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9 Tips for Identifying and Living Your Priorities

5. Take stock of your job.

At work priorities are placed upon you, Yamin said. She suggested answering these questions so you can set priorities that meet both your personal values and the company’s vision and goal.

  • Why are you there?
  • What are your strengths and responsibilities?
  • What are their expectations of you?
  • What are your expectations of this position?

Yamin also finds it helpful to have your job description and a list of goals (which are usually set during the performance review) close by. This helps you discern if a task meets your goals or duties, she said. If it doesn’t, consider if you’re the right person for that task.

Sometimes, new priorities come up in the middle of the year, she said. When this happens, talk to your supervisor about which tasks must be done first and which can wait, she said.

6. Cut out the urgent for what’s important.

Wilding cited President Eisenhower’s famous quote: “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

Urgent tasks are often related to someone else’s goals, she said. Important tasks “are in service of your values and longer term mission.” Urgent but unimportant tasks might be a last-minute invite to a networking event or checking social media, she said.

Wilding stressed the importance of ruthlessly cutting or eliminating urgent but unimportant tasks or delegating them. She shared these examples: You’re working on an important project, so you hire help for laundry or grocery shopping. You say no to networking events to focus on a meaningful side project. You check your inbox three times a day instead of every 10 minutes.

“The goal is to become more intentional and protective of your time, rather than reactive and deleting important mental energy and focus you need to work on the ‘important’ things.”

7. Contemplate before committing.

Before Yamin says yes to a project, she asks herself: “Do I want to do this? How does it meet the intentions I am working on? Do I have the time and energy it requires to do this project? What would I need to give up if I don’t have the time and energy it requires?”

“Taking time for self-inquiry allows me to make an informed decision. I am able to then take ownership of my part and do the best I can.”

8. Create a “to-don’t” list.

According to Wilding, this list contains “the things you vow to say no to in order to meet your priorities.”

9. Separate priorities by season.

Yamin’s priorities change based on her seasons, which may last several weeks to several months. During each season she focuses on a different area in her life, such as career, relationships, play or mastery of new skills. For instance, in November and December, she shifts from working to being present in her relationships. “It eases the inner dialogue to do it all.”

During other seasons she works hard with little to no rest or play. “If I shift the focus that this is temporary, I can then take the actions needed that support this priority. When it’s rest time I make sure I use it, too.”

It can be hard to stop living on autopilot and say no. But it also means having power over your life — a power available to all of us.

Checklist photo available from Shutterstock

9 Tips for Identifying and Living Your Priorities

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). 9 Tips for Identifying and Living Your Priorities. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 8 Jul 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.