Prioritizing What Matters Most

Sara Knapp

Post by Sara Knapp, Executive Coach

In order to prioritize, you need to know what your priorities are. By your priorities I mean yours. Not your spouses, not your parents, not your bosses, not your friends but yours. 

This is a simple idea that’s hard to put into practice – at least for most adults. What is interesting is that if you ask children what their priorities are, they can tell you. They know who they are. They know what they like. They know what matters most to them. 

But somewhere along the line most of us lose site of this clarity of identity. We do so because over time we adopt the voices, the attitudes, and the beliefs of those around us. We fill our minds with a litany of “shoulds” without ever stopping to question where they come from, or whether we believe them. Then we run our lives on them as if they were truths. 

When I work with people who are overwhelmed and having trouble managing their priorities, I generally find it’s because they are not only trying to satisfy their own priorities, but also the priorities associated with all the other ‘shoulds” they have adopted through the years. 

In essence, they are trying to please too many people, too much of the time, and end up losing themselves and their sense of control in the process. The best strategy I know of to sort out what matters most is to use the concept of time to create perspective. 

You can do this by asking yourself what will matter most 5, 10 or 20 years from now. Or, what will need to happen in that time for me to look back with pride and say, “Wow, those were 5, 10 or 20 awesome years”? Your answers to these questions create a framework you can use to sort out your priorities today. 

As I responded to a similar question last month, once you know what matters most 20 years from now, start making time for those things today. If you have time left over, move on to a ten-year horizon. Do those things next. Continue the pattern. While not a perfect solution, it does create a powerful compass to remind us, and draw us back to, what matters most.