Everyday we take literally hundreds of decisions in our lives. The net position of our lives on any given day is a reflection of our several thousands of decisions in the days and years before. Prioritisation makes it possible for us to set and pursue goals on a daily basis with the aim of achieving larger long-term objectives (outcomes). To be able to prioritise our activities, we need to recognises a few, but key truths about life.
1. We all have 24 hours and 24 hours only daily. No more no less.
2. We are fully responsible for the outcomes in our lives.
To get the outcomes we desire therefore, we need to set priorities in our lives so that we can commit our effort into using our time most effectively and efficiently.
So how do we go about setting priorities in our lives? Most people set priorities without taking into cognisance the ‘rightness’ of the priorities. They end up achieving outwardly massive goals but which do not satisfy them internally. The first and most important challenge we all face is to identify what these ‘right’ priorities are for us. The ‘right’ priorities are different for each of us. How, therefore, do we go about identifying what are the ‘right’ priorities for each us? One of the simple models I like is the ‘funeral speech model’. This model requires us to imagine that we have passed away and we are there lying in our coffin as friends, relations, colleagues etc make speeches about us. What would we want hear them say about us? That will indicate the kind of things that we really value and want to achieve in our lives, so that when we do pass away, we will be satisfied and even proud as our friends talk about them. To be able to prioritise therefore, you need to understand the following:
Identify your purpose: We need to take all the time and thoroughness required to identify what we really want to achieve in our lives. For most people, making money, holding responsible leadership positions, being number one ranked in tennis, etc are what they want to achieve. But if you search deeply, these may not be ends in themselves but means to some end. Identify this end and that may be your life’s greater purpose. For all you know, you may be able to achieve it by taking other routes as well. Not identifying your life’s purpose will leave you running around without a true objective in life, or you may sincerely be running after objectives that will not satisfy you in your deepest levels after achieving them. This happens frequently and you should avoid it.
The purpose you have identified will be a journey of life rather than some post that you will get to on a one-off basis and then rest on your laurels. Identifying it as such will give you a comforting approach to enjoying the journey no matter the challenges on the way.
Create goals: Having identified your purpose, you need ‘lamp posts’ to light your way. You therefore need to identify the goals over a time frame that will guide you through the journey. These goals break down the various sub-achievements that will, on a gradual basis, take you through the journey in the right direction. They are to serve both as guides and progress indicators. No matter the size of your long-run objective, breaking it down makes it possible for you to achieve it gradually over a reasonable period. As the saying goes ‘you eat an elephant one bite at a time’.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses: Once you create your goals, you will need to deploy resources towards achieving them. To be able to deploy resources, you need to understand your stregths and weaknesses. You can then leverage on your strengths and seek assistance on your weaknesses. To be able to gain support on your areas on weakness, help others in your areas of strengths. This will then make it relatively easy for you to achieve the various sub-goals on your path.
Understand the concept of ‘delayed gratification’: To prioritise effectively, you must also understand the concept of delayed gratification. This is the realisation that most future achievements of significant value in our lives require that we make certain immediate sacrifices now. You must, for instance wake up early and work hard over a number of years before you can graduate with a First Class. But the value of your education and the certification you earn is worth more than the sacrifice you have made over those years. Understand, therefore, that you have to make certain sacrifices now so that you can achieve something great in the future.
Understand the difference between importance and urgency: Sometimes, we get immersed in what is urgent and ignore what is important. Urgencies are indeed realities in our lives, and we must adresss them one way or another. However, we must identify how these urgencies fit into the overall scheme of our events. We must be able to identify what is truly important in the pursuit of our purpose and prioritise them accordingly. You can learn about the Imortance-Urgency quadrant on: http://tech.opentable.co.uk/blog/2014/04/28/effective-prioritisation/
Create congruency in your life: Nothing simplifies our lives like having a congruency between our inner values and outer actions. To be able to prioritise efficiently therefore, we must identify and if necessary create the right values that will lead to success. These values must also not be be some theoretical mantras that we preach and believe in only. We must act and live them. Once our actions reflect our beliefs, we will get the support we never imagine from sources we never expect.
Create margins in your life: No one will deny that we live very engaged lives. From the internet to our mobile phones, we remain almost at the mercy of everyone else. However, we must create ‘breathing spaces’ in our lives that allow us to withdraw from time to time for regular assessments of what is really happening. This will also enable to us make corrections whenever we are going off our course, or even make amendments on the path itself.
Our ability to say ‘no’ to demands continuously made on us is also key prioritisation and creating margins in our lives. Whilst we should make ourselves available to help others, we should do this within the realities of our own personal commitments and constraints as well.
Learn to focus on what you do: Frequently, people do create a ‘to do’ list, only for them to fail to achieve what they set out to. This failure could be because they tried to achieve what is more than reasonably achievable within a period, or they failed to focus on what they set out to achieve. The first failure can be avoided by being realistic and creating the margins discussed above. You also need to focus on each task you set out to achieve in spite of the daily distractions that come our way. Lacking focus will make you drop minor daily achievements and this will ultimately translate into major long term losses. Be focussed.
Take action: Once you have identified your purpose and set intermediate goals to be achieved, the task of setting your day-to-day objectives will become easy. Having the set the right priorities however, your next challenge is to take action. How many times have we set new year resolutions only for us to realise at the end of the year that we have not achieved any significant part of that? Taking action is key to success. Even as you set your purpose and goals, if you do not take action, you will not get to where you want to go. We will discuss taking action in our next write up.
You can read further on:
As an entrepreneur, you will need to learn how to prioritise your activities. It is important and necessary for your success.
The book ‘First Things First’ by Stephen R. Covey is highly recommended for detailed further reading. It is available on Amazon: