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Learn to Set Priorities and Keep Them

By Charles Hopkins Published 09/20/2007 | Entrepreneur
Without priorities life can become a jumbled mess lacking in direction. Priorities are the driving force that keeps us on task, moving toward our goals, and leading a satisfying and productive life. But in order to live your life according to priorities, you must first learn what your priorities are, how to set them, and how to keep them.

Priorities are a personal matter meaning that no two people's priorities will be the same. You might want to be promoted at work whereas a coworker might be interested in running a marathon. Another coworker might be saving to start a home-based business so that they can better raise their family. The bottom line is this: Individual priorities will be as varied as the individual. Don't try to compare yours to others, it just won't add up.

To set priorities, you must first thing of the things that are most important to you. A good way to do this is to imagine looking back at your life 20 years from now. Which accomplishments would have been the most important to you? Which ones would you view as a waste of time? Focus on the tasks and accomplishments that seem to be the most important. These are your priorities in life.

Now that you know what your priorities are, you need to set goals with your priorities in mind. If raising your family is your priority, working toward that promotion that will keep you in the office longer will hardly be a worthy goal. Instead, focus on goals that will give you more time with your family. Maybe switching to a higher paying job with fewer hours would be more in line with your priority of putting family first.

When you set your priorities and goals, be sure to write them down and keep them in a safe place so that you can refer to them often. Analyze your actions to see whether they are in line with both. If they are not, make adjustments where needed. For example: Let's say that you are career driven and want to be highly successful at a young age. If you notice that you are in a dead-end job where you have reached the ceiling of opportunity, staying in this job would hardly be in line with your priority of becoming successful. Switching to a fast-paced, upwardly mobile company where you can get the recognition that you deserve might be your best bet.

Keep in mind that your goals and priorities are bound to change throughout your life. The birth of a baby or a debilitating illness can dramatically change your life and your outlook on what is important. It is during these times that you will need to re-evaluate your priorities and change them accordingly. Sometimes this might mean a subtle shift, other times you might need to completely overhaul your priorities and goals. But no matter what changes may come your way, be sure to stay true to yourself and to your dreams.