Achieving goals is much more challenging than simply setting them, and in our series on “The Art of Setting and Achieving Goals,” we’re covering how to get clarity around setting your goals — whether personal, professional, or in business — and developing a master plan to achieve them.
Before you even begin to set goals, you must formulate your mission statement. Then, once you’re immersed in your greater purpose, you can list goals for getting there…and begin to prioritize them. This is what we’re covering today in part two or our ten-part series.
Why Goal Prioritization Matters
Even if you like to begin your workday with a well-blocked schedule, new tasks and issues will always pop up throughout the day — and, unfortunately, multitasking is the enemy of goal achievement.
Additionally, prioritization at work may only be half of the battle. When you go home, life happens from 6-10 p.m. You have responsibilities to your family and to yourself. and often these responsibilities may take up more than four hours of your time. So, when we find ourselves in a position where ten different responsibilities are begging for our attention, it’s crucial to pick one.
But how do you decide what to prioritize?
3 Stages of Goal Prioritization
There are three stages in achieving your goals:
- Getting clarity on your mission
- Developing a plan
- Executing on the plan
During the first stage (getting clarity on the mission), you must learn to prioritize your goals. Prioritization takes you out of analysis paralysis, and instead allows you to focus on what you know will make the greatest impact on your goals.
Once you’ve identified your mission, you can evaluate your priorities and outline a plan to achieve it. Your goals will serve as guideposts along the way to your completion of the mission. Effective goals should be drafted in a SMART goal format so you know exactly how far you are from accomplishing them.
Developing a Plan
If goals are the vessel on which you complete your mission, plans are the maps you use to steer the vessel. This piece of information is crucial to remember though: If a plan does not align with one of your goals, you should not prioritize it. It’s important to prioritize which of your goals take precedence, too, in case the action steps you must take to complete them compete for one another’s attention.
For example, you might set a goal to complete a proposal during a set hour. The goal for the hour is your immediate priority, but if you’re interrupted by someone who needs help working on a client complaint, the goal of having happy clients might take priority for you, so you’ll abandon your initial goal for the hour.
Without developing clarity around your goals, you could waste valuable time trying to decide what plan needs to be a priority. Having clear goals makes every task, and every plan, more purposeful.
Executing on the Plan
Plans are a set list of actions that help you complete a goal.
It’s important to note that prioritization isn’t a tool meant to reduce your achievements or force you to prioritize only the hardest tasks. It’s simply a tool you can use to help you allocate your time and energy most effectively.
Knowing what we know now about what influences our prioritization (mission, goals, and plans), let’s take a look at how prioritization works on a practical level. One key example of prioritization in practice comes from a conversation between Warren Buffett and his pilot Michael Flint:
- Step 1: Write down your top 25 goals on a single piece of paper.
- Step 2: Circle only your top five most important goals.
- Step 3: Put the top five on one list and the remaining 20 on a second list.
The top five are the goals you must complete. Many people assume that the remaining goals are what you get to if you have leftover time. Contrary to this, Buffet told Flint the remaining 20 goals are the “avoid at all costs” goals.
In fact, you should not even think about the 20 remaining goals until you’ve achieved the first five. Doing so allows you to eliminate the distraction from your mind so you can focus solely on your priorities.
The Bottom Line
It may seem like a lot of work to prioritize the responsibilities and to-dos you have in your life but think of it this way: You can either prioritize your life now, or you can go through this process every time you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list.
Taking the time now will save you a lot of it in the long run.
Prioritization makes you effective in time management, and if you truly want to optimize time management, join us for one of our upcoming goal-setting workshops. We’re offering three sessions on personal goal setting (whether life, career, or health) and three sessions on goal setting for hedge fund and family office leaders and their teams.