How to prioritize goals

One of the clients in our October Sprint mentioned that he’s struggling with prioritization. He doesn’t know which goals he should focus on. This is a common problem. Let’s address it. How to prioritize goals?

Why can’t we prioritize goals?

prioritize goals

The story we tell ourselves

We think we don’t know the how. We think we don’t know the tactics, lack a magic tool or haven’t read the perfect self-help book yet.

we don't know how to prioritize goals

Here is a tested method based on the Agile framework. It’s used by most tech companies this day to a great success. If you are really convinced that the reason why you are confused in the lack of tactical knowledge, try this.

  1. Create backlog file. Fill it up with everything you need/want/should do in your professional and personal life. Get everything out of your head. Your brain is a processing tool, not a storage facility.
  2. Pick a sprint duration between 2-6 weeks. No more than that. Forget everything you know about long-term planning. It doesn’t work. 
  3. Calculate your sprint capacity.
  4. Plan your sprint. Pick goals from your goals based on your sprint capacity.
  5. Create a definition of done for each goal.
  6. Commit to this limited number of goals for a sprint. Don’t do anything else.
  7. Review your sprint. Implement your learnings. Repeat the process for the next sprint with the learnings from the first sprint.

Or you can pick any other productivity method. Just pick one. They all work.

If you’ve followed a method and still feel confused, then it’s not a question of not doing the “how”. It is a question of being afraid.

The real reasons why we can’t prioritize goals

the real reasons why we can't prioritize goals

FEAR of making the wrong decision

It doesn’t really matter which goal you choose to focus on first. The act of completing a goal, any goal, creates strategic by-products. You learn the skills, habits, mindset that will allow you to achieve the next goal even faster.

With self-improvement goals, you can’t really go wrong. Do I get fit or do I improve my resume to get a better job? Both are great options. And none of them is wrong. Just pick one and get it done. Doesn’t matter which one goes first.

Fear of committing to a limited number of goals and ignoring other goals

Under Agile, you only commit to a goal for one sprint. After the spirit is up, you do your sprint review and decide if you want to continue working on this goal in the next sprint or if you want to change it. You are not obliged to stick with anything for more than a sprint. You plan. You execute on your plan for a sprint. Then you review your results. Did this plan get you the results you wanted. If not, what can be improved? If yes, then you can choose to continue with the same plan for the next sprint. It is a constant feedback loop between your plan and the real world.

The beauty of sprint planning, you always have a full permission to stop doing any activity after trying it  out for a sprint. I’ve tried and stopped many things because they didn’t bring me the desired results: horse backriding, taking cooking classes, signing up for meal kits, doing social media for Monthly Method, doing regular yoga, 24-hour fasts, etc.

The beauty of Agile is that after every sprint, you have full freedom to say, you know what? I thought it would be fun. I thought it would be, impactful, enjoyable. , beneficial for me, but once I engaged in this activity, once I followed through and saw the results, I don’t think that it was worth my time. It’s not for me. It didn’t bring me the results that I hoped for. So I changed the goal to something else. No regrets.

Benefits of being confused

There are very obvious benefits to being confused or unsure about goal prioritization. It allows you to do nothing. It gives you full permission to sit still and not do difficult things. Our brains are amazing at creating all the excuses and explanations and strategies to conserve energy and not do.

Your brain will always come up with some sort of story about why we shouldn’t do difficult things. Confusion is the default story for many of us. If you find yourself being permanently confused, maybe it’s time to have an honest look at the benefits of feeling that way.

Read next:
    1. Strategies I used to finish master’s degree earlier
    2. A new way to look at time blocking: flexible time blocking
    3. Agile home renovation

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