You have just decided that you are going to start regularly prioritizing so you can go big on the things that matter to you. To facilitate your efforts, you first want to devise an effective planning system that will offer greater strategic clarity.

Here are some useful steps to take to create a foundation of planning that will set you up for more effective prioritization: 

Get clear on WHAT you want and WHY you want it! This process includes purpose, values, vision, goals, and objectives.

1. Purpose.  This can be a much more involved exercise, but essentially, why are you on this planet, what are you here to do?  Is your purpose to help others, if so, what actions are you taking to serve that purpose which allows you to feel fully alive?  It will be easier for you to create daily and weekly tasks when you know what you need to do within the bigger picture and when you are going after purpose-driven items, you will love the reasons for choosing what to spend time on.

2. Values.  These are essential pillars that buttress your purpose.  Maybe your values include learning and service, so having a purpose aimed at helping others seems natural.

3. Vision.  Three or five years from now, where do you want to be?  If you fulfilled your purpose, what would that look like, what would your lifestyle be?  Paint a detailed picture.; you need to know where you want to go so you can take prioritization steps to support that vision.

4. Set goals and objectives.  Once you have your vision, you want to collect all the things you need to do to accomplish that 3-year plan and capture it on one master list.  Then you can break it down into yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals and objectives.  Prioritization happens on different levels. You have the tasks that need to be done today, goals completed in a week, and accomplishments for the month.  Sometimes the lists do not always align, and sometimes it can be easy to default to what seems urgent today in place of what is vital for the long-term.  Always choose to take the steps that are moving you closer to your important life priorities – your purpose and vision.

This high-level planning will make daily decisions much easier.  Brian Tracy’s 10-90 rule for personal effectiveness says that when you spend 10% of the time planning,  you save up until 90% of your time in execution.

You may also want to consider this popular ABZ planning method in designing your long-term objectives.  Created by Authors and Co-founders Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha, it is an excellent strategy for designing your career while being flexible and having a backup plan for when things go wrong.  Plan A is about your current focus, which can be modified to adapt to small changes.  In case of a dramatic or unexpected change, Plan B launches, allowing you to pivot to refocus your goals and take the next steps to get there.  Plan Z is the fallback position; if all goes wrong, it is something you can comfortably rely on while you get back on your feet and not have to worry about the basics.

When you are clear about what you want and your priorities, you should be able to act decisively when a conflict comes up.  To help with this decision-making, you can setup potential conflict scenarios.  For example, you say that you want to prioritize career advancement.  So if you have an amazing work opportunity come up, but it is on the same day as your friend’s birthday party, which activity will you choose to attend?  When you pit a few of these conflicts against each other and know exactly how you will act based on your vision, values, and purpose, you will be less stressed and act with conviction when the time comes.

To begin to prioritize, you want to get clear on your big-picture items – purpose, values, vision, goals, and objectives.  Then you can jump into the daily actions of working from a list and prioritize your most important work.

Quote of the day: “Tell me, what is it you wish to do with your one wild and precious life.” -Mary Oliver

Q: When was the last time you dedicated time to think and write about your purpose?  Comment and share with us, we would love to hear from you 

[The next blog in this series 3/5 will focus on a daily practice to prioritization] 

As a Leadership Coach, I partner with others to craft their personal leadership vision, contact me to learn more.

Big-picture planning will make your priorities clearer