What is the Most Important Step in Prioritizing Goals?

By Colin Scotland

What are Goals and Priorities?

Goals are what we want to achieve in our life or work. As an entrepreneur, you will likely have goals both at work and personally, which are intertwined. You may want to reach a certain level of financial success in your business to spend more time with your children. This financial and time freedom is a very common goal amongst us entrepreneurs.

When you set personal and professional goals, you clearly envision what you want to accomplish. But then what?

Everyone talks about setting goals, but no one tells you what to do with them. Once you have set your goals and are excited to realize them, what do you do next? This is where the art of prioritization comes into play.

Having a prioritization process is essential. Priorities help you focus your time and succeed in reaching your goals. You need to prioritize to create an action plan to focus on one task at a time in order of importance.

Goal-setting is essential in business, as it gives you something to work towards and a way to measure your progress. However, you must also remember to set smaller milestone goals to keep you on track and motivated.

Your priorities will change as you achieve your goals, but it is crucial always to have a plan. Knowing your top priorities will make you less likely to fail. Prioritization also brings with it a sense of control, of being the master and commander of your own destiny.

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What is Goal Prioritization?

Goal prioritization is the process of ranking goals based on their urgency. It helps you focus on the most critical tasks and avoid getting bogged down in less important work. As entrepreneurs, it can be hard to track progress if we don't have priority tasks. This applies to all aspects of life.

There are many different ways to prioritize goals, but one common method is to create a goal hierarchy. The hierarchy involves ranking goals from most to least important based on factors such as the time required to achieve them and the impact they will have.

A popular method for prioritizing goals is the Eisenhower Matrix. This tool categorizes goals based on their urgency and importance, helping people identify which tasks should be given priority. We'll dive deeper into the Eisenhower Matrix shortly.

No matter what method you use, prioritizing goals can be a helpful way to ensure that you are focusing your energy on the most key tasks and daily priorities.


Why is Goal Prioritization Important?

Prioritizing goals is vital because it allows you to focus your efforts on tasks in order of importance. This ensures you are working towards the things that will drive your business forward and making the most efficient use of your time.

In today's world, there are many demands on our time and attention. It can be easy to get caught up in activities that are not productive or do not align with our goals. When you learn to prioritize, you can ensure you stay on the path to success.

Prioritization can also help you to stay focused and motivated. Knowing your priorities makes staying on track easier and avoiding getting sidetracked by less critical jobs. Seeing your progress toward your goals can also help you to stay motivated and inspired to keep going, making that pesky procrastination habit less likely to take hold.

Goal setting and prioritization are both essential tools for productivity. When you learn how to do this effectively, you can ensure you make the best use of your time and energy.

Long-Term Goals and Short-Term Goals

It's essential to have both short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals are the smaller stepping stones needed to achieve your long-term ones.

For example, if you want to reach a certain number of clients, one of your short-term goals may be creating a new lead magnet to drive more leads and build your email list. You must prioritize and work on the specific tasks around the new lead magnet to ensure both goals come to fruition.

Having short-term goals helps you stay motivated and focused on reaching your larger objectives (objectives and goals are slightly different, but here, I use the term interchangeably). It's also critical to review and adjust your goals as required—what may have seemed like a reasonable goal at one point may no longer make sense, given your current circumstances. This is where the art of reviewing and priority-setting shines.

Goals require thought and adjustment over time; don't feel like once a goal is set, you can't change it. There's nothing wrong with adjusting a goal, let's say if the direction of your business changes or you have a change in personal circumstance. The point of goals isn't to keep you stuck. They help you create a clear path and to-do list to work towards.

What are the consequences of setting unrealistic goals?

It's good to dream big and set big goals. However, your personal and professional goals need to remain realistic. Many people make the mistake of setting unrealistic goals, and they often don't reach them.

For example, this could be down to timeframe. You might be trying to achieve something unrealistic if you can’t get what’s required done in the workday or have the monthly budget to support the steps towards the goal. In that case, you're likely to fail.

You may be telling yourself, that's OK. It's my goal, so what does it matter? The problem is, if you're not likely to achieve it, you'll begin getting distracted and unmotivated, which can have catastrophic repercussions for an entrepreneur. All of a sudden, the voice of doubt rears its ugly head. My voice tells me, "Who do you think you are, Colin?" The voice of doubt is fuelled and reinforced by the negative impact of not reaching our goals. Can you see how flexibility and adaptability are more critical to your success? With that said, let's explore some practical ways you can implement priority-setting.

What is the first step in prioritizing goals?

The first step in prioritizing goals is identifying what is important to you and in what order. This step is crucial because it will help you focus on and work toward something you feel passionate about while ensuring you are working on the right thing at the right time.

Once you have identified this, prioritizing becomes much more manageable. Deciding which goals are the most important to you will help you decide what you need to work on first.

It can be difficult, but focusing on this step is essential to ensure you successfully achieve your goals. In addition, as an entrepreneur, if you have a partner or family, involving them in this process can (sometimes) be beneficial so they can support and encourage you, especially given the interwoven nature of personal and professional aspects of life for service-based entrepreneurs like us.

3 methods to help you Prioritize Your Goals

Many methods can help you prioritize your goals. Here are three that I use and recommend.

1: Define and write your goals down

The first step to achieving your goals is to define and write them down. Try to be as specific as possible when setting your goals, and make sure they are achievable.

Writing down your goals will also make it easier to track your progress, get an overview of where you are, and see how far you have come. It will help you understand clearly what you need to complete to move forward. What do you want to achieve in your life and business, and why?

2: Assess the importance, urgency, and value

After identifying your goals, it is vital to assess their importance, urgency, and value. This will help you determine which ones to focus on first.

Urgent goals require immediate attention and must be treated as high-priority, while important goals are significant but may not be time-sensitive.

Some factors to consider when assessing your goals include:

  • How important is this goal to you?
  • How soon do you need to achieve this goal?
  • How much effort/time/money will it take to achieve this goal? What is involved in realizing it?
  • What are the potential risks and rewards associated with this goal?

By assessing your goals, you can ensure that you focus on the most important ones and then make a plan to achieve them.

"A vision without a task is but a dream; a task without a vision is but drudgery; a vision and a task is the hope of the world."

Inscription on a church wall in Sussex England c. 1730

Let's take a look at the Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower matrix is a tool I use to prioritize tasks or objectives. It is a simple way to compare and contrast different options to make an informed decision about the best action.

The Eisenhower Matrix
Use The Eisenhower Matrix to Prioritize Your Goals and Tasks

The matrix comprises four quadrants, each representing a different level of importance. The first quadrant is for tasks that are both important and urgent. These things must be done immediately and should be given the highest priority.

The second quadrant is for tasks that are important but not urgent. These can be scheduled for later but still need to be given attention. The third quadrant is for tasks that are not important but are urgent. These can be delegated or put on the back burner. Finally, the fourth quadrant is for neither important nor urgent tasks. These can be ignored or eliminated.

When faced with multiple tasks, it can be helpful to use a priority matrix to determine which ones must be done first. This will help you stay organized and focused on the most important things while still being able to complete the less meaningful tasks as time allows.

Step 3: Decide your priorities and review them regularly

Revising them regularly is crucial after you've decided what your priorities are. This helps you stay on track and ensure that your priorities align with your goals.

Take some time each week to review your priorities. Are there any changes that you need to make? Are there any new goals that you want to add?

Revising your priorities regularly will help you stay focused and motivated. Letting this job slip down the list of things to do can be easy. I recommend blocking out time in your calendar so it rises to the top of your list consistently. Allow yourself 30 minutes at the start and the end of each week to look back and plan forward. This gives you the ability to correct as you go.

How Prioritizing Goals will set you apart from other entrepreneurs

If you want to be successful, you need to prioritize goals. When you do this, you can accomplish more and be more productive.

Goals give you a sense of direction and purpose, help you stay focused on important tasks, and make you feel like you need to achieve something. However, without the process of priority-setting and review that follows, goals will amount to nothing but fantasy.

As an entrepreneur, you need to be self-motivated and highly driven. It's often easy to let outside influences distract you from your mission. Clarity on your goals will help you stay on course. Many entrepreneurs fail because they don't do this. The combination of goal setting and a review process keeps the right things in focus and maximizes your chances of success.

Planning Process & S.M.A.R.T. Goal Setting

How to set SMART Goals
How to Set SMART Goals

Planning and setting goals are essential for any entrepreneur's success. With a plan, it is easier to set and track goals, measure progress, and make necessary adjustments. A good plan will consider the resources available, the timeline for completion, and any risks or potential obstacles.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Outcome Objectives to help you achieve Your Goals

Goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, actionable, relevant, realistic, and time-bound. By setting SMART goals, you can increase your chances of success.

For example, an online coach may set the following goal: To get more coaching clients.

To get more coaching clients is NOT a SMART goal.

To get five more coaching clients in the next 60 days is specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound. This is now a SMART goal. Can you see the difference?

Bonus Tip: When creating your SMART goal objectives, start with the word to, followed by an active verb, such as achieve, get, or increase.

What is the purpose of an action plan?

The purpose of an action plan is to help you accomplish daily goals and achieve your long-term goals. Some people prefer to use a daily planner to help them keep track of their planned items. Others prefer to keep their plans in separate notebooks or on their computer. I like to create a timeline of steps in a Gantt chart format using Notion

Plan of action timeline using Gantt chart in Notion
Plan of Action Timeline using Gantt chart in Notion

The key here is to experiment and find the best method for you.

How does an action plan work?

It's a document that outlines the important steps you need to take to accomplish any set goals. When creating a plan, it is vital to organize your goals so that you can focus on the most important ones first.

The plan aims to help you track your progress and stay on track to achieve your goals.

Creating an action plan begins with brainstorming a list of goals you want to achieve. Once you have your list, you need to prioritize them in order of importance. Finally, narrow it down to your top five goals.

Once you have prioritized your goals, you can start setting deadlines and creating a timeline for each goal. As you accomplish each goal, check it off your list so you can see your progress.

Most important, and often overlooked, is monitoring, reviewing, and adjusting accordingly.

Final Thoughts

Before we wrap up, I want to introduce you to the 80-20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle. This rule states that 80 percent of the outcomes (outputs) success comes from 20 percent of the causes (or inputs).

Always look for the 80/20 - What will bring the maximum amount of reward for the minimum amount of effort?

Colin Scotland

In business, the 80-20 rule aims to identify potentially productive inputs and prioritize inputs. For instance, once you identify factors critical to your success, you should focus on those factors. Looking for the 80-20 can be super helpful throughout the process.

Hopefully, you can now understand why prioritizing your goals is one of the most critical parts of your entrepreneurial journey and essential for helping you achieve your goals. 

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