How to Clarify Your Priorities

Do you find it difficult to clarify your priorities? Do you have the feeling that everything is equally important and that you're getting nowhere? This perception can generate high anxiety. We propose learning a series of useful techniques.
How to Clarify Your Priorities
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 05 March, 2023

There are 24 hours in every day, but you sometimes wish there were 30. Every night, you go to bed feeling dissatisfied because you feel that you haven’t accomplished everything you wanted to do. This feeling, of not being able to achieve everything you planned, can be frustrating. Moreover, it forms the substrate of much of your anxiety.

Your daily tasks and objectives start to pile up. You find it difficult to differentiate your priorities from the lesser important chores. In effect, by trying to do everything, you achieve nothing. It’s often said that you shouldn’t bite off more than you can chew. However, in reality, it’s not always easy to know how far you should go.

The time you have each day is limited, as is your energy. For this reason, knowing how to clarify your priorities is a way, not only of being more efficient, but it’s a mechanism that improves your mental health. It’s all too easy to criticize yourself every time you don’t carry out all that you planned to do. But, it’s time to stop doing it. Time to learn a whole new series of resources to help you live better.

Knowing how to prioritize means you can enjoy your time more and build a more positive image of yourself.

Young girl thinking about the techniques to clarify your priorities
Many of the to-do lists we schedule for ourselves on a daily basis aren’t doable.

How to clarify your priorities

Not long ago, in the field of personal development, the importance of setting meaningful and motivating long-term goals was seen as important. That said, in recent years, the cost of seeing how we often fail in our attempts to achieve these objectives has been recognized.

An investigation conducted by the Technical University of Darmstadt (Germany) highlights the effect of being unable to conquer the dreams that we set for ourselves. It seems that part of our emotional well-being lies in being more flexible with our goals. Above all, in knowing how to clarify our priorities. In effect, in an almost always uncertain context, it’s worth playing it safe.

Therefore, selecting goals and priorities that are in tune with your values and purposes will allow you to navigate your daily routine more successfully, with the result that you’ll achieve many of your desires. To initiate this change, first, you must apply a series of strategies in order to clarify what should take priority and what’s secondary in your life.

1. Identify your values

What really matters to you, defines you, and gives meaning to your life? Sometimes, you forget. In fact, in your hectic and demanding daily life, you often put aside your values and respond out of mere inertia. Consequently, you don’t assess whether what you’re doing conforms to your principles and desires.

You should stop for a moment and become aware of the foundations that you need to build to direct your life. Remember what your values are.

It takes strong commitment and practice to remember what your priorities are each day and focus on them. That’s because, at times, your mind asks you to do more than your body is capable of.

2. Assign a schedule to the values you’ve identified

Your days should be organized in relation to the time you assign to each value. If your job encompasses two of the values you hold most dear, like justice and compassion, you should dedicate your working hours to expressing those values.

On the other hand, if your most significant value is love and family, organize your day to dedicate as much time as possible to these dimensions. They’re your real priorities.

3. The technique of domain priorities

Your life is organized in different existential domains. They orchestrate your time and energy. Another technique for clarifying your priorities is to delve into each of these areas and remember the most important in each section. For example:

  • Work priorities. What’s most important right now in your work?
  • Relationship priorities. What do you need to take care of and prioritize the most in your relationship?
  • Family priorities. What aspects should you attend to first?
  • Health and wellness priorities. To feel good in your body and mind, what should you prioritize each day?

4. The spoon technique: when do you have the most energy?

In 2003, in her personal blog, in which she describes living with lupus, Christine Miserandino proposed the spoon theory. According to this proposal, each person has a certain level of energy which always has a limit. You need to know at what time of day you have the most energy to carry out the tasks that are a priority.

You should remember that, sometimes, your mind asks you to do more things than your body is capable of. Knowing what your limits are and how far your energy stretches will allow you to set more realistic goals.

Your priorities won’t always be the same as you change over time. However, sometimes, unforeseen events can cause you to focus on some areas and not others. You need to know how to adapt to these demands and variations.

5. Plan: your priorities can change every day

Your responsibilities may change depending on the day of the week. To this, must be added the element of the unforeseen. For instance, a priority today may, tomorrow, be moved to the background. In order to accept these changes, you must be mentally prepared. Adopting a flexible approach and being capable of adapting to these kinds of changes is a tool that you must work on.

You might find it useful to keep a diary in which to record your priorities for the following day. This will allow you to plan tasks, better manage your time, and feel that you’re in control of your life.

Woman writing a diary
Having an agenda to write down what our priorities will be in the following days allows us to better manage our time and energy.

Effectively integrating these techniques for clarifying your priorities takes time as well as a firm commitment to yourself. Recognizing your priorities is a skill that you can train. However, to do so, you’ll often have to battle with your own mind, as you’re accustomed to it asking you to do more than you can.

You need to internalize the fact that doing more doesn’t mean that you’ll be more efficient or that you’ll gain more praise than others. You must focus your forces and energies at all times on the most relevant activities. And, don’t forget that, occasionally, your priority should be to rest and do nothing.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.