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How to Prioritize Your Life For a Better Future

Portrait of happy woman standing and cheerful in office workplace with document plan and goal on wall background.

For the new year, we all get to prioritize for a fresh start for ourselves, our families, and our businesses.

I’ll share my principles of how I prioritize my life, which you can consider using too. Remember, your life is precious, so be intentional and purposeful with your choices. Then you can make the most of each day for what’s most meaningful.

See my advice below for what you can do to make the most of this new year, and every year, for a better future for yourself and those that you’re responsible for.

Why Prioritize?

As we’re all limited by time, energy, and resources, we need to prioritize our choices.

Some people make New Year’s resolutions. Some people plan for their family or business. Everyone needs to prioritize.

Your ability to prioritize well is the number one top skill to future proof your career.

I’ll share 5 areas where you can prioritize for a better future.

  1. Prioritize Your Purpose
  2. Prioritize Your Time
  3. Prioritize Your Surroundings
  4. Prioritize Your Learning
  5. Prioritize Your Impact

1. Prioritize Your Purpose

Before we prioritize anything else, we need to prioritize our purpose.

  • Why are we here?
  • Why does our business exist?
  • Why do our actions matter?

Purpose gives us meaning and significance.

”What does it matter how much we do if what we’re doing isn’t what matters most?”

Stephen Covey

People don’t exist in isolation. We’re part of:

  • Families and neighborhoods
  • Professional, academic, and cultural groups
  • Companies and other organizations

We’re all part of bigger communities beyond our individual selves.

For a life of significance, our purpose is beyond self-advancement. It’s about how each of us is helping the world to be a better place.

Having a life that matters comes from the ability to add value to others.

John C. Maxwell

How to discover your purpose? People and organizations often need to step away from the daily noise for reflection:

  • Consider your unique talents, strengths, and experiences (including painful experiences)
  • Consider the unmet needs in the world
  • Then consider how you can uniquely make the world a better place

Getting clarity might require either a personal retreat or a strategic planning team offsite. It also may take years to refine your purpose.

Prioritize your purpose and your “why” for your business too.

Simon Sinek writes “start with why.” The best business leaders start a movement that employees, customers, and partners can rally together in a shared common vision of the future, beyond generating profit. These are the businesses which are “built to last” over centuries as Jim Collins has written about.

Leaders inspire belief in a movement that helps people, and prioritizes resources to build the better future together.

“If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe.”

Simon Sinek

For both your business and your personal life, let your purpose guide you as your “true north” to prioritize your time and resources to make the most positive impact in the world.

2. Prioritize Your Time

Once you understand your purpose, then prioritize your time for the specific goals toward that purpose.

Our time is the most precious resource that we have. We’re all limited by time. We each have the same 24 hours in the day and exactly one lifetime.

Although we can’t get more time, we can better prioritize how we use the time that we’ve been given.

I will highlight three salient principles about prioritizing time, and save tactics for another time.

  • Be intentional with your time
  • Make a “Do Not Do” list
  • Remember relationships

We each have the same 24 hours in the day and exactly one lifetime.

Jimmy Wong

2a. Be intentional with your time.

Whatever your goals are, be intentional about setting time for it.

  • Big items first. Focus on making room for the important “big rock” items first, just like in the “knapsack problem.”
  • Set boundaries and deadlines. Use Parkinson’s Law to your advantage, where “work expands or contracts to fill available time.”
  • Leave some margin. Keep whitespace for delays and unexpected events as well as for rest and reflection.

2b. Make a “Do Not Do” list.

If you take on new priorities, you’ll also need to drop some things.

  • To train for the marathon this year, what will you need to sacrifice for it?
  • To return to school for a graduate degree, what will you need to sacrifice for it?
  • To start any new project, what will you need to sacrifice for it?

Prioritization is hard because it requires intentionally sacrificing something.

I spoke to a new corporate VP. She acknowledged when we juggle too many balls in the air, it’s okay to let some of the balls intentionally drop. It takes wisdom to decide which balls to prioritize and which balls to let go.

2c. Remember relationships.

As you prioritize your time, remember the people and relationships in your care.

Be careful if you’re prone to prioritize time for achievements and things over people, as it’s a common trap for many achievers. I’m still learning this myself.

  • If you decide to take a career break to care for family or yourself, then your decision shows you are prioritizing for people. That’s totally okay.
  • Even organization expert Marie Kondo took a break from tidying up for a perfect home in order to be more focused on her children.
  • If you’ve been entrusted as a leader who’s supposed to prioritize talent, then do so.

In any case, for prioritizing time or anything, whether “the end justifies the means” is debatable. Ask trusted people in your life to keep you accountable for valuing people and relationships so that you can stay true to your purpose.

3. Prioritize Your Surroundings

Prioritize the people, places, and ideas that surround you.

Whether or not it’s true that you become the “average of the five people closest to you,” your surroundings certainly have an influence on supporting you and your purpose.

When possible, surround yourself with positive people, places, and ideas.

  • Hang out where you can best thrive. The vibe at the gym, library, and bar can be very different. The culture at various types of businesses can be very different too. Look for the right fit.
  • Be discerning on the media you consume. Train the algorithms to give you a more positive social media feed by engaging with positive people there. Be aware that even our choices in the books we read and the shows we watch are increasingly influenced by algorithms.
  • Build a strong network. Make sure you have a network of people that you can trust to support you and give you perspective. When was the last time you said hi to appreciate those positive supportive people in your life?

Just as the ideal soil helps seedlings to thrive and grow, so too can your ideal surroundings help you to thrive and grow.

4. Prioritize Your Learning

The right skills and growth mindset will enable you to be flexible and agile for any future changes.

  • Improve your ability to deliver on your goals and purpose over time.
  • You don’t have control over layoffs nor promotions. You do have control in growing your abilities, though.
  • Prioritize abilities that compound over time and always remain useful such as people skills.

Your personal growth is entirely in your control. What skills will you prioritize to learn?

Per Top 5 Skills to Future-Proof Your Career, I recommend people to grow these skills and abilities:

  1. Prioritization Skills
  2. Leadership and Teamwork Skills
  3. Communication Skills
  4. Analytics and Critical Thinking Skills
  5. Agility and Creativity Skills

How to get better with these skills?

  • Sign up for either internal classes offered in your company, or external classes including online courses and those at your local colleges
  • Do a project or even volunteer to apply and reinforce these skills
  • Get coaches, advisors, and mentors for their feedback, guidance, and unpublished life experiences
  • Join Toastmasters to gain public speaking and leadership skills, and to mentor others

By learning, doing, and teaching these skills, you’ll grow your ability to achieve your goals for an increasingly bigger impact in the world.

5. Prioritize Your Impact

You’ve prioritized your purpose, your time, your surroundings, and your abilities. Now turn your intention into impact with actions.

  • “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” – John F. Kennedy
  • “Be the first to help someone. Be remembered that way.” – John C. Maxwell
  • “Make each day your masterpiece.” – John Wooden

To further scale your impact in the world, teach and mentor others.

  • “Understand that at some point you’ll need to teach, mentor, others with your life experience.” – Arthur C. Brooks

Here are two additional ways to improve your likelihood to deliver on your purpose and goals:

  • Start the first step today. It could be as simple as scheduling time on your calendar to research possible classes, or drafting a “Do Not Do” list. Start your momentum with any simple step.
  • Tell someone about your goal. Establish commitment and accountability. This simple step works according to studies such as Klein, Lount, et al (2020). I’d like to help you with it. If you share your goal with me privately, I’ll send you a reminder message in June and November to help motivate your progress.

Final Thoughts

For this new year, get a fresh start to prioritize your life for a better future. Prioritize your purpose, your time, your surroundings, your learning, and your impact toward meaningful goals.

Then, do your best each day to prioritize your time, talents, assets, and experiences to help others. Whether at work or in your life, you’ll get the joy, peace, and satisfaction that you can’t get in other ways.

I realize some of you might feel like you don’t have as much choice in where to work or how to use your time. Just do your best in your unique situation. It’s not about fame or fortune or followers, but how you live out your life to the fullest.

Remember to have fun along the way too. Enjoy the journey!

I want to support you on your goals. Feel free to share your goal with me privately if you would like me to send you motivational reminders in June and November to cheer your progress. Contact me directly if you also would like one-on-one coaching.

Feature image by ChayTee on Adobe. Originally published on aijimmy.com.

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