Priorities represent a combination of what we see as important and urgent. They represent value and call for action under present conditions. Sometimes we consciously decide what should be our priorities. At other times, priorities can surface in response to a set of conditions beyond our control.
From time to time, we do well to revisit our priorities, whether they’re the result of a conscious and intentional process or in response to changes and external forces. So how can we know when it’s time to revisit and possibly reorder our priorities? Here are five symptoms that the time may be now:
- You feel as though you’re working hard, but still aren’t making progress toward your priorities. Keep a record of how you spend your time over the course of a week or so. Compare this record with your priorities. Are they really aligned? Make a list of the strategies you’re using to address your priorities. Do they have the potential to deliver success or is it time to adopt some new approaches?
- If, when asked, you struggle to list your key priorities. It may be that you really have no priorities. Take some time to reflect on what’s important and urgent enough to deserve your ongoing focused attention and effort. Be sure that what you’re calling priorities are true priorities and not just tasks or responsibilities. Place these tasks and responsibilities at the top of your “to do” lists and monitor their progress.
- When you think about your priorities, you feel a knot in your stomach. Are you spending time on things other than your priorities? Does this make you feel guilty? It may also be that your priorities include some difficult or challenging actions or decisions that you’re avoiding. You may need to act on them and remove these items from your list.
- The priorities you’re working on no longer feel like yours. As circumstances change, so must our priorities. It may be that the passage of time has led to misalignment between what used to be your priorities and what they are now. It also may be that you’re spending a growing portion of your time reacting to others’ priorities. It might be time to reflect, revisit, and revise your priorities to create better alignment.
- Every time you think about your priorities, the list seems to grow. There’s a limit to the number of priorities we can have at any one time. Take some time to trim your list. Are there priorities that have outlived their value? Are there priorities on your list that are, or should be, someone else’s priorities?