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Life is full of choices. From the moment we wake up, we make decision after decision about how to spend our limited time and energy. Prioritization is the art of discerning what matters most and doing those things first. Mastering this skill can help optimize everything.
Prioritizing well begins with knowing your values. What's ultimately most important to you? Your family? Your faith? Your fitness? Your career? Get clear on your core values, and use them to guide your priorities. As leadership guru Stephen Covey said, "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities."
Next, differentiate between the urgent and the important. That deadline looming may feel urgent, but is it truly important in the grand scheme? Important tasks align with your values and move you toward your biggest goals. Don't let the urgent crowd out time for the important. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower noted, "What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important."
When everything feels pressing, pause and reflect. Ask yourself: What would make the biggest difference today? What opportunities or relationships might I miss by being busy? What can I delegate or eliminate? Taking a step back to gain perspective can illuminate what matters most right now.
Involve others in priority-setting when possible. Getting input from colleagues, family or friends can provide new angles. Two heads are often better than one for discerning what's crucial to focus on. Also, sharing priorities builds understanding and support.
Finally, remember that priorities are dynamic, not set in stone. As circumstances and goals shift, re-evaluate and adjust accordingly. Regularly reviewing priorities against your values prevents you from wasting time on misaligned activities.