Time is your most valuable commodity. It’s what you spend to do activities that make you happy — and to make business moves that could power your career. Yet time often feels like the one thing we don’t have. What if it didn’t have to be that way?

Conscious prioritizing is the key to spending your time the way you want to spend it. As a Project Manager and Entrepreneur myself, I have been amazed by how much control over my life I have gained by following these five simple steps to decide how I spend my time every day.

1. Know what makes you happy — not what others think you should do.

We are surrounded every day by standard definitions of “success.” But what is your definition? What activities really make you feel that your time was well-spent? What accomplishments or experiences do you most want to have under your belt fifty years from now?

2. Know your priorities — not your emergencies

Once you know what you want most, choose your top three to five priorities. These are the things you will make time to pursue every day — even if it just means making a five-minute phone call, or blocking off an hour for a run in the park.

3. Make your to-do list pro-active — not reactive.
 Each morning or evening, make a to-do list for the day to come. Ideally, use a checklist on a white board or day planner — that ensures you don’t include more items than you can possibly complete! By making your to-do list consciously, based on the priorities you’ve chosen — instead of just adding items to it as the day presents you with demands — you ensure that your day will be spent in your service. Not in the service of the outside world.

4. Learn to say “no.”
 Of course, just because you make time for your priorities doesn’t mean the outside world will stop presenting you with “urgent” tasks to be done. Some tasks can be made more efficient simply by scheduling a time block to do them all at once. But others may not actually be important, or may be best left to someone else.
 Learning to say “no” to demands on your time is a vital skill for a successful businessperson — and for your happiness. This vital skill doesn’t just ensure that you control how you spend your time; it can actually make you look more competent and authoritative.

5. Rinse and repeat. 
 Re-evaluate your happiness and goals every few months. Is one goal turning out not to be what you expected? Have you discovered something new that makes you really happy?

Originally published at medium.com