If you’ve read anything about time management and productivity, you’ve probably come across the words priority and prioritization. These words are used in our everyday language and are understood by the general population. For example, you might read sports articles about how the Dallas Cowboys made it a priority to beef up the offensive line of their football team, and you didn’t need to get a dictionary to look up the word priority; you understood what was being expressed, even if you have no idea what an offensive line is.
Yet when it comes to time management, prioritization can be a difficult concept for many people to grasp and implement. If that’s the case for you, here’s some information that will help you to understand not only the importance and benefits of determining priorities but also how to identify your own priorities.
The definition of priority
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, priority means:
superiority in rank, position, or privilege
a preferential rating
something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives
When you apply the word priority to time management, you’re:
comparing competing pulls on or requests of your time
evaluating which pulls are of greater or lesser importance and/or of greater or lesser value
determining which pulls or requests you’ll allow your time to be spent on
identifying the order in which to spend your time on these pulls/requests
Importance of priorities
Identifying priorities is key to all decision-making regarding your use of time. Determining your overall professional and personal goals, the objectives you need to meet in order to achieve your goals, as well as what you should (priorities) or should not spend time on in order to meet your objectives will guide you in both strategic planning and situational decisions.
You have probably heard the saying that “if everything is a priority then nothing is a priority.” If our brains are unable to identify what the priority is in a situation, we tend to default to the easiest action to take – which is usually not what’s best for the situation and can include taking no action at all.
When you’ve pinpointed your priorities, this will not only help you to better focus throughout the day but will also help you re-focus more quickly if something unexpected happens and knocks you off track.
Having your list of strategic and daily priorities in front of you also helps you to respond instead of react. When we haven’t identified our priorities, we tend to be reactionary and hastily answer or work on task requests in the order they were received, which is usually not in the order of priorities.
Establishing your priorities will also help you protect your time, which is a vital component of time management.
Benefits of prioritization
As humans, we operate first based on emotions. This is why so many of us tend to operate in a reactionary manner – because we instantly want to please ourselves or others or both, or avoid negative emotions such as pain or conflict. This is how we end up completing actions that are low-hanging fruit instead of making progress toward our goals. We secondarily operate based on logic.
When we reach this higher level of reasoning, we are able to prioritize. When questions, demands, or requests come your way, if you grasp the concept of prioritization, you can progress beyond emotional and transition to logical decision-making, which allows you to make better decisions about how you use your time. You can glance at your list of strategic and daily priorities to help you triage whether or not this is something you need to respond to immediately or at a later time, or whether or not you should even be involved.
When you implement prioritization, you are crystal clear about what you want to accomplish and why. You understand the importance of comparing your options: what is more important and less important, what is of greater value and lesser value. You will tend to say yes to only the most important commitments, not allow yourself to become overscheduled, and will live a much more fulfilling, productive life, instead of just a busy one.
Additionally, when you understand the concept of prioritization, you can apply this beyond time management. This skill can benefit you in other parts of your life such as relationships and finance. When you understand how to prioritize, it means you understand how to examine different perspectives of a situation, determine what all of the options are, weigh the pros and cons of each, and determine not only what the best steps to take are in order to reach your goals, but also what will be missteps that will prevent you from reaching your objective.
How to set priorities
For determining your personal priorities, ask yourself these questions:
*Who are the most important people in your life? Why?
*What beliefs are most important to you to uphold and live by? Why?
*What activities bring you the most joy and fulfillment? Why?
*When a loved one reads a brief paragraph at your funeral about the type of person you were and what you accomplished in your life, what do you want them to say?
*Based on the answers to these questions, what are your top three goals in life?
*If these are your goals, what do you want to make sure you spend your time on?
*If these are your goals, what do you want to make sure you don’t spend your time on?
The answers to the last two questions will help you determine what your personal priorities are and are not.
For prioritizing situationally when you have so many questions, requests, and demands being made of you at the same time, ask yourself these questions:
*What do you want to accomplish by the end of this week? (or this month, this quarter)
*What steps/tasks will get you to your accomplishment?
*Do these steps/tasks need to be completed in a particular order? Why or why not?
*When will you complete these steps/tasks to achieve this accomplishment?
*What are some situations/occurrences that are more important, and you’re willing to give time to them this week and delay your accomplishment?
*What are some situations/occurrences that are not more important than what you want to accomplish, and you’re not willing to give time to them this week and delay your accomplishment?
*How did you determine what is more important and what is less important?
This is the process for determining priorities and implementing prioritization. You can use priority determination and prioritization implementation to achieve your personal goals, professional goals, financial objectives, relationship goals, work-life balance goals, and time management goals. When you can determine what is most important (and less important) to you, what you will and won’t give time to, as well as figure out what exceptions you’re willing to make and why then you understand prioritization. By implementing this powerful knowledge, you’ll be able to make the most of your time and live life on your terms.
About the author:
Productivity and time management are considered soft skills, but there’s nothing soft about losing $10,000 worth of productivity per employee per year. Through seminars, on-demand videos, and individual coaching, Time Management Fixer Helene Segura reveals her mind-bending framework for decreasing interruptions, distractions, and lost time so that companies can spend more time generating profit.
The author of four books - two of which were Amazon best-sellers - Helene has been the featured organizational expert in more than 200 media interviews. Her third book, The Inefficiency Assassin: Time Management Tactics for Working Smarter, Not Longer (New World Library), and her fourth book, The Great Escape: A Vacation Planner for Busy Professionals Who Want to Take a Real Break from Work and Life (Hacienda Oaks Press), have helped thousands around the world.
To download a complimentary Productivity Kickstarter Kit, visit www.TimeManagementRevolution.com