Inside: Learn how to set your priorities in life so that you can get clear on what to say yes and no to.

Do you feel like you never have enough time to do everything you want to accomplish? Are you constantly adding new items to your to-do list, even though you know there’s no way you can get through it all?

You might need to learn how to choose your priorities.

You only have a certain amount of time in the day to get through your to-do list. By setting clear priorities for yourself, you ensure you’re spending your time and energy on the things that matter most. That includes the actions that will help you achieve your goals. 

In this article, I’ll answer some of your biggest questions about setting your top priorities in life:

  • What is the difference between priorities and goals?
  • What are the main priorities in life?
  • Why and how do you set priorities to improve your life?

… and more!

how to set your priorities in life

What Are Priorities?

Let’s start by asking the simple question – what are priorities?

According to the Oxford dictionary, a priority is defined as “a thing that is regarded as more important than another.” 

Simple enough, right?

Your priorities are the things that matter the most to you. They’re the things you value above all else. They’re the things in life that are most deserving of your time and energy. 

Not all priorities are the same. Some priorities matter to us because they involve the things we care about – our family, our friends, our livelihood. 

Some things, like doctor’s visits and car maintenance, are priorities because of the catastrophic consequences that can result when they aren’t

And some things are priorities because they help us reach our goals.

The Difference Between Priorities and Goals

“But wait a second -” you might be thinking.

“Aren’t priorities and goals the same thing?” 

No – they aren’t! Priorities and goals are definitely interconnected, but they are distinct and different things.

When trying to understand the difference between priorities and goals, looking at the definitions can be helpful.

A priority is “a thing that is regarded as more important than another.” It’s something you care about and put above other things. By the definition, you can’t have a ton of priorities. 

A goal is “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.” Unlike priorities, you can have an unlimited number of goals.

Achieving a certain goal can be a priority. And you can prioritize the actions you need to take to achieve a particular goal.

By basing your priorities around your goals, you can ensure your priorities are meaningful and focused on the right things. 

how to set your priorities in life

Why You Need to Define Your Top Priorities in Life

We are all limited by the same constraint – time. There are only 24 hours in a day to accomplish everything we have to do. This forces all of us to make big decisions around how we spend that time.

Do we watch TV or do we wash the dishes? Do we start a family, or do we focus on growing our careers and traveling the world? Does it make more sense to focus on your current job or to work toward creating your dream business?

Defining your top priorities in life makes those decisions much easier. If you prioritize maintaining a clean house, you’ll be more likely to wash the dishes before you sit on the couch to binge-watch your favorite show.

If world travel is a priority, you may decide to wait to start a family as you explore. And if money is a big motivator, you may spend more time working than focused on your favorite hobbies.

By identifying the few things that deserve your attention above all else, it becomes easier to make important decisions and stay focused on things that matter most.

And since your top priorities likely align with your goals, keeping your priorities top of mind will help you make progress toward them. 

Identifying your priorities will help you on your journey to live more intentionally.

What Are Your Priorities in Life?

Do you know what your main priorities in life are?

If you don’t, that’s OK! If you haven’t thought about it much, it can be an intimidating question.

Choosing your top priorities can feel like a serious commitment – but really, you’re free to shift your focus whenever you need to.

Simply sit down and ask yourself – what do you spend most of your time doing? In theory, that should line up pretty well with your priorities.

For some, it’s pursuing a creative outlet like art or dance or music. For others, it’s helping others. Others value time spent with friends, financial security, or physical or mental wellbeing. 

Do You Feel Like Your Priorities Are In Order?

It’s important to make sure your priorities are in order. When they aren’t, life can feel out of balance and totally misaligned – leading to extra stress, uneasiness, and unhappiness.

While priorities and goals aren’t the same thing, you do want to make sure they’re aligned.

If your goal is to save for a downpayment on a home, but you’re spending all your money on eating out and buying new clothes, then your behaviors are not lined up with your priorities.

By realigning those priorities and taking actions that move you in the direction of your goals, you’ll feel better and make more progress.

Why You Need To Clearly Define Your Priorities

When you do not have clearly defined priorities, life can be hard to manage. Feeling like you don’t have focus can be tough, and struggling to know how to spend your time can be stressful.

As you learn how to set priorities in your life, you’ll get clear on your goals and the priorities that align with them. When you know the things that matter most to you, you’ll gain confidence in your actions and be able to spend your time in more meaningful ways. 

How to Set Priorities to Improve Your Life

Getting focused and setting priorities can absolutely improve your life.

By understanding the things that really matter most to you, and taking actions toward goals that align with those meaningful things, you’ll be more satisfied, happier, and make more progress toward your dreams.

If you’re on a mission to improve your life, getting your priorities right can make all the difference.

How to List Your Top Priorities in Your Daily Life

If you haven’t truly sat down and thought about your priorities, I encourage you to do it now!

Listing your top priorities in your daily life is a great exercise that can bring you lots of clarity and help ensure you’re focused on the right priorities.

1. Take time to reflect and be honest with yourself.

To start, you’ve got to accept the fact that you need to be honest with yourself – even if you don’t necessarily love the truth.

If you have been spending your time poorly and prioritizing actions that do not reflect your values, goals, and ambitions, you need to acknowledge that and commit to a change.

2. Work out what is important to you and how you want to live your life.

Once you’ve identified the things that are clearly NOT working for you, it’s a good idea to reflect on the things that you DO want. 

What do you want your life to look like?

If you could spend your time doing anything, what would that be?

What activities make you happy, bring you joy, and propel you in the direction of your goals and dreams?

Once you’ve identified your values, your passions, and your desires, you can begin to move forward.

3. Map out a plan of action.

Without a plan, it’s too easy to lose focus, get lost, and find yourself spending time on things that don’t necessarily align with your priorities. 

Identify the changes you need to make in life so that your actions reflect your priorities – and then figure out how to fit those things into your day.

By writing it all down, you force yourself to evaluate the big picture and be thoughtful about how you can realistically work things into your day. 

4. List and determine your daily, weekly, and monthly priorities.

It’s also a good idea to consider your priorities and goals in daily, weekly, and monthly time frames.

Some things, like paying your bills, can be considered monthly priorities. You only have to worry about them once a month, but they’re important enough to warrant special attention.

Other things are weekly priorities. Your weekly priorities may include things like getting enough exercise, making sure your family has a healthy breakfast to start each morning, or finding time to call your mother.

You should also identify daily priorities to keep you focused and on-track. The Simply Scheduled Workbook was created to help you prioritize and plan your days!

how to set your priorities in life

5. Eliminate distractions.

Once you’ve identified the things that you should focus your energy on, it’s time to get those pesky distractions out of the way.

It can be all too easy to be tempted by something new, or appealing, or exciting. By finding ways to eliminate those challenges, you can make it easier to stay focused on your priorities.

When you stay focused, you increase the odds that you’ll achieve your goals.

6. Set specific times for specific tasks – and stay focused!

It can be helpful to use a planner or a scheduling tool to block time to really focus on your priorities.

If passing a big exam is a priority, you’ll want to set aside sufficient time to study, and if training for a 5k is a priority, you’ll need to block some time to run. 

What Should Your First Priority Be?

“What is your TOP priority?” 

It sounds like a simple question… but it can be harder than you think to come up with the answer.

If you aren’t sure what your priorities are, setting your priorities should BE your top priority.

Sit down, reflect, and figure out what your priorities are – then narrow it down to the single most important priority you’ve got.

It won’t be easy, but it’ll be eye-opening and give you the focus you need.

Find a Mentor or Life Coach to Keep Your Priorities on Track if You Need One!

Holding yourself accountable and staying focused on the actions that will help you reach your dreams is easier said than done. It can be really hard to keep your priorities on track, especially when you’re faced with lots of temptation. 

A life coach or a mentor can be a tremendous resource in your quest to self-fulfillment and making sure you’re focused on the right priorities.

Getting someone else’s perspective and guidance can be hugely helpful, and the added commitment of paying for a life coach can sometimes be the extra encouragement you need to stick to your plan and stay focused.

If that’s not an option for you, look for a trusted friend who could be an accountability partner for you.

how to set your priorities in life

Be Flexible – Your Top Priorities in Life Will Change

Just because something is your top priority today doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way forever.

As life goes on, we change and grow. Our priorities evolve.

The things that mattered most to us when we were 10 were far different than the things that mattered to us when we turned 20. As you gain new experience and perspective, it’s totally OK to shift your priorities.

Check In With Yourself and Your List of Priorities in Life Periodically

Because things change, it’s a good idea to regularly revisit your list of priorities. Similar to how you revisit your goals, check to make sure you’re staying focused on the right things.

Ask yourself periodically if the things you identified as priorities still resonate.

Are those still the most important things in your life? Are you being pulled in a different direction? And if you are, explore that. Is it a whim, an urge, something that’ll go away? Or is it possibly time for a change?

Learning how to set your priorities in life is not a one and done process. It’s the beginning of a journey that requires reassessing over time.

How to Set Your Priorities in Life and Keep Them!

Now that you’ve learned how to set your priorities in life and align them with your goals, I challenge you to write them down to help you keep your top priorities straight!

Whether you have a good idea of what those priorities might be or you’re starting from scratch, have fun exploring the things that mean the most to you and identifying those priorities.

Keep your priorities top of mind and remind yourself of them often as you make decisions and decide how to spend your time.

Want to keep up to date with The Simplicity Habit? Sign up on the form below to get weekly tips on simplifying sent straight your inbox. You’ll also get the free Priorities Assessment Worksheet to help you align your schedule with your priorities!

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