals, priorities, and understanding of yourself as you grow and change. It's also important to be patient with yourself and recognise that growth often comes with challenges and setbacks. But with commitment and self-awareness, you can make significant strides towards becoming the best version of yourself.

Education and learning

Ongoing education and learning are essential aspects of professional development that can greatly enhance one's career. In a rapidly evolving world characterised by technological advancements and shifting industry trends, continuous learning is not just a luxury—it's a necessity.

Firstly, continuous learning helps to keep your skills relevant and up-to-date. The knowledge and skills you acquired in school or early in your career may become obsolete or insufficient over time due to advancements in technology, changes in industry practices, or evolving market demands. By engaging in ongoing education, you can keep abreast of the latest developments in your field, which can make you more effective in your current role and more attractive to potential employers.

Ongoing education also fosters a growth mindset, a concept developed by psychologist Carol Dweck, which is the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work. Individuals with a growth mindset are more likely to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, and see effort as a pathway to mastery. This mindset can be particularly beneficial in the workplace, where challenges and setbacks are commonplace.

Continuous learning can open up new career opportunities. By expanding your knowledge base and skillset, you can become qualified for a wider range of roles within your industry. This could lead to promotions, job changes, or even a complete career shift. Moreover, the process of learning can expose you to new ideas and perspectives, which can spark creativity and innovation—traits that are highly valued in many professions.

Ongoing education also signals to employers that you are motivated, committed, and adaptable—qualities that are highly sought after in today's dynamic job market. It shows that you take initiative and have the drive to continuously improve, which can make you stand out in a competitive job market.

Making ongoing education and learning a priority can have a profound positive impact on your career. It can help you stay relevant and competitive, foster a growth mindset, open up new career opportunities, and demonstrate your commitment to personal and professional growth. Remember that learning is a lifelong journey, and by embracing this journey, you can reach new heights in your career.

Career Development

Re-evaluating your life priorities regularly is a critical practice that can significantly guide your career development. This is because setting priorities is a fundamental skill required to achieve success in both personal and professional life. It provides a clear roadmap of what truly matters, thus helping to focus your time and energy on important tasks and responsibilities​.

To begin with, it's essential to establish a clear vision of where you see yourself in the future. This vision acts as a guidepost that can inform your decisions and keep you on track toward your goals. It can involve everything from the type of work you want to do, the industry you want to be part of, to the level of responsibility and impact you aspire to have​.

Regularly re-evaluating your priorities is also beneficial because it encourages the practice of setting and achieving SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals. These goals can provide clarity and focus your efforts on what you need to do to advance your career​.

Another critical aspect of this process is learning to say no to tasks that do not align with your goals. If an opportunity does not contribute to your career development, it may be worth turning down. This way, you can concentrate on tasks that are more likely to lead to growth and advancement​.

Setting life goals and regularly reassessing them can clarify our behaviours, enable feedback, promote happiness, and encourage the use of our strengths, all of which are essential for career development. Clear life goals can direct our attention to the why, how, and what of our aspirations, thereby positively impacting our motivation.

These goals also provide a platform for feedback, allowing us to adjust our actions as needed. When our goals align with our values, they become meaningful, contributing to our happiness and wellbeing. Finally, considering what matters most to us can help us identify our strengths and passions, which can be leveraged for career success​.

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Author: Naomi Rothwell-Boyd

Naomi is the founder of Tribe And Seek and an EMCC and CIPD accredited career coach specialising in career change. 

Her career advice comes from her work alongside ex-olympic athletes supporting corporate clients like Kraft Heinz, and creating leadership courses at the Duke Of Edinburgh's Award.

She also left a previous career in international development consulting behind, where she led UK corporate fundraising at Habitat For Humanity.

Written by

Naomi Rothwell-Boyd


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