Your daily ‘balancing act’ requires thoughtful planning of how to best spend your time, and where to direct your efforts and energy. In order to plan more effectively, develop solid business (and personal) strategies, and take the appropriate actions, you must know what your priorities are. Here’s what you need to know about priorities.

Priorities are based on our values – achievement, intimacy, personal satisfaction, independence, caretaking, plus our goals – like building business, establishing or developing a career, raising a family, saving for college or retirement, finding and maintaining a committed relationship, and getting spiritual needs met, etc.

As an individual with your own values and goals, your priorities will likely be different from those of others, and they may conflict in varying degrees, with the priorities of folks close to you. It’s important to recognize and clearly understand your own priorities before you decide to accommodate the priorities of others in your life.

Ultimately, you make the decisions about your life and even when you negotiate and compromise, you are making a choice to compromise. And life is really about choices, isn’t it?

Priorities are relative to each other. What you are saying is that for you at this time, whether you’re at work, home, or the gym, A is more important for you to being doing than B. Life changes – so do your priorities. Stay focused in that regard. Give yourself frequent ‘reality’ checks.

So how do I prioritize? Start the process by asking yourself some questions about a particular activity in order to determine how to rank it in your list of priorities. These might include:

• What are the costs (time, money, etc.) vs. the benefits of doing it?
• How well does it fit into my goals or the goals of my employer?
• Is there a deadline for doing it?
• Can I meet that deadline?
• How much fun will I have doing this?
• Have I promised/agreed to do it?
• Which of my needs will be met by doing this?

Get them down in writing

Before you turn in for the night, on a blank piece of paper, index card, day planner or PDA, list five or six key tasks you have to do tomorrow. Number them in order of their importance to you. Most PDAs, like my PALM or my computer’s Microsoft Outlook, have a ‘Task List’ that lets you choose a priority number.

One coaching client insisted that ‘get more customers’ was his only task each day. After a session, he decided to prepare a task list each night consisting of three action items he would do the next day to ‘get new customers’. In doing so, he more keenly focused on exactly what his priorities were around attracting more business.

Take this list with you. And keep it handy! Start with item 1 and work on it. Pull out the list every 15-20 minutes and look at that item until you’ve finished item 1. Continue with the rest of the list in the same fashion.

Now, a coaching note: Don’t get all stressed out if you only finished two or three, or even one item! Stressing over it will not help you complete more tasks. Remember, you’ll be working on the most important ones. For longer periods of time, you can use the same process.

Also, don’t forget that if you see you’re not making progress, you can always change your priorities, even during the day – remember you set them. So, if you think your boss may have set them you chose to take ownership of those, making them part of your list. Just keep the list handy, re-prioritize and work on them one at a time! You’ll accomplish much more.