How to Set Priorities Effectively in 2021
Welcome to this post about how to set priorities effectively in 2021!
Before we start getting into the how aspects of priorities, it is important to understand the why. Why should we set priorities? Think about it: How many tasks do you have to do on a daily basis, and how many of them do you actually remember to do and get done? If your second answer is much less than the first, you’ve come to the right place!
Priorities serve a significant purpose in our life by helping us be more organized and providing a structure and flow to our daily lives. Often times, we plan on accomplishing many goals at the same time. For example, as teenagers, we have to juggle schoolwork, sports, family/friends, and maybe even businesses we own. With multiple things going on at once, it becomes hard to keep up with our responsibilities. Here is where priorities come into play.
Our abilities to move forward and accomplish our goals depend 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. Priorities help us reduce stress by not getting overwhelmed and burned out, not waste time deciding what to do, structure your day to get the most out of it, and say “no” to things that you don’t prioritize. There are many different examples of what your priorities could consist of, here are some examples of what mine include:
- Write 1 blog per week
- Manage social media (Instagram, Pinterest)
- Complete all my homework
- Maintain good grades
- Keep learning!
- Spend time with family
- Work out 5 times per week
Of course, these priorities are centered around my daily routine and habits. Everyone’s priorities are different, depending on what they enjoy and focus on. Now that you have an example of what priories look like, you can also get an idea of how to set yours up as well. But, before you do that, read on below to learn about 10 steps to take when setting your priorities! So, without further ado, here they are:
1. Collect a list of all your tasks
If you don’t know what you want to prioritize, you cannot set priorities effectively. Before you take any other step, you must first compile a list of what you want to get done. This can be over a day, a week, a month, a year, of your whole life, depending on what you want. By creating a list, it helps keep things in perspective and straightforward. As written in many of my previous blogs, it helps to write things down on paper, rather than digitally. Check out “The Importance of Writing in 2021.” Anyways, regardless of whether it is on paper or on a digital surface, having a list is very helpful.
Another thing to keep in mind is that while our priorities may change over time, it is important to stay consistent. For example, paying the bills is a priority that should and will stay on the list. “When our external environments change, our priorities may change as well. This is where determining what is truly important to you comes into play so the list can be adjusted as needed.” (minimalismmadesimple)
2. Identify urgent vs. important
The next step to set priorities effectively is to recognize what tasks are urgent and what tasks are important. Notice that they do not mean the same thing – Just because a task is urgent does not mean it is important, and if a task is important, that does not mean it is urgent. Urgent tasks are those that can have negative consequences if not finished by a specific date or time. It may seem hard to differentiate urgency from importance, but it actually isn’t once you weigh all the options you have in hand. Check to see if there are any high-priority dependencies that require you to finish now!
3. Assess value
The next step to setting priorities effectively is to assess the value of your tasks. By assessing value, you can identify what tasks carry the highest value to either your personal life or professional. As a general practice, you want to recognize exactly which types of tasks have top priority over the others.
If you are assessing value for your personal life, you must understand what you enjoy and what is best for you in the future. On the other hand, if you are assessing value for tasks that relate to your work, you should look at how many people will be impacted by your work.
4. Be flexible and adaptable
In order to set priorities effectively, you must understand that not everything is going to go according to the way you planned it. Life happens to everyone, we get it. So, when we set priorities, we must be flexible and adaptable. This means that when something changes, we can accept that and adjust accordingly. Uncertainty and change are given, so you should know that your priorities will change- often when you least expect them to. But, the trick to not letting that change our perspective is to stay focused on the tasks you are committed to completing!
5. Plan ahead
While planning ahead may seem a bit unnecessary for setting priorities, it is a major help on not only a day-to-day basis but more. Most people only plan for next day, and while that is fine, planning out your next couple of days is even more beneficial. By planning for more than the 24 hours, you can spread out your tasks and understand what tasks can be completed now vs. later. The best way to approach this tip is to end each day by focusing on what may be on the next day’s list. Setting up a list for the following day will provide a sense of getting ahead in life. This is because technically you are! You will be able to wake up the next day with some of your priorities already mapped out!
6. Think backwards
To employ the Thinking Backwards method, you need to start with a single task that you consider your top priority. For example, it might be important to you to complete a project draft by the end of the day.
So your #1 priority is “complete the project draft”. To ensure that this activity really is the most important one, start to compare it to other tasks that are also on your top priorities list. Let’s say your #2 priority for the day is to “review all the business metrics and tweak the schedule if needed”.
Thinking about the long-term rewards and the impact of each activity, compare their possible outcomes and ensure that your current #1 priority really is more important than #2 priority. There might be a team of people waiting for the next project draft. In this case, your #1 priority clearly weighs over the others.
By working backward and evaluating the potential outcome and importance of each priority, you’ll be able to avoid your gut feeling and assess what’s truly relevant to your goals.https://www.scoro.com/blog/how-to-set-priorities-guide/
7. Order tasks by estimated effort
Sometimes, it may seem like two tasks are equal and have the same priority standing. When this happens, you can order tasks by the estimated effort it will take to complete them. Productivity experts suggest starting with the lengthier task first. But, if you feel like you can’t focus on your bigger projects before you finish up the shorter task, then go with your gut and do that. Getting started on the harder task first will not only be a relief but help in addressing the rest of the tasks at hand. All of the easier tasks will be short-lived and get completed without much thought behind them. This is because these priorities are ones we know can go without fault. Find the system that works best for you so that you can get going and complete them!
8. Create a timeline
It is important to build a timeline for certain priorities, especially long term ones like payments or bills. Building a timeline or structuring these priorities helps to relieve the stress of feeling pressured to get them completed. In uncertain times or any time at all, feeling rushed amplifies the priority list for us. Some people can work under pressure but most of us cannot. Knowing a mapped out timeline of how to approach certain priorities will give light on those rushed feelings.https://www.minimalismmadesimple.com/home/priorities-in-life/
By having a timeline in front of you, you can feel at ease by knowing that you don’t have to do too many tasks at once. A timeline lays the foundation of prioritizing so that you can maximize your time and productivity.
9. Limit distractions
Prioritizing is all about doing “first things first.” It is about completing tasks that are organized and ranked by urgency and importance. And, it is about focusing and grinding on our work. However, with distractions, doing all of that can get super hard, especially as teenagers. For example, even just one notification on our phone will lead to spending the next few hours with your eyes glued to the screen. And, by spending that time on your phone, you forgot to focus on your priorities and get work done.
So, by limiting our distractions around us, we can focus on what really matters instead of being tempted to do something else. To help with that, you should turn off notifications on your phone, lessen the tabs you hold on your computer, and organize your room.
10. Do not overwhelm yourself
The last thing you want to do when setting priorities effectively is overwhelming yourself, as this only makes matters worse. Understand that you probably can’t get to everything on your list, and that’s fine. The key to keeping this list manageable is, of course, being realistic and honest about the list, but also keeping it simple. Focus on the tasks you know you can accomplish and finish by the end of the day. At the end of the day, you want to feel like you’ve made progress by crossing off the important tasks you wanted to get done. It takes patience and determination, and these two qualities come with time.
Priorities are an important part of life, as they help us not only remember what’s important on a day-to-day basis, but also our life commitments. Whether or not we are aware of it, we all have priorities, regardless of whether it is written down on paper or not. With the stress and strains of life and work, having priorities will be a massive relief for us. With them, we know what we have to work on so that we can grind and crush our day! The ten steps it takes to set priorities are:
- Collect a list of all your tasks
- Identify urgent vs. important
- Assess value
- Be flexible and adaptable
- Plan ahead
- Think backwards
- Order tasks by estimated effort
- Create a timeline
- Limit distractions
- Do not overwhelm yourself
Along with this, priorities do not have to specifically be just for your professional work, as it is also very crucial to set your life priorities. Examples of this include spending time with friends, maintaining your health, being happy, and more. Your priorities are up to you, as it is your life and what you want to do. While most of them will differ from others, there will be some common threads that connect. As Scott Caan said, “Good things happen when you get your priorities straight.”
For more information, I highly recommend checking out the book, “Take Back Your Time: Identify Your Priorities, Decrease Stress, and Increase Productivity.” Along with this, be sure to watch this video on how to choose real priorities. Last but not least, check out our our self-improvement blog on how to achieve your goals in 2021!
You now have all the resources you need to start not only setting, but also to start working on your priorities. So, what are you waiting for? Good luck!
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