How to set priorities in life

Does your daily life support your priorities?  Do you even know what your priorities truly are?  According to its definition, a priority is something that is more important to you than anything else, something or someone that you can’t imagine living without.  When you sit down and really think about it, you might be surprised to discover that your real priorities are not what you originally thought.  Furthermore, you might think you know what is important, but aren’t living a life to support that.  So how to set priorities in life and actually live a life that demonstrates that?

how to set priorites

Two of my main priorities (and loves) in life.

Why do we need to set priorities?

First of all, why are priorities so important anyway?  Who cares if you don’t have a defined path in life?  YOU DO, that’s why.  There are many reasons to set priorities, namely to have some focus.  We often are on autopilot throughout the day: get up, go to work, come home, go to bed.  You do what needs to be done, but don’t really enjoy any of it.  Setting priorities can help change that.

  • Your priorities become a roadmap for your life.  No more floundering about without any direction.  You have a defined path to follow.
  • Making decisions becomes much easier.  You know what is most important to you and make decisions based on that.
  • Saying no to requests also becomes easier.  If someone asks you to head the bake sale at school and that doesn’t fit with your priorities, you can just say no without guilt.
  • You will feel more in control of your life.  We’re all fighting for control over something, anything, because it’s a lot scarier to feel out of control (unless you’re on a roller coaster, where feeling out of control is expected).  Even our children feel this innate impulse for control.  When you learn how to set priorities and make decisions based on those, you will have power over your own life.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can try to control everyone around you.  Then you are just fighting other people’s desires to control their own lives.
  • You will have more work-life balance.  We all talk about this without really knowing how to get it.  I still don’t have all of the answers, but I know that setting priorities can definitely help with balance and to prevent burnout.  When I was in full time private veterinary practice, I thought I knew what my priorities were.  However, my work life became so all-consuming, that I didn’t have the energy to focus on my children or husband when I came home.  My vitality was all used up and I wasn’t making my family a priority.  That’s when I knew I needed to reprioritize and make a change.
  • You are able to more easily find your joy!  This is a no-brainer.  If your life is supporting your priorities, then you will naturally be more at peace and joyful.  You will find the time to do those things that nourish your body and mind.
    how to set priorities

    I recharge the best with some quiet time to myself- another priority.

How to set priorities?

I have identified some simple steps to help you learn how to set priorities.  Try it and see if it helps you to have a clearer, more defined path in life.

  1. Define your goals–  When defining your priorities, you first need to identify your primary goals in life.  Here is a great explanation of the difference between goals and priorities.  A goal will keep you on task for the future, whereas a priority will lead you on the right path in your present everyday life.  Here is a simple goal setting worksheet to help you.  In setting goals, think about where you see yourself in five, ten or even twenty years.  As an example, I have a goal to run with my grandchildren and possibly even my great-grandchildren, so one of my priorities is keeping myself healthy and strong and moving regularly.  I tell myself that the ice cream won’t serve me in reaching my goal, which makes it much easier to resist (Although I do love me some Jeni’s ice cream once in a while!  It’s my kryptonite).
  2. Focus on the daily priorities that can help to support those goals–  I have another goal to be a strong family unit with my husband and children.  I want my children to feel like they are part of a close family and are loved unconditionally.  Therefore, my daily priority is to spend some one-on-one time with each child.  Even if it’s only ten minutes spent talking about their day, they will hopefully feel special during that time.
  3. Narrow down the list–  This is where you really have to do some soul-searching.  You can’t truly spend the time you need on 20 different priorities.  Setting five or six is much more realistic.
  4. Write down your list–  Also display it in a place that you see regularly: maybe the bathroom mirror; on the frig; your nightstand; your desk at work.  You want the list to remind you of what is most important to you each day.
  5. Be forgiving of yourself–  No one is perfect.  In addition, some days just don’t go as planned.  Therefore, beating yourself up about not meeting all of your priorities won’t benefit you.  Think of it as a practice like yoga.  In yoga, we strive to improve flexibility, balance, achieving the difficult poses.  However, yoga is also about focusing the breath, being aware of the body and mind, balance within oneself.  Judgement does not exist in yoga and doesn’t need to exist in setting and living your priorities.
  6. Reevaluate– After a month or so, see how you feel.  Is your list working for you?  Do you feel more fulfilled and content?  If not, then maybe you are focusing on the wrong priorities and need to make a change.  Your priorities will naturally change with the progression of life and that’s okay.

Once you have identified your priorities, you, of course, have to then make time for them daily or weekly.  If you don’t think you have enough time in the day for what’s most important to you, then you need to read my time audit post.  If something is truly significant to you, then you will find the time for it.  No excuses.  If you can’t seem to find the time, then it’s not a true priority for you and I refer you back to Number 6 above.  Remember, the main goal with learning how to set priorities is to know yourself better and to find more balance and joy in your life.  You deserve it!


Joyful thought for the day, “Action expresses priorities.” -Mahatma Gandhi (so simple, but true)

 

Heidi Ball
Heidi Ball is a licensed veterinarian who left general practice in order to focus on her health and family, and still does occasional relief work. She is a mom and wife who loves to cook real nourishing food for her family, garden in her illegal front garden bed, listen to enlightening podcasts, go out on foodie dates with her hubbie and be a homebody with her family.

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