Two Simple Tools to Set Your Priorities Straight


Many people act as if everything is equally important. This is OK if you are capable of getting things done without feeling stressed or pressured. However, in most cases not being clear about your priorities creates more confusion and indecision.

The best way to get going and overcome feeling overwhelmed is to prioritize.

Prioritization is simple when you know what’s important to you. What can you do when you’re not clear about what’s important and want to do EVERYTHING?

You know you can’t do everything. So where do you start?

The two methods below can help you in prioritizing and making a decision.

I. Flip a coin

It may sound lame, but it works. You can do it with a** short** to-do list or if you are unsure about what projects to take on.

Let’s say you have four projects and you don’t know which one to start.  The projects are:

  1. revamping your backyard,
  2. cleaning up your garage and getting rid of junk,
  3. taking a writing class and
  4. learning Spanish.

All these projects are things you want to do but haven’t started on any of them yet.

Assume you chose heads.

  • First coin flip (backyard vs. garage): heads backyard, tails garage. You choose backyard.
  • Second coin flip (writing vs. Spanish): heads writing, tails Spanish. You choose writing.
  • Third coin flip (selection from first coin flip vs. selection from second coin flip): heads writing, tails backyard.

Your top two priorities would be:

  1. Writing
  2. Backyard

How do you feel about your choices? Are you OK with these two priorities or do you feel like you want to start on something else?

If you feel that instead of writing you would like to start on learning Spanish, then go for it.

The whole point of the exercise is to help you make a decision.

Once you are clear about your projects, commit with all of your heart to the first one. Or two if you can manage, but no more.

Plan your project and break it down into actionable items. Commit to taking at least one action step each day.

II. Prioritizing Grid

Richard Bolles author of What Color Is Your Parachute? developed this method to help people in prioritizing their career choices. I think you can use it in any area of your life where you need to prioritize more than a few items.

There is an awesome free online version of the prioritizing grid that you can use. Click here to try it. The instructions for use are on the web page with a couple of examples.

The point of the grid is to go through the list of your items and choose between two things at a time. When you are done, the item you selected the most is your number one priority.

You can use this gird to prioritize your tasks or a list of projects. It can be an effective way in helping you make a decision.

A few reminders

Write things down. Regardless of what and how much you have to do, you need to have everything listed in one place.

It’s not the tool; it’s how you use it.  You can use one of the two tools above or any other method of your choice. The important thing is to keep using what works for you.

One or two max. Focus on the first priority you chose or the top two items max. Don’t get carried away and take on more than you can handle.

Keep prioritizing. Use your technique to prioritize whenever you have options and can’t seem to make a decision. Don’t let things linger.

Take action and keep going. After prioritizing start moving forward. If things are not working out, review your priorities and pick up where you left off or start over if you have to.

Being clear about your priorities is the first step in doing something meaningful. You don’t have to create a plan for your entire life or even for a year. Just think of what is in front of you NOW.