A Simple Exercise To Establish Your Priorities

Pic by Lechon Kirb

This quick and easy exercise will help you identify where to focus your time and energy. By establishing clear priorities, it will be easier to remove distractions that get on your way.

Let’s Do It

  1. Write down 10–20 things that you want to achieve. Think in terms of goals -what you want to achieve- rather than to do list -what you have to do to get there. Prioritization is about strategy not execution.
  2. Divide your goals in three groups. Group 1 are the one most critical goals. I like to think of it of the “things I don’t want to regret of when I die”. I use it as joke but I really mean it. Group 3 is the opposite, goals that you can live with or without them. Group 2 represent doubts, these are the things we aren’t sure whether or not they are critical or don’t really.
  3. Eliminate Group 3 and all its content. Reducing waste is the most effective act when prioritizing.
  4. Take a stand with Group 2 items. Eliminate those that are closer to Group 3. Move those that really matter to Group 1. Be honest.
  5. Groups 1: make time only for what matters. Rank the items from the most important to the least important.
  6. Choose top three as your priorities for the next month. Keep the rest, don’t throw them away.

Write Your Priorities Using The “Even/Over” Approach

The “…even/ over…” approach uses a simple prioritization formula to keep you focused. It identifies the sacrifice you’ll have to make to achieve your higher goals. It guides you to say no more often but, most importantly, to be clear on what to say no to. Your willingness will be put to test: very few people are truly committed to their priorities so they’ll push back when you say no.

An example: I love to cook and spend a considerable amount of time enjoying it. As I started writing my book, finding time has become a challenge. That’s why one of my top three priorities now is “writing my book even over cooking a gourmet meal”. I love cooking and I’m not giving up on it. But if I have to choose, cooking vs. writing, it’s clear with the help of “even/over”, that cooking can wait.

Reflect & Iterate

  1. Redo this exercise on a monthly basis. Start with your current priorities (the top 3 and the others that you put aside). Think of any additional priorities and repeat the initial exercise.
  2. Review past behaviors/ new priorities. Life is dynamic so seeing how priorities change through time is good. Time helps us reflect and see what really matters from a distance.
  3. Reflect on how you deal with change. Changing is good. Not changing at all or changing too often shows rigidity and lack of clarity, respectively.
  4. Some questions to guide your reflection:
  • Are you finding consistencies across time?
  • Are you changing your mind too often? Or too little?
  • Do you feel OK saying no to distractions? What can you do better?
  • What tensions are you facing as you stick to your priorities?
  • What actions were successful in keeping your priorities immune to external pressure?

If you are interested in prioritization, CLICK and check this article that pairs perfectly with this exercise.

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