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Tips For Setting Priorities And Getting The Right Things Done

May 16, 2011 · 144 comments

in Health & Fitness, Life

When you get up in the morning, what is the first thing you do?  Do you have a lot of structure to your day where you have activities planned out?  Or, do you go with the flow, and get things done on an as-needed basis?

Many people out there have a lot of great ideas.  Ideas about exercising, eating right, volunteering, etc.  However, how often do those ideas actually get realized?  So often, an unexpected event occurs, and the first thing that goes out the door are the very things we should be doing each and every day.

Think about it, what is the one thing that everyone needs?  It isn’t necessarily money, or hobbies, or whatever.  It is health.  Without health, life can be pretty darn miserable.  Without health, it can be hard to enjoy other things like travel, socializing, etc.

So why does something so vitally important get put on the back burner so easily?  Probably because people feel like they can always start practicing healthy habits tomorrow.   Or, maybe there just isn’t enough time in the day (because you made too many plans and over-committed yourself).  Think about all the times you were late coming home from work (or wherever), and so you hit the drive thru  because it is so darn convenient.  Often times there is no thought given to the amount of money the quick meal will cost, or the effect the fries will have on the heart.  People just want to be done with their meal so they can move on to the next thing.  What gets lost in the shuffle?   Your well-being.

I have been thinking about this for myself.  My goal has been to exercise at least five days a week.  It doesn’t even have to be structured exercise.  It can be going for a walk with the family, playing a long game of frisbee, hitting the tennis ball around for awhile, etc.  I just want to do something active most days so my metabolism doesn’t slow to a crawl before I hit 50.  However, I don’t always get those 5 days of exercise in.  One of my biggest excuses is I will be up all night if I exercise after 8 p.m.

So, while evaluating my own personal roadblocks, I came up with some tips to help people succeed in accomplishing their short-term goals and getting the right things done:

  1. Make a list of priorities each week (or whatever time frame you prefer).  List out things you MUST get done, things you would like to get done, and things that would be ‘nice to have’ done.
  2. Make a list of things you do NOT want to do, and place reminders for yourself in places you see frequently.  Perhaps you are trying to stop drinking soda in the afternoon.  Maybe place a note in your wallet saying “do I really want to spend money on this item?”.  Hopefully having the visual reminder will persuade you to just put your wallet away and move on to something else.
  3. Dedicate a few minutes each morning to help accomplish your goals.  If one of your goals is to eat healthier, then prepare some healthy snacks ahead of time that will be readily available when you feel hungry.  If you want to exercise more, think through your day to see when you could fit the exercise in.  (This activity could also be done the night before, maybe just before bedtime.)
  4. Periodically throughout the day, review your list of goals and see what you have accomplished.  If your ‘must’  items are not getting done, you might have to alter other plans during the day to make sure you get your top priorities accomplished.
  5. Before you commit to anything, see if that activity is in line with your goals.  If your calendar is already packed and someone asks you to come to a Pampered Chef party, say ‘NO’.  Don’t make more problems for yourself by trying to make everyone else happy.
  6. Avoid distractions.  Just about everyone lets their mind wander, and that is fine.  However, what isn’t fine is if a lot of the day is taken up with non-productive tasks.  For instance, If you find you are spending too much time looking at coupon sites, then set a pre-determined about of time that you feel is reasonable to devote to internet surfing.  You must stick to your self-imposed limits and turn the computer off when the time you have alloted is up.
  7. Consider involving a friend you could report your progress to.  Being accountable to others is a great way to alter habits and get things done.  If there isn’t anyone that you feel will support you with your goals, then write your progress in a journal and review your results regularly.

Remember, there is a difference between things that MUST be done to meet commitments (like paying bills), and things that MUST be done for you personally.  Both are equally important, and just because some things are easier to push aside doesn’t mean they should be.  Everybody seems pressed for time these days, but that is no excuse for not taking care of yourself.  If people used to be able to spend hours each day baking bread and hand-washing laundry, you can find time to wash an apple or go for a little bike ride.

Do you have any trouble keeping your priorities straight?  What method do you use to make sure you get the right things done?

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

First Gen American May 16, 2011 at 6:21 am

I just enacted #7 last week. It really does help.

Exercise is so easy to put on the back burner. I really hate that about myself especially since it feels so good when I do do it.


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Be accountable to me with your exercise. We can help each other!


No Debt MBA May 16, 2011 at 9:25 am

A to do list is my best friend for keeping track of everything that needs to get done. I also try to be more proactive about the little things like picking up around the house, doing dishes and putting the laundry away before bed and before leaving for work in the morning. I spend less than five minutes twice a day and things stay neat and organized.


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:50 pm

It is amazing how little time it actually takes to put the dishes in the dishwasher, but it makes a huge difference in how the kitchen looks. Same with making the bed.

By the way, The Naked Gun is one of my favorite movies, I have to check out your post!


Squirrelers May 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm

I enjoy planning and consider myself to be a planner. If I actually followed through on all my detailed aspirational plans, I would be amazing! However, it’s the actual execution and follow through that gets halfway done. I’m probably too ambitious with planning based on my own time and actual abilities:)

That said, I know if I didn’t plan I would be going nowhere. It’s vital to plan, and these are excellent tips for managing time and priorities. I like #7 as a step to take to make it all happen – being accountable. When faced with admitting failure, people can step up and so some great things as opposed to when nobody else knows.


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Being accountable is the only thing that helped me attain certain goals. I hate to let anyone down, so that is always a motivator for me.

Are you still caffeine free??


krantcents May 16, 2011 at 1:34 pm

One of my goals for this year was to add one of exercise to my routine. I ended up adding two days. Since I already exercise two days on the weekend, I added Tuesday and Thursday. When it was indoors, I read books on the stationary bike. Now that it stays light out later, I ride my bike outside. What works for me is I enjoy it more than I want to put it off.


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Hopefully you aren’t reading books while you ride your bike outside. 🙂

It is great you found something you really enjoy and look forward too. I love our evening walks when the weather is nice. However, that hasn’t happened in awhile.

Keep it up!


Little House May 16, 2011 at 6:02 pm

I like the idea of limiting wasted time. I’ve been wanting to set a timer for certain activities and see if I can push myself to actually get those items done in a set amount of time. I also like the idea of a must do list broken into three stages – sort of like a pyramid with the most important stuff on the bottom and the “would like” at the top. Now if only the weather would warm up for good, I might be able to meet my bicycling goals this year!


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Well, today in Michigan it was 40 degrees, windy, and rainy when I watched my daughter’s soccer game, so I cannot imagine ever having nice enough weather to ride a bike! I think spring is gone and next thing you know, it will be 90 and humid.

I like setting a timer done. Even though I can reset it whenever I want, I love the race against time.


Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager May 16, 2011 at 6:51 pm

I’m definitely a planner and probably an over communicator. So I’m working on doing the opposite of this blog post and learning more ways to go with the flow.


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Jenna, good point, micro-managing can be a problem too. However, at least it does usually get things done!


101 Centavos May 16, 2011 at 10:36 pm

For me, regular activity is best when coupled with enjoyment. One positive change or difference I’ve made this year is wearing a pedometer consistently. I know that if the step count for any one day is below 4 or 5 thousand, then it’s been a slothful day and I need to at least take the dog out for a walk. I enjoyed indoor soccer as much for the social aspect as for the competitiveness of it, and sorely miss it when I had to stop going more than a year ago. I’ve been giving it some serious thought to going again, but taking it easy not playing as aggressively as I used to.


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:44 pm

I was a mess when I played soccer. Got a black eye, chipped a bone in my right big toe, and blew out my knee. I still miss it, but not enough to risk getting hurt again. I am an all or nothing person, and I better stick with nothing because all will have me needing a cane before I am 50.

You do have to enjoy whatever your goal is if you are going to accomplish it, that is for sure. I love playing tennis, but I don’t have anyone to play against every day unfortunately. So, I just walk most days.

That is great you are tracking your steps. I had a pedometer once, but it kept adding steps when I was taking any. Maybe I should have invested in a decent pedometer?


101 Centavos May 18, 2011 at 6:31 am

A well-reasoned and rational argument for not going back. I agree with you. But reason’s got nothing to do with it. 🙂


Lindy Mint May 17, 2011 at 1:08 am

If there’s something I really want to do, I try to find a way to build it into my day until it becomes routine. The key is finding the time of day that works best for me so I’m more likely to do it. And adding enjoyment like 101 Centavos suggests helps as well. The hardest part is also prioritizing, because there’s so much I want to do.

Why is it so easy to set aside exercise? I know I put it aside when something else comes up because I have this fear of appearing as one of those fanatic people who can’t break a work out session for anything.


Nunzio Bruno May 17, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I agree with avoiding distractions and having someone whom you can tell your progress to. To be able to set your priorities right and maintaining them, focus and determination is needed. Once your momentum has been distracted, that’s it. It is difficult to get back on track again.


Money Reasons May 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I especially like “2.Make a list of things you do NOT want to do”! That sounds like a very clever idea!

It seems like I am often derailed by the obstacles that you identified above. Ironically, it seems the more determined that I become to do something, something bad that is a high priority always comes up…


Barb Friedberg May 17, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Yes, yes, yes thank you for the reminder. I do most of these activities, but the reminder keeps me honest. I’ve had Yoga on my to do list for a few days (and I have not done it!). Great article.


mike May 17, 2011 at 11:18 pm

Having a workout buddy with similar goals is a good way to keep you on track. Taking fitness classes such as zumba,kickboxing,spinning,are a good way to stay committed because the classes are at set times so it is like you have an appointment for exercise and you can make friends in the class who will be expecting you next class.


Karen Ho Fatt@best fire pit reviews May 18, 2011 at 2:30 am

We never seem to have enough time in the day but I always start off with a 2 do list each day. What does not get done gets carried over. Unfortunately a wrench or 2 gets thrown in so that the schedule sometimes goes by the wayside.


Jasmine @ GoalsOnTrack May 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Great post! I especially like the idea of limiting wasted time. I have several goals set and I am working diligently to accomplish them within the target time (i hope!) And so I tried using a goal setting app called GoalsOnTrack and it has worked very well. It saves me a lot of time in keeping track of my goals and most importantly it helps me better organize my daily todos towards achieving my goals.


Doable Finance May 25, 2011 at 1:04 am

One of my goals for 2011 is to lose weight. I lost so far 20 lbs. simple going out for long walks at least an hour 5 times a week.


Kris May 26, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Doable Finance- that is great you were able to lose 20 pounds from walking. It is such a nice, pleasant exercise, especially now that the weather is nicer. (When it isn’t storming.)



funjoy61 November 27, 2011 at 11:46 pm

The article about setting priorities was very enlightening. I did not know where to start and now I do. Thank you. following your advice will make my life easier. Thanks again


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