Are You Good at Prioritizing?

woman relaxing with arms outstretched at beach with eyes closed, feeling free

Recently I had a conversation with a friend about the struggles we have prioritizing our lives. It seems like there are so many needs, issues, demands for our time and energy by those around us – kids, family, work, responsibilities around our homes, in groups we are a part of, in meeting our own needs, to challenge ourselves, to keep up with the latest news. It’s a lot to manage!

Our world is shifting these days as it appears the restrictions imposed by the pandemic are lifting. We have gotten used to a life that has had multiple boundaries that prevented us from being out in the world. For many of us our lives had a certain rhythm and structure. Somewhere in all that we had established priorities.

According to Google, prioritizing involves determining “the order for dealing with (a series of items or tasks) according to their relative importance.” Sounds basic at first glance but then how does one determine specifically what is important and where on the list are other items that are also important

I find the following questions provide me some guidance for prioritizing:

  • What is essential for me to address/accomplish today? To determine this I consider:
    • my values (my personal list developed over time and periodically revised as things change in my life and in the world),
    • my life philosophy (using the gifts God has given me, ask for His guidance and take time to listen for a response, nurture whenever the opportunity arises, don’t get too distracted by those things that are tempting or demanding my attention)
    • who am I responsible for and to, who depends on me (family and friends in crisis, work responsibilities?)
  • And then I consider:
    • How specifically can I address each of these?
    • How much time do I need to devote to each?
    • Do I address these on my own or do I need assistance from others?
  • What is next in importance for me to address/accomplish today?  Are there left-overs from yesterday or some other time that I didn’t finish?
  • What are the things I hope to accomplish over time that I can attend to today or at least get started on them?
  • How am I making sure my needs are also being met? Have I built in some self-care for my physical, mental, emotional and relational health?  Do I need a break? How much time do I allot for this?
  • What needs to go on a list of items that are not essential or secondarily important to accomplish but are still responsibilities I have? This could be related to some kind of bucket list or things to do in the next month, few months, year?
Self care - white chalk handwriting on a blackboard with a cup of coffee

I try to take stock of this process daily before bed. I think about:

  • How well did I do?
  • How realistic was I?
  • What interfered with addressing/accomplishing my priorities?
  • What took priority over what was essential and how did that happen? 
  • Was it my decision or did someone else have demands or clearly needed my attention?
  • What do I need to consider for the next day, so as not to create unnecessary, unhealthy stress while preparing to sleep?
  • Who do I need to process to guide my decisions about future priorities and help determine how well I am doing with prioritizing?

I hope you benefit from considering if, when and how you prioritize your life each day. Perhaps doing this brings you enhanced security from realizing that you can control at least some of your life, especially as you adjust to the many changes happening in the world we all are experiencing.

Invitation for Reflection

  1. How often do you prioritize your life and specifically what you do each day?
  2. How might it benefit you to become more intentional about prioritizing?
  3. What do you need to do to be better equipped to intentionally prioritize your life?
  4. Are you a perfectionist? How can you try to not put too much pressure on yourself to prioritize perfectly?
  5. How can you be certain to prioritize your needs each day?

Diane Wagenhals, Director, Lakeside Global Institute