From personal experience and listening to people daily, I realize that we are not able to attend to all the things that fall on our plates daily. This is because of limitations we all have as human beings. No matter what happens, there are only 24 hours each day. We can only do so much within that period. Apart from the limitation of time, we also have limitations with resources such as knowledge, experience and money. We don’t always have answers to everything that confronts us.
How then, do we navigate our way through such situations? I am of the view that if we learn to set priorities we shall make a head way in this regard.
Setting priorities enables you to apportion your resources efficiently. You can’t have an effective life if you don’t establish your priorities. Knowing your priorities helps you to know what you must admit onto your schedule immediately, what you must put on the back burner and what you must out rightly reject. This will ensure that you always commit resources only to that which will be beneficial to you.
TWO TYPES OF PRIORITIES
- Permanent priorities: In our lives, there are priorities that are never expected to change. These are what I call permanent priorities. Personally, I can tell you that my faith life is of utmost importance to me and it will continue to occupy the top spot on my list of priorities. My family life is another aspect of me that will always be important. Each one of us has lifetime priorities. They are based on our values and aspirations. Have you identified yours?
- Prevailing priorities: Prevailing priorities are those that are important at a particular season of one’s life. Sometimes, these prevailing priorities seem to push the permanent priorities to the periphery of our lives. For instance, sometimes while addressing an audience or sitting in a meeting, my cell phone vibrates to prompt me of a call from a close family member. At that time, I cannot put the presentation or meeting on hold to receive the call due to the sensitivity of the meeting. This is one typical situation where prevailing priority (meeting) interferes with lifetime priority (staying in touch with family). Needless to say, in such a situation I would have to ignore the call and revert as soon as I am in a position to.
The wisdom in making such a distinction grants you the ability to use the pursuit of your prevailing priorities to undergird your permanent priorities. The key here is to identify where each item falls and putting in place a system to manage them.
HOW TO MANAGE YOUR PRIORITIES
- Identify your roles: Know your obligations. List your required tasks. All of us play various roles in different aspects of our lives. Perhaps you may have roles as an employee/employer, student, husband/wife, parent, church member or member of you’re the PTA executive committee of your school. Be conscious.
- Have a plan: Plan for all your roles. Keep a to-do list. Plan your activities weekly and daily. Make sure you plan for each day before the day begins. Planning your day in advance keeps you focused on what is important. When planning, pay attention to tasks that are likely to yield maximum results at the end of the day. Bear in mind the Pareto Principle; “20% of activities produce 80% of results.” Planning helps you to know what to do during the day when you wake from bed. It simplifies your life.
- Be flexible: Even though you may plan, things will not always go as planned. There will always be circumstances beyond your control that could dislodge your plans. That is why in your plans, you must make provision for such eventualities. Always reserve some amount of time for unplanned activities. Have a budget for contingencies. Master the art of team work and delegation. Be ready to think on your feet.
Two quotes from legendary life coach Stephen Covey (1932 - 2012): “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities”; “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.”
I tell you this; you can have the kind of life you desire if you learn to establish your priorities and focus your attention on them. Don’t just wish for a good life. Establish objective priorities and let them drive your choices and actions.
© 2014 Terry Mante
CEO, Personal Development Network
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