Daily Priorities Start with Long-term Goals

When setting priorities, start with the big picture.

  • Identify the things you want to accomplish in the coming weeks, months or years.
  • Break down these big goals into smaller, more achievable goals.
  • Think about the steps you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to be.
  • These steps are tasks, and by completing a series of small discrete tasks, you can more easily get from idea to done.

Simple, but not easy.

Many challenges crop up on our way from here to there, but a lot of them can be overcome through the discipline of managing our time, planning our days, and staying focused on the why behind our what.

Your internal compass

What are your core values? What are you passionate about? What is always calling to you? When your long-term goals align with your values, passions, and calling, you’re tuned in to your internal compass, allowing your work to flow with greater ease. This is your True North. When you follow your True North, you’re doing what’s deeply important to you, rather than chasing after the whim of the moment. Being in alignment makes it easier to stay on track.

Why Long Term?

Long-term plans help you to decide what to do each day. A plan consists of a well-defined goal, a timeline, and a list of tasks and resources. Your long-term plan lays your steps out so you can more easily see what needs to be done first.

Starting with long-term goals is especially important for successful business and financial planning. Maybe you’re developing a new product launch or saving up for a major purchase. These things take time, and in order to achieve them, you need a long-term clearly articulated plan of action which is in alignment with your True North.

Setting a Long-term Goal

The process of setting long-term goals is simple. Try this exercise: pick a goal you’d like to achieve. Remember that your goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Time-bound. (I’ll cover SMART goals in a later post.) Once you’ve defined your goal, ask yourself what steps you need to take in order to reach this goal. These steps make up your sub-goals, and each sub-goal will have its own set of tasks. I’ve developed a worksheet to walk you through the process of setting your goals and determining the tasks to achieve them.  You can access that worksheet here.

Let’s take the example of developing an online course.

The goal (or project) is to develop an online course. Set a date for when you want to get this done. Then think about what you need to do to in order to get started and break your goal down into several sub-goals. Sub-goals might be: fine-tune your topic, develop worksheets, decide which platform you’ll use. Each sub-goal in turn has its own set of tasks, to which you assign a deadline. Tasks for the sub-goal to develop worksheets might be to schedule writing time, ask a colleague to review the worksheets, hire a designer to make the worksheets pretty. You can then continue to work backwards, identifying all of the little actions you need to take to achieve each sub-goal and consequently, your long-term goal of developing an online course.

[Click here to download the companion worksheet]

The goals, projects and tasks that you come up with as a result of going through this worksheet can then be entered into your project management system of choice. If you don’t know which one to use, I recommend Asana for ease of use, plus it’s free. Don’t get bogged down in trying to find the “right” tool. Pick one and get started now.

Managing Time with Flexibility

In general, you should put your most time-sensitive goals first when setting your daily priorities. However, there may be times when you’ll want to bump a higher priority item to a lower spot on your list of things to do. If a task takes a great deal of time to accomplish, you may want to make it a lower priority so that it doesn’t dominate your day and push out other tasks that need to be done.

Long-term goals should always be flexible. Stick with them, but allow for the possibility that you may need to defer the project, or delete it all together. Being flexible with your goals will help you to be more successful when you need to roll with the inevitable punches.

The IDEAS TO DONE™ Workshop: Design a plan to level up your business

Never waste a morning wondering where to start again. Your business practice needs a productivity boost.

In a small group setting (limited to 12 students), my colleague Kim Dawson and I will teach students how to create a strategic plan for their businesses, and how to implement those plans efficiently and effectively. At the conclusion of the workshop, students will have a road map for their strategic plan + the tools they need to reiterate the process on their own. Join us, and get 2018 off to the right start!

Author: Sarah Hawkins
<p>Owner & Lead Consultant, True North Business Management.</p>

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