Learning to Prioritize: Key to Health and Well-being

Learning to Prioritize: Key to Health and Well-being
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Learning to prioritize goes beyond knowing how to manage time well. To prioritize is to organize your own life and to clarify your values. It’s to remember what’s important and what’s better postponed or even left undone. Our priorities should always be in sync with our own objectives. Just like a lighthouse, these should light and inspire our path.

Yet, despite the amount of resources we have this usually remains an outstanding task. In general, we human beings tend to dissolve in the daily hustle and bustle we’re surrounded by. The hyper-stimulation we face every day makes it hard to prioritize. We receive constant requests and information. Our attention, like a poorly trained muscle, gets carried away forgetting what its objectives were and what its purpose was.

Don’t set your heart on so many things


That said, the need to clarify priorities goes further even than mere personal productivity. We are talking about a multilevel and cross-cutting ability that impacts every area of our life. Someone who knows and remembers what’s truly important, has greater ease in relationships, in work and in emotional development.

Walking a woodland path

Learning to prioritise, the eternally unpaid bill

Why is it so hard to learn to prioritise? The answer is simple: because we live in worryOur mind sometimes works much faster than life because we feel overwhelmed, pressured. We want to go everywhere, satisfy everyone, solve everything. So, when we close our eyes at night we do so with the uncomfortable sensation that the next day we’ll wake up to a huge to-do list.

When this intensifies, anxiety and stress try to take charge. Everything entangles and derails to the point that every original objective is completely blurred. Learning to prioritize means, above all, to minimize. We need to learn to economize our efforts to direct them to defined objectives. That’s something we can only achieve with a relaxed mind that knows how to focus its attention on what’s important.

All this leads us to a concrete conclusion. Our rise as good managers of our time and of our priorities can’t be achieved without one simple tool. It’s not enough to make a classic list of ‘key objectives’. Learning to prioritise your time goes hand in hand with personal development. It means developing a more centred mind capable of identifying opportunities. It means using emotions to our own advantage to drive motivation.

At the same time it needs something essential: a good dose of courage and leadership skills. It’s with these that we decide what suits us in each moment and what’s best left to one side.

Woman looking to prioritise

Clarify the purpose, reduce the complexity, prioritize

A person who has doubts about clarifying their priorities will find that, little by little, the priorities of others become their own. It’s that simple. By not clearly defining our own purpose nor the important goals which motivate us day by day, we will end up considering that the those of others are more relevant. This isn’t just a real problem, but a means to lay waste to the castle of our self esteem. So let’s look at what steps we should take to begin in this field of personal development.

If you don’t clarify your purpose, someone will do for you

If we want to learn to prioritse, the first step must be none other than clarifying our purpose. In order to do this, we can’t just ask ourselves what’s the most important for us. Because probably at that moment this fundamental tripos arises – family, health, financial wellbeing.

We should look deeper. Let’s ask ourselves the following:

  • What do I love in my life?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • Where would I like to see myself in 5 years?
  • What really defines me that others don’t see or don’t care about?

Prioritization doesn’t come for free, sometimes we have to leave things behind

To prioritize means to choose between several things and being left with just one. It means to lift one objective out of our list of tasks. What’s more, and this is what is often hardest: to learn to prioritize very often obliges us to leave things (and people) behind.

We should prepare well for this. Because although prioritization sometimes implies a cost, it will result in happiness, strengthening of self esteem and achievement of our own core purpose.

Reducing complexity

Complexity inhabits our mind and our life. When we suffer anxiety our priorities blur, our present becomes confused, our thoughts, worries and fears mix together. Similarly, when we fill our diaries with appointments, meetings, promises, and obligations we are doing the same. Complexity dominates us and distances us from our true priorities. 

Meditation in front of a sunset to prioritize

In response, one powerful way of solving this problem is to work daily on our balance, internal and external. Practices such as mindfulness can help us relax the mind. At the same time, where our external daily life is concerned, there’s nothing better than the application of what’s known as minimalism. 

This life philosophy is based on a solid mantra: “Identify what’s essential and eliminate the rest.” This means taking a step down this path to a lifestyle where we assign value to what inspires us, to what makes us feel good, to what enriches us emotionally. Everything else is considered superfluous…

So to conclude. If we want to learn to prioritize, we must be capable of creating a more conscious reality. Alongside this we must carry clear purpose. Only this way are we able to lay our own paths… knowing how to decide what suits us in each moment, and which is the most opportune direction to head towards.

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