It’s the time of year that we all start thinking about life and our hopes and dreams for the future. But goal-setting can be challenging - where to start? How to reach them? What’s important and what’s not?
As someone who knows the world of planning and planners inside out, people often ask me what is the most important step in prioritizing goals. The answer is a little more complex than just “put the best ones first” or “go with your gut.”
Below I’ve outlined the most important steps in prioritizing goals so that you can ignore the unnecessary and start putting your most important dreams FIRST.
Let’s get into it.
1. Audit Your Goals
First things first. You need to sit down and think seriously about your existing goals and whether they’re still what you really, really want. Sometimes we make goals at a particular time in our lives which then go out of date as we grow older.
Your childhood dream may have been to move to the country and become a market gardener. But with the benefit of hindsight and after a few years living in “the real world”, you can reassess that dream to see if it’s what you still want in the long term. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t - but what’s important is that analyze your *current* feelings towards the goal.
2. What Timeline Makes Sense
Once you’ve whittled down your life goals to those with the most meaning to you, engage your logical brain and make a timeline that helps you achieve as many as possible.
For example, if you desperately want a high-flying career in the government sector AND to become a market gardener in the country, it’s probably going to make sense to start with the former and move to the latter closer to your retirement. Likewise, if you want to travel the world AND have a big family, then perhaps planning the travel before the family (Covid-19 permitting) makes the most logical sense.
Prioritizing goals is not about excluding some dreams at the expense of others, but about deciding which goals deserve your energies first, and which should come later.
3. Think About the Future
Just as you sat down to analyze whether your past goals still make sense in your present, analyzing your *current* goals to make sure they make sense in your future is equally important.
If you’re planning on settling down with your partner then you’ll also need to take into account their influence on your goal setting and whether you’ll need to adjust your plans to fit their own hopes and dreams. This isn’t about giving up on your own goals - but rather about compromise, and successfully meshing together the goals of your entire family unit.
Now’s also the time to think quite logically and sensibly about your goals and how well they will serve you into the future. For example, if you want to work in a creative but low-paying job because it feeds your soul - that’s great! But if you also get major anxiety over money then you’re going to have to make some tough decisions that not only serve you now, but also later in life. Can you have it both ways? Maybe! But doing some future-planning and future-proofing of your goals is important nonetheless.
4. Do a Time/Value Analysis
This is one of the biggest mistakes people make both when prioritizing their goals and when prioritizing the steps needed to reach those goals. They pour far too much energy into the goals or steps that aren’t their most important, and they never get around to their life-altering goals that *should* be top of their list.
When you’re in the process of prioritizing goals, make sure you think sensibly about which ones really, *really* matter in your life. Specifically, think about how much time and effort your goals require, and then decide which ones still feel most worth it. For example, you might have been pushing yourself to start a business for years - but how much does that goal really serve you? Are you actually business-minded? Will your business bring you enough joy? Enough income? Weighing up the costs versus benefits of your dreams can save you a lot of time and heartache!
5. Head Towards Happiness
Having dealt with the logical and the practical you should also know this: Goal-setting is an art, not a science. That means that generally-speaking, your goals should come from your heart, rather than your head. You can set goals with your head, sure thing, but at the end of the day, the heart wants what the heart wants. If you set logical, practical goals, you will only repress the emotional and spiritual ones that always, always override matters of the head.
That’s not to say that you can’t apply a spot of level-headedness and reason when prioritizing your goals. But if you continue to feel very strongly about certain dreams, there’s probably a reason for it.
Prioritizing Your Goals in 2021
What is the most important step in prioritizing goals? There’s no single thing that you need to do - but rather a combination of steps that will ensure only the most important goals are top of your list. Need a handy place to keep all your hopes and dreams safe and on track? A digital or paper planner really is the best place to start!
Now what are you waiting for? Go get those goals!