Jeff Davidson's book, Simpler Living, was Amazon Kindle #1 in its category, first quarter, 2012. Jeff is featured in the NY Times, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Businessweek, Fortune, Organized Executive, and Success.

Establishing Priorities

Most individuals, including you, come to work each day with goals in mind about what they want and need to get accomplished. Unfortunately, life does not always go as planned, and interruptions can throw us off-course. Trying to catch up to where we wanted to be adds a lot of unnecessary stress. Distractions from work must be taken in stride.If you find yourself continually distracted throughout the workday, you may perhaps redefine your priorities, or perhaps, define them for the first time. Many people have too many priorities! Chances are that you do, too. Many of these have been imposed upon you.

Suppose you have a lot of priorities in your life. By definition, they can’t all be priorities; how can so many things be of critical importance to you in life? The number of priorities you have has to be a small number. It may be four, seven, or nine, but if it’s 24, then by definition, they can’t all be priorities. When you meet somebody who has a large list of priorities, it’s a clue that he’s never identified what’s truly important in his life.

Priorities generally fall into one of a couple of well-defined categories. For most people, family, relations, and people close to them represent one priority. Society in general, the community, and the nation represent another priority. Health and well-being are often a priority. Becoming prosperous or successful is usually a priority. Career growth is a priority for many. Intellectual or spiritual growth are other priorities. These are not universal, but they work well, at least for openers.

Picking too many, or ineffectively picking, priorities leads to a revenge effect — you’ll find you have no priorities, or that you’re spending time and attention on everything, and not truly honoring the priorities you initially chose.

Determining Your Priorities

Here are some methods for establishing your priorities, and they’ll take on added importance if you’ve never identified your priorities to begin with.

  1. Write down everything that’s important to you in life, personally and professionally. It’s hard to separate personal and professional lives when it comes to priorities because your life is a system where what you do in one realm affects what happens in the other.
  2. Several days later, re-examine the list and cross out things that don’t ring true anymore, and add things if you forgot them earlier.
  3. Another day, look at the list again and see if any items can be grouped together. Reword and re-label priorities. If you’re uncertain about an item, consider dropping it. Go through the same process the next day.
  4. Prepare a draft of your priority list. While the list may change in time, stay with it for now. If the list has four, seven, or nine items, keep the list. If the list has 18 or 24 items, you need to pare down the list some more to avoid the “revenge effect.”
  5. Be sure that you don’t create a list full of items to which you’re only paying lip service–things that are not truly priorities, but which you think of as priorities. I know a woman who says she keeps her weekends free because leisure time is important in her life. Yet, she’s worked six Saturdays in a row. Granted, there may be a short-term crunch, but in the long run, if she’s working one Saturday after another, how important could her weekends be to her?
  6. When you have your priority list, next, ask yourself what represents a supporting goal. For instance, if a priority of mine is to be healthy my entire life, there are a number of goals I can set in support of this priority. I could:
    • take vitamins on a regular basis;
    • join a health club; or
    • purchase wii fit.
Make sure that any goal you choose in support of a priority has a specific accomplishment and time tied to it. If a major priority of yours is to be wealthy, and one of your goals is to be the top-selling salesperson in your company, it does no good to merely decide that being the top salesperson is your goal. You have to attach a time to it.

For instance, “I want to be the leading sales producer in my organization for October.” It would be even more productive to say, “I want to make x sales in the next calendar year.” Now you’re naming a specific achievement with a specific time horizon. Research has shown that the more specific your goals are, the better your chances are of achieving them.

On Beginning Now—

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, and always ineffectiveness concerning all acts of initiative (and creation). There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Managing Your Priorities

Suppose you accomplish a lot, and because of this fact, people ask you to do more. What can you do to safeguard your calendar and to prevent yourself from getting more as a reward for the great work you’ve already done? Show people your calendar, the line-up of things you’re working on. Show them the commitments and due dates already in place. Thereafter, if someone wants to add something to your agenda, they’ll do so more carefully and consciously.

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®," is a preeminent time management authority, has written 65 mainstream books, and is an electrifying professional speaker, making 886 presentations to clients such as Lockheed Martin, Eckerd, Kaiser Permanente, IBM, American Express, Lufthansa, Swissotel, Re/Max, USAA, Worthington Steel, and the World Bank. Jeff is Executive Director of the Breathing Space Institute and the author of books such as:
  • Simpler Living (Skyhorse Publishing)
  • Dial It Down--Live it Up (Sourcebooks)
  • The 60 Second Innovator (Adams Media)
  • Breathing Space (CreateSpace)
  • Accomplishing Your Goals (Smart Guide Publications)
Jeff is the premier thought leader on work-life balance issues and has been widely quoted in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, USA Today, Businessweek, Forbes, and Fortune. Cited by Sharing Ideas Magazine as a "Consummate Speaker," Jeff believes that career professionals today in all industries have a responsibility to achieve their own sense of work-life balance, and he supports that quest through his website

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