I used to think prioritizing was the order I’d assign to my to-do list items. Or maybe what I’d be doing in the next five minutes or later that day.
But really we should all be taking time to think about our priorities in a broader sense.
Zoom out to see the big picture.
Before my medical ordeal — I was going to several networking events a week. Most evenings I would go straight from work and not get home until late. At the time, building new connections and leaving no stone unturned for new opportunities was my priority.
After my illness I’ve realized it’s crucial for me to slow down a bit. I’m still planning on attending networking events here and there, but nowhere near on the scale that I used to. I’m much more picky about how I spend my time.
Right now my health is my priority.
We all have misconceptions about what priorities really are. Here are a few more:
What you think you should be doing vs what is actually your priority
You often know in your gut what is most important. But your brain can rationalize that you should focus on something else, often out of guilt or wanting to fit in. It’s pretty common to feel like you should be working on what everyone else is working on. For instance — at work if everyone else is coming in an hour early then surely you should too? Just because you feel like you should do something doesn’t mean you actually have to. Maybe that extra hour could be better used elsewhere!
Everything is a priority
I hear this one a lot. It’s such a cop out! When I hear this I assume the person doesn’t actually want to solve their problem, they just want to complain. To get out of this rut, make a list and pick one main priority. Just one!
From there you can sort the rest of your list. In the ER they use a triage system to determine who to deal with first. Their number one priority is not necessarily the most injured person, but for those who would benefit the most from immediate care.
Similarly if you have a project that is not going very well it might be best to focus on something that can benefit from your time and attention right now.
Taking on other people’s priorities
If, like me, you’re the kind of person that likes to be helpful, you might also have a problem with taking on other people’s baggage. It’s fine to do small favors here and there, but these helping hands can start to add up. Before you agree to anything think about how it gels with your own priorities. If someone is being too demanding it’s okay to say no.
For more about how to prioritize, check out my YouTube video, where I explain how to really zoom out and find out what matters most.