How to Set Priorities

Before you work on how to set priorities, you need to consider what your real priorities are. This may take some serious soul-searching and effort.

abraham-maslows-hierarchy-of-needsYou can use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to help, working through each level, considering where you may need to do some work before you can move up to the next level.

For those not familiar with Maslow, the principle he outlined is that each person is motivated to fulfil needs based on a pyramidal structure, starting from basic needs and moving up to self-actualisation.

For example, if you do not feel safe and secure, this is likely to be a higher priority to you than worrying about your social life.

Further investigation has explored and disproved certain aspects of this theory. You may not feel totally secure if your job is under threat, but it won’t stop you looking for love and friendship. It does, however, give a good model to use when considering personal priorities.

Taking each level and thinking about it in relation to your life you can define what is important to you and what needs are currently unfulfilled.

Physiological needs are those vital to life such as air, water, food and sleep. Consider the following questions:

  1. Do you eat well and drink enough water or other fluids?
  2. Do you get enough rest?
  3. Do you exercise enough?
  4. Are you over or under weight?
  5. Do you look after your body?
  6. Do you have regular checkups for your eye sight, teeth and overall health?
  7. Are you ignoring any signs of illness?

Safety and security needs relate to how safe and secure we feel. This includes obvious safety, such as not being in a dangerous environment, but also includes work and financial security.

  1. Do you feel safe at home, work or school?
  2. Are you the subject of any abuse, including verbal, physical or emotional?
  3. Do you worry about your safety?
  4. Is your job secure?
  5. Do you have appropriate and necessary insurance?

The third level addresses belonging, love, and affection. This includes intimate relationships with family and close friends as well as community, formal and informal involvement with others.

  1. Do you have someone you can turn to if you need to talk things through?
  2. Are you in a happy, close relationship?
  3. Do you engage with your family?
  4. Do you have any friends? For some, one or two reasonably close friends is plenty, others prefer a less close group.
  5. Do you belong to, and actively participate in, any clubs, organisation or community groups?
  6.  Do you have a sense of belonging to a larger group, even if you are not actively involved?

The focus then shifts to esteem needs, which can reflect internally, on personal feelings of self-worth or externally to issues with recognition by others.

  1. Do you have a balanced view of yourself, recognising that you have good and bad points, like everyone else?
  2. Do you recognise that you have some things to be proud of and are generally satisfied with your achievements?
  3. Do you respect yourself?
  4. Do you recognise your limitations and accept them?
  5. Are you comfortable with your physical self, knowing what is and is not, within your control to change?
  6. Do you feel that others recognise your efforts appropriately?

 Above this level is the achievement of self-actualisation, where, having gained good self-esteem, you look to continuously improve yourself in a mature way, respecting but not necessarily being swayed by other people’s opinions.

  1. Do you try to view yourself objectively and continually look for ways to develop yourself?
  2. Do you listen to others views, consider the facts and come to a reasoned and logical view for yourself?
  3. Do you strive to develop an objective view of the world and situations that occur?
  4. Do you feel that your life has a satisfactory balance of give and take, for example through voluntary work or personal involvement?

Take some time and work through the questions above, you will begin to build up a picture of what may be lacking in your life and start to see what are the current priorities in your life. As mentioned, gaps in your needs can be in any area. It may be that you address Maslow’s higher levels, but neglect his lower ones. For example, you may have little financial security, and instead of focussing on improving this area of your life, find yourself giving a lot of time and energy to voluntary work.

To know how to set priorities you need to address all areas, working out what is missing, and finding a happy balance that suits you.

Defined your priorities? A gap analysis will help you clearly identify your goals.

Know what you want to achieve? Make sure you set SMART goals.

If you know what you want to change why not take on the 100 Day Challenge?

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