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Think Bucket: On Setting Priorities


How do you decide what takes priority in your life? For me, for the longest time, the word “priority” didn’t exist. I would do whatever work came my way, say yes to whatever plans my friends made, and accommodate any and all requests my close ones made. As a result, whenever I sat down to take a look at my growth personally and professionally, I would come up short and often dissatisfied.

I was being short-sighted. And that was a result of not planning and prioritising. But just prioritising is not enough, what you give priority to is equally important, if not more.

Because what you end up achieving will be a direct result of what you prioritised. To give you an example, if your priority is lose a few kilos on the scale, you’re going to optimise your behaviour to lose those few kilos, even if it means embracing crash diets, short-term detoxes and fat-loss teas. Your mind will want to win at this game of losing those few kilos!

This pitfall becomes obvious in various areas of life once you start paying attention. We prioritise hustling long hours instead of doing meaningful work. We prioritise completing a set number of steps rather than being healthy. Our schools teach for marks in tests instead of prioritising learning.

When we choose the wrong priority, it leads to the wrong results, which are oftentimes short-term.

HOW TO PRIORITISE BETTER? When you think of prioritising better, there are two key questions that come to mind:

  1. How do I prevent myself from setting the wrong priorities

  2. How do I make my priorities stick.

I’ll answer the second question first. Whenever the question of priority comes up, I often find myself referring back to Chris Bailey’s technique of giving your weekdays and weekends a theme. While he talks mostly in the context of work, this idea works wonders for your personal life as well. In his book “Hyperfocus”, he talks about not having more than three priorities in a day. And that is extremely useful. It stops you from getting overwhelmed and derailed. A few things I prioritise on a daily and weekly basis:

  • Writing, painting and marketing: Two days a week.

  • Calling a friend: Every other day

  • Going for a walk: Everyday.

Now for the first question. As you could tell we have long term and short term priorities. The question of wrong priorities is more prevalent to the long-term type. The technique that helps with this is reverse engineering your steps once you set a long-term priority or goal. Let’s take the weight loss example again. Once you set a goal for weight loss and the time frame you want to achieve it in, list down all the steps you need to achieve it. You’ll find a couple of steps in it that are healthy and some that are not. If the ratio of the unhealthy steps is much larger to the healthy ones, you know you have a problem. So, you reprioritise. A better idea would be to prioritise good health and then list down the steps. You’re much more likely to stick with it.

A QUESTION FOR YOU What is one thing you know you need to prioritise but haven’t gotten around to? Until next week, Adete. P.S. How we think, shapes our reality: Now you see it Want to chat? Write to me at

October 12, 2020

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