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How to Figure Out Your Priorities

Here are some tips and guidance to help you clarify your top priorities.

Key points

  • It can be helpful to make a list of your top priorities in each life domain, including work, family, and relationships.
  • It may be easiest to focus on a few high-priority items at a time.
  • Taking action on your priorities may require you to first identify the challenges in your way.
 Brett Jordan/Unsplash
Source: Brett Jordan/Unsplash

Do you know what is high-priority for you? Or do you feel like everything is high-priority and don’t know what to do first? Or, are you just too plain busy to ever get to the high-priority stuff? If you're reading this, then you're likely looking for more help figuring out your priorities. Don’t worry, we can help.

What, Exactly, Is High-Priority?

Well, the answer depends on who you ask and which aspect of life we're looking at. Are we talking about work priorities, relationship priorities, family priorities, or figuring out which is the highest priority of these high-priority items?

To start, let’s take a look at each of these life domains to better understand different types of priorities, how they fit together, and how they may compete with each other.

Work Priorities

To set priorities for work, make a list of the major tasks that you need to accomplish. Then list these tasks in order of importance. Be sure to also note whether one task needs to come before another or is dependent on another task being completed first. For example, maybe you need a website before you can start selling things in your online business.

Relationship Priorities

Maybe there are some people we want to see more than others. Or, maybe there are certain activities that we feel are more important to ensure the success of our romantic relationships and friendships. Some examples of relationship priorities could include: being honest, making time for fun, practicing random acts of kindness, or talking about fears and difficulties.

Family Priorities

What are the highest priority actions you need to take to insure your family is taken care of? This might depend a lot on whether you have kids, aging parents, or a small family. So take a moment to think about high-priority actions within your family. Remember, your priorities don't necessarily have to be engagement-related. For example, your priority may be to set boundaries or take time away from your family rather than spending a lot of time with family. Everyone is different.

​Life Priorities

Do you have other priorities related to your mental or physical health, finances, purpose, or personal growth? Think about what these priorities are.

What Are Your Top Priorities?

Now that you’ve thought about your priorities in each of the life domains, you're probably now wondering, how do I prioritize my priorities?

Well, pause here to look over or think about your top priorities in each life domain. Combine these into one long list. Put the most important things at the top to hopefully get a sense of which things are most important to you. This can be a bit tricky, so try not to be too hard on yourself—just do the best you can. Your priorities might also change over time, and that's OK too.

Managing Competing Priorities

There are only so many hours in the day. If we spend all day doing our top priority, then we'll have no time for our second priority. But if we spend an equal amount of time on each priority, we'll move forward so slowly on all of them that we may get frustrated and give up. So knowing our priorities isn't always the solution to sticking to our priorities.

Sometimes it can be easiest to focus on a few high-priority items at a time. For example, maybe you spend one month really focusing on your family but the next month, you need to prioritize more work. It’s OK to try to find a balance that works for you and your goals and experiment as you go.

Taking Action on Your Priorities

Another thing to consider is what things make it easier or harder for us to stick to our priorities. For example, are there people who make it difficult to stick to your priorities? Are there situations that make it hard to stick to your priorities? Or, are there things about you that make it hard to stick to your priorities? What boosts your self-motivation? By taking the time to better understand your own unique challenges, you’ll also better understand what solution might best work for you.

Adapted from an article published by The Berkeley Well-Being Institute.

References

Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999). Implementation intentions: strong effects of simple plans. American psychologist, 54(7), 493.

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