There is always something we wish to improve upon, whether it is our attitude, appearance, performance at work, or a hobby. Unfortunately, it is too easy to allow daily responsibilities to overshadow long-term plans. 

Once you understand the importance of setting clear goals and priorities and apply the tips below, you can make long-term changes despite your busy schedule. 

Difference Between Goals and Priorities

Before making plans, you must know the difference between goals and priorities. They often overlap, but they are not the same.

Priorities are tasks that demand attention. You must focus your time and effort on them because of their importance in any aspect of your life. For example, you may prioritize nutrition or completing a presentation at work.

On the other hand, a goal is something you wish to achieve and to which you are willing to devote time and effort. Typically, goals are larger than priorities. While priorities focus on the most pressing tasks, goals describe your overarching plan. 

The most effective goals align with your priorities. While setting clear goals and priorities, write a list of your priorities first. A goal based on a pressing task is the most motivating. 

You will never have time to reach every goal you ever want to set. However, you can achieve the most meaningful goals by focusing on your priorities. 

Why Is Setting Goals and Priorities Important?

Too often, we feel like we are doing the same thing day after day. It can feel impossible to break the cycle because we must carry out the same responsibilities constantly. However, this leaves us with little room to grow. 

Setting goals and priorities helps you focus on the big picture. You may want to learn Spanish, research daycares for your child, learn to meditate, and take a certification course for work, but you cannot expect to achieve them all within months. As one day fades into the next, it may feel like you will never accomplish any of these tasks.

However, getting your priorities straight is the first step. Without this step, you may spend your free time learning Spanish and be stuck without daycare for your child when maternity leave is over. Instead, make a plan for which task requires the most immediate focus. 

With newfound focus and attention, you can see the bigger picture. Once you find daycare, you can set aside time for Spanish classes once or twice a week. Each week, you can see your progression and feel accomplished. Plus, you will have a sense of direction that was lacking before. 

Setting goals and priorities also puts you in control of your life. Rather than watch time fly by, you will be motivated to check tasks off your to-do list and receive a confidence boost as you get closer to your goals. 

Goals and Priorities Examples

You may have dozens of ideas for goals and priorities, but be unsure which is which. Some common goals and priorities examples are listed below.

You may have a goal such as:

  • I will lose 20 pounds by May 15. To do so, I will go to the gym three times per week and run a mile each weekend.
  • My partner and I will go out once a week for the next two months and reevaluate our schedules at the end of this period. 
  • I will receive my Bachelor’s degree in five years. I will take two classes each fall and spring, plus one each summer. 

Meanwhile, your priorities may include:

  • I must lose weight before the summer.
  • I must spend more time with my partner.
  • I must advance in my career.

The Golden Rules of Goal Setting

When you set your goal, follow these five golden rules of goal setting.

Set a Motivating Goal

Your goal must be something that excites you. Choose a goal you will work hard to achieve rather than give up when it becomes challenging.

Set a SMART Goal

SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Write Down Your Goal

Make your goal formal by writing it down. This action helps to cement the idea that you must work hard and will accomplish it. After writing it down, you will feel a sense of finality and commitment. 

Make a Step-By-Step Checklist

Making a plan increases the odds that you will follow through. A long-term goal can be overwhelming, but breaking it into small increments makes it more manageable. 

With a step-by-step checklist, you can cross off steps and congratulate yourself as you go.

Don’t Give Up

Everyone falls behind on their goal or feels the urge to give up. Remind yourself of the reason for your goal and the benefits of accomplishing it. Picture yourself achieving the goal and continue with newfound motivation.

Tips for Setting Clear Goals and Priorities

Before setting clear goals and priorities, review these tips.

Be Realistic

If your goal is too challenging, you will quickly become discouraged. However, goals that are too simple are rarely worth the time. Set one that will be difficult but not impossible to attain. 

Get Social

When your focus wavers, you need someone to push you forward. If you set a personal goal, ask a friend to check in on your progress occasionally. 

When setting business goals, include as many employees as possible. This action boosts team morale and ensures that someone will always have your back.

Set a Deadline

Find a realistic timeline for your goal. This step holds you accountable and establishes this task as a priority. Instead of putting off the goal after facing an obstacle, you can remind yourself of the deadline and work to get back on track. 

Be Flexible

Something unexpected will always deter your progress. Rather than giving up on the spot, adjust your expectations. You may accomplish the goal a few weeks later than planned, but the most important thing is that you follow through.

Final Thoughts

Now that you can answer how you set goals and priorities, you can take back control of your life. Grab a pen and paper, pick something meaningful, and watch your life improve daily. 

About the Author, James Webster

James Webster, founder and Executive Chairman of ROK Financial has almost two decades of experience within the financial services industry. His passion for helping small business owners and his innovative way of thinking, has allowed him to run multiple successful businesses including National Business Capital & Services. Under the National name, the team was able to help secure over $1 Billion in financing for small businesses nationwide.