Setting Priorities

Three Mistakes to Avoid
October 1, 2009

While it's easy to be busy and crank out the tasks on your to-do list, it's a bit more difficult to choose to do the
important things -- to live your life by priorities that you set for yourself.

But living a life of smart priorities is one of the best ways to become much more effective, to make the most of your time
and reach your goals with less effort.
Instead of running around like a chicken with no head, you can walk calmly in the right direction, do less but be more powerful
in what you do.
Something you should remember, however: priorities are not what you say they are—they're what you actually do. So take
a moment to reflect on how you spend your time, what your priorities have been lately, until now. And reflect on whether those
are the priorities you want to live. If not, let's look at how to change the situation—as simply as possible.

Three Big Mistakes

Most people make one of three mistakes when it comes to setting priorities:

1. They don't think about it. People often do their work and live their lives without consciously setting priorities.
They're showing their priorities through their actions, but they're not consciously set. As a result, they end up living lives
and doing work they don't really want. They fall into a life they don't want rather than designing the life they want.

2. They make it too complicated. Some people do set priorities, but they do so with complicated systems of numbers
and letters. "A1" is given to top priorities, then "A2" to the next level, down to "B1" and
"C2" and so forth. The truth is, you can only really have a couple of real priorities at a time. If you think you
have many priorities, you aren't being realistic -- you will end up putting a couple of those "priorities" on the
backburner -- which means they weren't priorities in the first place.

3. They don't live their priorities. It's one thing to set priorities, it's another to live them. What you actually
do, how you live your life, reveals your actual priorities. Your priorities are what you live, not what you put on paper.
Too often people say their priorities are one thing, but their lives show those "priorities" are given very little
actual time.

How to Set and Live Priorities

To live a life of conscious priorities, avoid the above mistakes with three simple solutions:

1. Consciously set priorities. Take time today, or sometime this week, to sit down and figure out what you want
your priorities to be -- at work and in life. What's most important to you? What goals are most important? What do you want
your life to look like? Who is most important? Reflect on these, then write down your top priorities.

2. Keep them simple and focused. When setting your priorities, choose just 2-3 to really focus on. If you have a
longer list, put the others on a "someday" list to focus on later. You can't live more than 2-3 priorities anyway,
and if you keep things simple, it'll allow you to truly focus on these priorities.

3. Live your priorities. Keeping things simple and focused makes it so much easier to actually live your priorities.
Take time each morning to remind yourself of your priorities, and to put them into your schedule. Block off time each day
for your top goals or priorities, so your life will actually reflect the priorities you set.

Leo Babauta is the author of Zen
Habits
and The
Power of Less.

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