When you think about how you want to live your life, what exactly comes to mind? Do you see yourself traveling the world, writing a book, or building your own business? However you choose to live your life will most likely be determine by how you set your priorities. When you want to make changes to your life, it's important to know what's most valuable to you. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to figure this out when you're always in the fast lane and you start to lose focus on what you originally wanted in the first place.
"We all live such busy lives these days and it makes it challenging to do everything on our to-do list. To make sure you’re able to focus on your priorities it’s important you ask yourself the ‘why’ behind everything you do. Once you have a deeper understanding of why something is important to you, it makes it easier to follow through with getting it done. You may even find once you discover your ‘why’ that sometimes your priorities will even shift," says certified life coach Sharon Stokes in an interview with Bustle over email.
So how do you figure out what's most important so you can set your priorities straight? Well, it begins with you. "It starts with you. You must commit to making time for yourself. Getting caught up in the details of life can cloud your vision around what’s most important to you. Even taking short amounts of time to breath, relax, process and plan will help you to reduce the clutter and see more clearly what you may have been missing before," says life coach & Thumbtack professional Lisa Kincaid in an interview with Bustle over email.
If you want to get a clear picture of where you want your life to head, here are 13 ways you can figure out how you want to take charge of your life by setting your priorities straight.
1. Figure Out What's Most Important To You
Before you can set your priorities, you need to figure out exactly what they are. How do you expect to kill it in the biz when you have no idea what your goals are? "You have limited time and energy so you need to determine what your top two priorities are at any given moment. For instance, one may be to get a new job and the other may be look for a new apartment. These are both quite hefty tasks requiring laser tight focus, so my suggestion in this scenario is to look for a job first. Once you land it, then you can narrow your apartment search to somewhere nearby your new office," says career expert for Monster Vicki Salemi in an interview with Bustle over email.
2. Create An Action Plan
It's time to put your thoughts into action. Take a few moments to create a plan of where you would like to see yourself in the next couple of months or years. Align those dreams with your priorities to help you focus on making your wishes come true. "Jot down what you’re looking for in a new job; get specific in terms of salary, location and the type of role as well as where your strengths are and what you want to learn/expand upon in the next 12 months. Then create an action plan: Set up job alerts. Revise your resume. Network with two people each week, etc," says Salemi.
3. Designate Specific Time Slots For Tasks
"Sometimes just setting aside a specific time is all it takes. Within a matter of minutes you may realize [you] can get a lot accomplished once you designate an actual time on your calendar for a task," says Salemi. It's important to remember to set time aside for things that truly matter to you. Watch an episode of your favorite show or get drinks with the girls. Whatever it is, you won't feel fulfilled if you constantly put other things before your own happiness.
4. Determine How You Want To Live Your Life
Another great way to keep your priorities straight is to consider how you want to live your life. If you want to work only a certain amount of hours per week, but your current job prevents you from doing that, then finding a new job might take precedent on your to-do list. "It’s important to have your priorities straight so you’re living a life of purpose and fulfillment that feels good for you. When you have your priorities straight and know what’s important to you, you’re more inline with your intentions and what you really want out of life," says Stokes
5. Talk To A Mentor
Talking to a mentor can open your eyes to problems you may not have never noticed. They might help you see things from a different perspective and challenge you to focus on what needs to be numero uno in your life. "If you’re not sure what is most important, talk to a mentor as well as friends. They may be able to help you not only in terms of practicality, but also judge the sense of urgency and emotion in your voice! If you constantly moan about your job and dread going into the office every day, they’ll instantly know you should put that at the top of your list of priorities," says Salemi.
6. Map Out Your Daily Tasks
Have you ever felt so motivated to make a change in your life, but in just a few days, you retreated back to your old habits? Prevent this by mapping out what you need to do every day to keep you motivated and focused. "Also, estimate the time required for each task and map out what you can do each day to stay on track. For instance, something like talking to a financial planner to reinvest your 401(k) could be quick — just schedule a meeting and then implement what they advise. On the other hand, looking at job descriptions and tweaking your resume for the ones you want to apply to will probably take more time," says Salemi.
7. Eliminate Distractions
If you want to set your priorities straight, you need to get rid of the distractions. Turn off the TV and throw your phone out the window, it's time to focus on bettering your life and leaving the clutter at the door. "Set aside time on your calendar to set your priorities, but also start eliminating distractions. For me, I realized I click on every business article that pops up in my Facebook feed! Must. Reduce. Doing. That. These kinds of distractions take up more time during the day and create more interruptions than we realize. Start calling yourself out on things like that so you can clear out the clutter. Set a timer on social media if you have to as well. You’ll be surprised how much hidden time you discover to focus on pursuing your priorities!" says Salemi.
8. Take Time To Reflect
"This means setting aside an afternoon or a block of time where you shut off your phone, put pen to paper and tell yourself that, even though you have a million things going on, this is a priority. For instance, let’s say you work in a toxic environment and you haven’t gotten a raise in two years. Hello, job search!" says Salemi. Analyze your life and figure out what kind of changes you need to make. If you feel like you have no time to do this, then honestly, that's even more of a reason for you to reflect.
9. Be Honest With Yourself
"You have to check those priorities with reality. Keep track of how much time you truly spend on things each week, for at least a week or maybe two. Be honest. Finally, compare the reality of your time with your ideal priorities. Are you giving proper time to what matters most to you? If not, why not? What can you do to make your true priorities number one in your life? Make appropriate changes so your reality matches what really matters most to you," says clinical psychologist, speaker, and founder of the AZ Postpartum Wellness Coalition Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D. in an interview with Bustle over email. I'm sorry to say this, but sometimes you need to get hit with a healthy dose of reality to realize what you truly need. While you don't want to place a lot of pressure on yourself, you do need to be honest with yourself to figure out what's most important.
10. Create A List
For myself, there's nothing more satisfying than creating a list. It's a great way to see what I truly value so I can figure out what my next step needs to be. "When we feel overwhelmed it can be challenging to figure out what our priorities are because everything can feel equally as important. A great tip to keep your priorities straight is to make a list of everything weighing on your mind. Just get it all out on paper. Once you see it in front of you, it already starts to feel more manageable. From there, rate each item on a scale from one to ten on its importance. By doing this you will be able to determine which priorities should come first," says Stokes.
11. Take Action In Small Steps
If you start to feel overwhelmed with your priorities, take a step back and remember to breathe. You don't need to be Wonder Woman to set your priorities straight. The only person you need to make happy is yourself, and the more you realized that, the better you may feel. "Remember that we can’t do everything, all of the time, but we can take committed action in small steps and build on them from there," says Kincaid.
12. Remember That It's Normal For Your Priorities To Change
As you get older, your priorities will most likely change. But don't think of it as a bad thing. Consider the fact that over time you mature and you need to just reprioritize what's most important. "First we must have awareness around the fact that our priorities will change as our lives and circumstances change. Some priorities will be ones that we focus on over the long term and other priorities will be focused on what’s happening right now," says Kincaid. "With this in mind, I recommend that you make two lists: One, main/active areas of your life. Two, secondary areas or ones that don’t need as much attention at this time. Spend some time to go over each area of your life and write out any ideas or priorities that will be helpful to incorporate into your life now or in the future," continued Kincaid.
13. Check In With Yourself Regularly
After when you figure out what your priorities are, check in with yourself to make sure you stay focus and conquer them. Schedule a coffee date with yourself in your calendar so you don't forget. "Check in regularly with yourself, often! Ask if your priorities are still serving you? Are you holding yourself accountable to living your life on your terms?" says Kincaid.
Don't get frustrated if you need some time to figure out what your priorities are so you can set them straight. Be kind to yourself and remember that it's completely normal for your priorities to change over time. Eventually, with a little bit of patience (and a lot of wine), you can figure out what's most important and take charge of your life.