Goals are wonderful tools for organizing your career and your life. However, you soon will have an excess of goals. Some will guide your long- and short-term sales, others will direct your business and personal projects. What can you do to make sure that you are working on the most important goals? You can prioritize them.
A priority is something that is prior to another. The priority can be based on time sequence, such as dressing before you leave for the office, or it can be set by relative importance to your long-term goals, such as getting additional training before getting a promotion.
In your life, there often will be conflicts due to lack of time. That is, you have 14 business and personal activities for a Tuesday, but you know you can't get to them all. Which ones should you tackle first? What about the others? Making those decisions is prioritizing, following a list of tasks in order of importance.
Goals require that you get rid of conflicts. You cannot have the goals of spending all your time at work and all of your time playing golf. They aren't compatible, or attainable — unless you're a golf pro. Instead, you must analyze what compromises you can make in each goal to satisfy the other. If the potential conflicts aren't evident, they will soon become so. Proactively eliminating or reducing conflicts among goals can help you prioritize them.
How can you prioritize the goals of your career? By determining their relative value to you. Is earning $100,000 more important than serving as many customers as possible? Is advancing your education more important than spending an extra hour on the phone each day? These can be tough questions, especially as you mix in goals from other aspects of your life.
Many professionals begin with their life's goals and make sure that career goals fit within them, rather than the other way around. If your life goal is to nourish and enjoy relationships with your family, obviously this will conflict with the time requirements of your career's long- and short-term goals. You must establish a balance.
How can I ensure that my career goals support instead of subvert my life goals?
Communicate. If your life goals involve family, talk with the members, asking them to help you prioritize your time and assets. What do they need from you to meet their own goals? If they don't know, help them understand the importance of goals as well as their importance in your life. Have the same conversation with yourself. What do you need? With such an understanding, you can better prioritize your career efforts to balance your life.
One effective exercise is to list your personal and professional goals, determine what the requirements are, and then analyze how each is important to your life goal. From this you can develop a list of goals in order of importance.
Prioritizing isn't easy, nor is it an exact science. Your priorities today will surely be different from those of a year hence. Priorities require adjustment based on feedback. In addition, some goals and priorities will be thrust upon you by employers, family, and others. A staff cutback at work or a medical emergency at home can shuffle your priorities in a moment. Therefore use goals as guidelines for planning your days, but as aspirations, not requirements.