Setting Priorities So You Can Achieve Goals That Matter


How many priorities is too many priorities? – Awesome Client

No matter how you look at it, setting priorities is hard. Doing one thing inevitably means you’re not doing something else.

Do you find that you often struggle to know if you’ve made the right choice?

It can be very difficult when you’re not sure what your priorities and goals are. If you can examine your goals in the right way, though, it will be much easier to set priorities that are in alignment with those.

Making decisions won’t be as hard anymore.

So how do you decide what priorities and goals really are the most important to you, especially when you have things that seem to compete or conflict?

Luckily, there is a simple (but maybe not easy) shift in perspective that will help you with setting priorities and  goals you feel good about, or re-evaluate ones that you already have set.

There are also some questions you can ask yourself to further clarify your priorities and goals.

Let’s take a look at that shift in perspective. . .

setting priorities

Setting Priorities & Goals You Feel Good About

One of the first things you can think about when you have to make a decision involving what to prioritize is to think about your personal definition of setting priorities.

You may be someone who thinks about setting priorities on a daily, weekly or monthly basis in order to manage tasks and maximize productivity.

That is part of what it means to set priorities, but there is another layer.

Shift your perspective to think about setting priorities on a larger scale – your overall life goals.

What do you want to do in your life overall? 

What matters to you? 

Why is it important to ask these questions?

If you’re thinking about the bigger picture in addition to the day-to-day task management, you will probably make decisions differently.

For example, if you were only thinking about managing tasks, it might not seem like such a big deal to stay at work that extra hour to get things done – it’s only an hour after all.

But when you think about things in terms of the bigger picture, the hours add up and start to mean something about your family life, your work/life balance, or the unreasonable expectations of your boss and your job.

That’s why you need to determine what you really want – what are your life priorities or goals, before you even think about daily priorities or tasks.

Prioritization isn’t just about time management. It’s also about setting personal priorities and deciding what you want in your life and what you don’t.

Things begin to get much clearer when you look at things this way.

It’s hard to really know what you want to accomplish, even on a task level until you’ve really examined what you’re trying to accomplish in the bigger picture.

setting priorities

Important Questions to Ask Yourself

There are important questions you can ask yourself to help decide what your priorities should be. What you are trying to get at is what is authentic for you.

Setting priorities, at its core, is really all about determining what is authentic for you. 

If something is a priority, it’s important.

It’s of value.

It’s your authentic wish or goal.

That’s true whether you’re thinking about going to the gym or taking on a more challenging position. No matter how big or small, your true priorities have meaning to you.

These questions can help you determine not only what has value intrinsically, but what, if prioritized, will shape your life into a life you either value or don’t value.

When you’re faced with a decision or with making something a priority, ask yourself:

Is this in alignment with my values?

What is the likely outcome of making this a priority?

Of not making this a priority?

What are the things holding me back from prioritizing this? What are the consequences and fears?

What are the things pushing me toward prioritizing it?

What can I do to best set myself up for success in making this a priority?

If I am making other things less of a priority, what causes me anxiety (or other negative feelings) about that? Why?

What can I do to decrease these negative feelings?

Notice if these questions help you gain any clarity on what you truly want in your life and why.

In addition, when you add something into your life – or make it a priority, you’re adding time into your day.

But often, we don’t account for this and we just end up with too much to do and too little time to do it without thinking about what has to stay and what has to go, or the consequences of trying to do it all.

Really evaluating what’s important will allow you to bring sanity and ease back into your life.

setting priorities


We are motivated to behave in alignment with our values and priorities when we eliminate conflict around them. When we no longer have conflict, we can achieve our goals.

Then you are able to clearly see your goal and the behaviors needed to get there, you eliminate much of the battle.

I’ve heard it said that when you have unresolved inner conflict, it’s a lot like living your life driving with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake. You don’t get very far.

Get out of your own way by getting yourself into alignment and experience the power behind goals you are 100% motivated to achieve.

In addition to setting goals, there are nine other powerful things that successful people do to stay motivated, because staying motivated can be hugely difficult.

setting priorities

Productivity and Time Management

There are millions of tips and tricks out there for productivity and time management. Lots of them are good and will help you streamline your day.

But one of the very best is the “Rapid Planning Method” from Tony Robbins.  What is it? Simple.

It’s made up of three questions:


2. Why do I want it?

3. What’s my massive action plan?

(This video only addresses a portion of the RPM, but you can find other videos if you’d like to learn more.)

Robbins says using this method is important because we are drowning in information and distractions that beg for our attention but we don’t have wisdom, which comes from clarity about what you want and why you want it.

This is a method I sometimes use with my individual clients when helping them set goals and priorities.

Steven Covey talked about filling time with things that are meaningless or choosing to spend it on things that matter instead.

You can see more about that in this quick (but worthwhile) video below:

So the point is, once you figure out your Big Rocks, or the things that matter to you, you need to spend time figuring out what the shortest path is to that, rather than distracting yourself with things that don’t mean anything to you, but seem to fill up your days anyway.

Both methods share this starting point: The tasks are meaningless and trivial. Everything flows from the goals.

Once you’ve set your goals (or outcomes, objectives, or Big Rocks) then you naturally know what the smaller tasks are that will help you achieve those things, and what you don’t need to be wasting your time on anymore.

Don’t spend your time being productive on things that don’t matter.

Tell me, would you rather answer 100 emails and for something that doesn’t really matter to you, or answer 10 emails and to help you achieve a goal you feel great about and have been working towards?

It’s not in the tasks – doing more of them, doing them faster, doing them in a more streamlined or efficient way.

It’s about choosing the tasks that are right for achieving what you want to achieve.

If you find you’re procrastinating on a task, you may realize that you’re disconnected from the “why” behind it.

You can find wisdom about how 72 successful people think about and deal with procrastination for themselves and their clients in this post.

Setting Priorities at Work

What if you have a job you don’t particularly love right now?

What if you have little control over your work and someone else sets the agenda?

One big complaint I hear when working with individual clients is that they don’t have control over the work they do, and often they have other opinions about what or how the work should be done.

Does this sound familiar?

If setting priorities and goals is based on what you care about, but you don’t actually care about work – and you have to be there anyway – how do you do a good job and set priorities and goals?

First, take a look at your career overall.

If you don’t like where you are now, do you believe there is room for growth or improvement with your current employer?

If not, you have a great opportunity to set some goals for your future and to make your career change a priority in your life.

Otherwise, you’ll find yourself staying stuck in a job where you have tasks you don’t care about, and setting priorities and goals will be very difficult.

You can still do it, but it’s much, much harder. How? By looking for the silver lining. Is there anything that you care about there – even if it’s just the paycheck? Do a good job for that.

If there is some flexibility at your job to make some changes in how the work is done, or for you to advance, you can take a look and see if there are some areas you do enjoy or things you would like to be doing that you aren’t doing currently.

  • Are there tasks you’d like to take on?
  • What areas would you like to grow in for this job?
  • What will it take to get to the next level in your career?

If you can find an area that you would enjoy focusing on, spend your energy and creativity on advancing the goals you enjoy and have control over.

Once again, doing what you love is key to productivity and impact.

setting priorities

Setting Priorities and Meaning 

It’s interesting what happens when you set your mind to a goal you care about. You also align your priorities, and it’s amazing what you can achieve.

So forget about hacking productivity with the hundreds, if not thousands of tricks that are out there. They come in handy for the things you have to do that you’re not really motivated to do or interested in doing, but you should work to eliminate those in your life as much as possible, and align your tasks, even the mundane ones with larger goals that do have meaning to you.

For example, picking up your dry cleaning is boring, but it’s part of a larger goal of looking polished and professional which may be meaningful to you.

Even companies are coming around to this way of thinking.

They are dropping SMART goals and taking up CLEAR goals instead, because they are recognizing the limitations of SMART goals and the need to go beyond cookie cutter ways of doing things. CLEAR goals allow for agile thinking and for the way real human beings work.

CLEAR goals stand for:


Limited (In scope and duration)

Emotional (You or your team emotionally connects with the goal and it taps into their energy and passion)

Appreciable (Can be broken down into smaller goals)

Refinable (Set a clear objective, but you can shift the objective as new information becomes available)

Read more about this new, dynamic type of goal setting, CLEAR GOALS, here.

What do you get emotional about? What goals have meaning to you? What priorities will get you there?

setting priorities

A Setting Priorities Worksheet

I couldn’t send you off to figure all of this out on your own without giving you a worksheet to help you out, now could I?

As I said, you can’t know what you’re supposed to do, or what order you’re supposed to be doing it in if you don’t know exactly what you want to accomplish.

[Tweet “You can’t know your #priorities if you don’t know your #goals. #Success”]


setting priorities

If you want to balance life, you’ll need to know what that means for you. For some, a balanced life is one where you have quiet and solitude, and for others, balance means excitement and an ability to play.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to life balance. It all must flow from your priorities.

Your challenges are to decide what you care about most, and what really energizes you.

What are you willing to work hard for?

What motivates you internally? What do you feel passionate about?

It’s only when you can accurately answer these questions for yourself that you’ll know if your priorities are right.

Otherwise, you’re left blowing in the wind and wondering what you should be doing first or if you should be doing something at all.

If you still haven’t found your passions, it’s never been more important. Read this post about Rewarding Careers and Passion to find out why.

If you found this post interesting, useful or enlightening, please share it with your friends and co-workers! 


Life Path, Passions, Personal Development, Success

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