How to Prioritize Your Life



It’s the “new year, new me” time of year again. Your feeds have been flooded with new life hacks, tools, and tips for improving your lives, and once again, you are skeptical. And for good reason.

The people who seem more productive, healthier and happier than you are not privy to a new app or life hack; most likely, they are just focusing on the right goals. The tricky part is being self-reflective enough to understand what those goals are.

To see if you are prioritizing your time correctly, ask yourself:

  • Are my daily actions a response to other people’s priorities?
  • Am I constantly focusing on the easy things and neglecting the big, important things?
  • Am I prioritizing the things that have meaning, passion, and purpose for me?

When everything seems to be a priority, how do you prioritize? If we’re not careful, other people’s perceived emergencies will start to drive our entire day, especially at work.

Dilbert by Scott Adams has used this theme many times to get a laugh:

productivity joke - Dilbert by Scott Adams

productivity joke 2 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

productivity joke 3 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

Instead of constantly reacting to the environment and the “emergencies” of those around us, let’s make the decision right now to take control of our time, goals, and focus.

In order to prioritize our lives properly and reap the benefits, we need to take control of our brains and constantly assess our own productivity. It’s all about breaking from habits, which can be extremely difficult. Too many of us make our decisions based on habit, without taking the self-reflective step of analyzing how we are doing something and to what end. Tools and resources are great… but it’s a mindset change that is really needed. That’s when productivity and possibilities really increase.

The people who seem to have the right priorities in life, who waste less time and have less stress and anxiety, have figured out how to take control of their brain and self-motivate themselves to manage themselves and others. It’s not easy, but I hope that this post helps you.

How to Prioritize Your Life

A photo posted by Todd Phillips (@todphil) on

  1. Stop Prioritizing Other People’s Emergencies

Don’t give your time away so easily. How can you focus on what you want to get done when there is an endless stream of demands from the outside world?

  1. Stop Prioritizing Easy

Busy work isn’t necessarily productive work. What are the goals you want to be chasing? Chase them.

  1. Start Prioritizing Your Life and What Matters to You

These are the things you should be focusing on, the things that give you the most meaning, the things that drive the purpose, the very center of who you are.

How do you take your 24-hour day and prioritize the things that give you more passion and purpose with less waste and stress?

If you are looking for ways to be more productive this year, listen to this Freakonomics Radio episode on How to Be More Productive.


8 Key Tools/Skills of Productivity

This list is taken from the Freakonomics episode above with Charles Duhigg, author of Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business.

  1. Motivation

The act of asserting ourselves and taking control helps trigger the parts of our neurology where self-motivation resides.

  1. Focus

We train ourselves how to pay attention to the right things and ignore distractions by building mental models, which means that we essentially narrate to ourselves what’s going on as it goes on around us.

  1. Goal-setting

“You need a stretch goal, which is like this big ambition, but then you have to pair that with a specific plan on how to get started tomorrow morning.

  1. Decision making

“People who make the best decisions tend to think probabilistically. They envision multiple, often contradictory, futures and then try and figure out which one is more likely to occur.

  1. Innovation

“The most creative environments are ones that allow people to take clichés and mix them together in new ways.”

  1. Absorbing Data

Sometimes the best way to learn is to make information harder to absorb. This is known in psychology as “disfluency.” The harder we have to work to understand an idea or to process a piece of data, the stickier it becomes in our brain.

  1. Managing Others

The best managers put responsibility for solving a problem with the person who’s closest to that problem, because that’s how you tap into everyone’s unique expertise.

  1. Teams

“Who is on a team matters much, much less than how a team interacts.”

Here’s your challenge:

Schedule in quiet time every day to reflect on the important things in life. And stop prioritizing easy and “emergency.”

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

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Further Reading:


Hey, this is Todd Phillips, your online pastor and personal life coach here to talk about How to Prioritize Your Life.

I can’t tell you the number of times I get emails, Facebook comments about how do I set priorities in my life—whether it’s in my personal life, my life with my family, my job, whatever it might be. Now, there’s a lot of things we can talk about in here, but I want to really focus in on three things.

And they may sound simple. But what I want to encourage you to do is this—ask the simple question:

Am I doing this? 

So, you may have heard these things many times before, but until we’re applying these things to our lives, we’re not setting priorities in the right way. So, the first thing I want to talk about is the idea of:

  1. Don’t—Stop—STOP—Prioritizing Other People’s “Emergencies”

You may be saying, “Todd, look, I work every day in customer service. I’m dealing with everyone else’s emergencies all day long.” Listen, if that’s your job, that’s your job.

But, there are a lot of us that what we do, we’ll get emails for example, or we’ll get text messages, or phone calls, voicemails, and what we’ll start to do is we’ll prioritize what other people perceive as an emergency. And listen, every one of us, when we make a phone call, most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, are going to say, “Listen, this is something I want done right now.” Now is always better than later.

But we can’t allow other people’s emergencies to dictate our lives.

If we’re not careful, other people’s perceived emergencies will start to drive our entire day, especially at work. Because of social media and because of emails, and all the ways we function and interact with each other, we’re constantly being dripped information, we’re constantly being dripped requests, we’re constantly being given other people’s emergencies.

And so we have to be very careful to prioritize our lives, not around other people’s emergencies, but around our set of priorities, right—what’s important to us at the time.

Now, that doesn’t always work. Our boss may come to us and say, “Listen, this thing needs to be done right now. Stop everything else you’re doing and focus on this.”

That’s reality. We have to deal with those situations at different times, but for many of us, for many of us, we’ve gotten into a bad habit of just responding, reacting to other people’s perceived emergencies. So I want to encourage you to stop doing that. I know it sounds crazy, and it sounds almost too simple, but instead of going to Twitter, instead of going to Facebook, instead of going to our emails, on a regular basis and reacting to everything that comes our way, if we see issues, we start to prioritize them based on how productive we’re able to be in a given day.

Is this one thing right here going to get me off track? And if so, it can wait.

Alright, the second thing I want to talk about is:

  1. Stop Prioritizing What’s Easy

Now, that may sound crazy, but let me talk a little bit about this with you. Because I think once you understand it, it will really help you to reprioritize, reschedule, the things of your life each day, especially at work.

I talk to so many people, and I’ve done this before too and I’ve tried to pull away from this pretty aggressively. What I’ll do is I’ll go through my emails, I’ll go through my texts and my voicemails, and I’ll start grabbing the things that I think are the easiest to get done as quickly as possible. The problem with that is I’ve gone through entire days where I’m doing all the easy stuff, and then the really productive, meaningful things, that move us down the road in my job, or the career, the ministry that I’m involved with—I’m just busy doing all these easy, small things just to get them out of the way. And we can spend an entire day just getting that stuff out of the way.

There are so many things that hit us from all sides. And all I would say is this: that prioritizing things based on easy is not going to help you in the long-run. It sounds like a great way to get things done, but you can be doing a lot of busy work, and very little productive work.

So, stop prioritizing other people’s emergencies and stop prioritizing easy—just because it’s easy to get done doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to do right now. Number three:

  1. Start Prioritizing the Things That Make You Most Productive

The things that give you most meaning in life, the things that drive the purpose, the very center of who you are.

I’ll give you a great example. A very good friend of mine who is also a coworker at The Last Well—this ministry where I work at full time. At The Last Well, we have emergencies come up all the time.

We do ministry in Liberia. We’re based out of the States, but we do ministry, evangelistic, and water provision work in this West African country of Liberia. And there’s always emergencies. There’s always challenges.

But I have a very good friend, coworker, who reacts to other people’s emergencies and reacts to what’s easy, and he has very little time in his life—and he and I have talked about this—he has very little time in his life for the things that he feels most productive in, that give him the most passion, the most sense of purpose.

And so, what we’ve been working on over the last few months is helping him understand how to take his 8-hour day and how to prioritize the things that mean the most, that move the ball down the field the most, that give him more passion, that don’t suck the life out of him and drain him of energy, but give him life and give him energy. And he’s been able to do that.

And as we’ve gone through that process—as he’s walked away from easy and emergency, and walked into this idea of prioritizing purpose and passion, it’s transformed his life. Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t deal with other people’s emergencies. That doesn’t mean we don’t eventually address those easy issues—sometimes they are the first things we do each day. But, setting aside time each day to really focus on the priorities, the big things, allowing ourselves some time for reflection.

See, if we’re so busy doing those emergency things, and those easy things, we never sit back and have enough time to reflect on the things that are most important.

One of the biggest challenges in life is time for reflection. And I want you to think about this.

When was the last time you were able to sit back at your job, or even after work is over, at home, in a quiet space, and just reflect on the important things of life?

Most people I talk to will tell you that their entire day is a day of reaction. They’re never proactive about these things that are important; they’re just reacting to the “emergencies” of the day. So:

  • Stop prioritizing easy.
  • Stop prioritizing emergencies.
  • Start focusing in each day and prioritize, put at the top of the list, the things that push the ball down the road, that mean the most to you, that drive your purpose and your passion, and give you meaning.

I hope that helps. Until we talk again, Live Passionately, Give Generously, and Impact the World for God.

Live Large for God!

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