set priorities

Set priorities successfully and become more efficient in everything you do

Do you ever happen to determine important values in life, while they still remain unattainable? For example, you want to be a superwoman who balances all roles: cooks, cleans, educates, progresses in her career, etc. and in the end, you end up doing non of those. And have you ever sat down and defined all the important goals in life, and in the end realized that half of them you did not fulfill?
You didn’t read the books you wanted, nor did you progress at work, nor did you listen to the courses you wanted?
The reason for failure is that you probably don’t know how to set priorities.

Only when you set the values well, set goals and set priorities among them, will you have good time management.

Set priorities successfully and become more efficient in everything you do

How to set priorities in life?

Wherever you seek advice on setting priorities, you will inevitably come across the name Stephen Covey and his 4-quadrant model for setting priorities. This is perhaps the most important knowledge from his famous book 7 Habits of Highly Successful People – a bible for all those who want to organize their time well and become more successful in their careers.

This is what the priority table looks like:

4-quadrant model to set priorities

How to use these 4 quadrants to set priorities?

Goals are first divided into those that are urgent and those that are important to us (which have some personal meaning to us).
Urgent goals are a reactive reaction (eg the baby cried, we interrupt everything and take her in our arms). Important goals relate to our proactive response (eg to attend a lecture or education, training, a romantic evening with your partner).

Let’s first describe what activities fall into all four quadrants:

Quadrant I (urgent – important): these are all those stressful activities that often and unplanned pop up for us, which are urgent, but are also important to solve IMMEDIATELY. Call from the boss, crying child, going to the doctor/ambulance, the deadline for completion of the project, etc. So, all the fires that we have to put out as soon as possible.

Quadrant II (not urgent – important): here are all those activities that mean a lot to us in the long run, and whose results we will often not even see right away. Working on a relationship with a partner, changing jobs, enrolling in a course, starting a diet/exercise. Here are all those activities that are really the most important in our lives, and which we usually postpone. The irony, isn’t it?

Quadrant III (urgent – not important): in this quadrant are all those activities that represent some distractions and interruptions. These are the activities that seem urgent to you, but when you think about it, you realize that they are not so important. Eg. a friend you haven’t seen in a long time calls you in the city and you immediately go to see him, and then you realize that you actually wanted to do something else. Or when someone calls you on the phone in the middle of an important job and talks for half an hour. Even a child who wants to tell you something new for the 5th time, while you are talking on the phone.

Quadrant IV (not urgent – not important): these are often the activities we spend the most time on and use the least. Hundreds of sweets you eat during the day, another series you watch instead of studying or cleaning the house, “just one more” checking email or Facebook.

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Now that you know roughly what goes where, let’s try to do it together, and set priorities step by step:

  • First, on a separate piece of paper, divide the goals into 2 groups according to their urgency (urgent – not urgent).
  • Then divide the goals from those two groups according to their importance (important – not important).
  • While separating goals by urgency is an easy task, it is very possible that you will encounter difficulties when you need to separate them by their importance. Here, the so-called “Middle step“. Assign categories A, B, C to each goal. Assign the value of A to the goal that is most important to you, B to those of medium importance, and C to the goals that are of least importance to you. Having managed to separate the extremes, A and C goals, it may be easier for you to place the B goals in one of these categories now. If you still think that some B goal should still remain with that value, then put it in the table between the two corresponding quadrants.
  • Write the goals in the table.

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What about all these quadrants now?

It’s not about prioritizing your schedule. The bottom line is to prioritize. (Stephen Covey)

The essence of creating this table is to start managing your activities according to the set priorities. Covey recommends that these tables should be made at the beginning of each week and guarantees that your productivity will improve drastically.

The most attention should be paid to quadrant II, and the least to III and IV.

And when you think about it a little better, you spend most of your time on those last two quadrants. Both the technology and the demands of life placed before the individual have advanced so much overtime that they have only made it even more difficult for us to dedicate ourselves to that quadrant II. As we get older and get new life roles, only then does the whole story become even more complicated.

Set priorities successfully and become more efficient in everything you do

We all want to dedicate ourselves to planning and activities that are important to us, but how?

First, accept that you cannot resist the activities in Quadrant I. When the boss calls, you have to talk to her/him. When a child cries or wants to tell you something, you have to react. Or for example, if you get injured or start burning lunch. Those fires just have to be put out first.

What can you change then?

Well, practically everything from quadrants III and IV.
It’s okay to say no to seeing a friend if you have something more important to do.
It’s OK to end the phone call because you’re in the middle of some work.
Emails and new likes can always wait.

The bottom line is that most of us spend a lot of time on things that are not important, and often not urgent.
Only when we make a good purge between them, we will be able to dedicate ourselves to the desired quadrant II.
And if we do that, and it doesn’t work again, then maybe we should reconsider our goals.

That would be roughly what I wanted to tell you about priorities.

How do you set priorities? Do you have some other technique? I can’t wait to read your comments.

If you find this text useful, share it with your friends on social networks, or send it to someone who you think lacks a little order and organization in life. Thanks for reading.

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