Priorities 101 (Problem One)

This is the second post in a series about setting priorities based on a talk that I recently gave to a mom's group.  If you missed the introduction, simply click the link to catch up.

If you're anything like me, you've had times when life is so full that it's hard to pinpoint what your priorities ought to be.  At times, I do know what my priorities ought to be, but I've struggled to live in a way that reflects them in a balanced fashion.  We value our health, yet run ourselves ragged with inadequate sleep and a poor diet.  We value our friends, yet find ourselves so busy that we don't regularly schedule time to connect with them.

Simply put, we get out of whack, and we tend to do so in three key areas.  For these next few posts, I'll look at those areas and explain some solutions to fix them.

Problem 1: Unclear goals

It's hard to stick with priorities that have no teeth.  "Be healthy," "be a good mother," and "be more organized" all sound wonderful.  The premise behind each of them is entirely valid.

The problem is that they're hard to measure.  How do you know when you've arrived at "healthy"?  When can you discern if you're mothering is "good" enough?  If you can't place your finger on what your goals and priorities look like -- really look like -- in day-to-day living, then it's easy for those things to slide.

Solution 1: Use concrete wording to talk about priorities

Concrete wording is precise and measurable, and perhaps the best aspect is that it adds a how to the what.  If your priority is to be healthier (which is both admirable and unclear), firm it up by framing it in concrete wording.

Bad: Be healthier.
Only remotely better: Exercise more.
Better: Do a Jillian Michaels' DVD four times each week.
Even better: Do a Jillian Michaels' DVD on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings.

A change in wording transforms unclear priorities into concrete goals.  "Be more organized" becomes "reserve twenty minutes at the end of each day to clean up and put things in order for morning."

You'll know when you're meeting your goals -- and you'll know when you're not -- because those abstract priorities will be phrased in measurable ways.

This tip alone was a driving force behind how I went from a person who exercised somewhat irregularly to a person who ran two half marathons.

Check back tomorrow for more!

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  1. Clear goals are so important! I remember once seeing a presentation on goal setting and the presenter said it was okay to have broad goals like "Exercise More" but that the goal should have at least three action items such as:

    1- Do Jillian Michael's DVD Monday, Wednesday, Friday
    2- Attend yoga on Saturdays
    3- Go walking with Jane on Tuesdays and Thursdays

    It helped so much (because I'm notorious for setting big, lofty goals).

    Thanks so much for sharing. I look forward to following this series... it's an awesome topic!

  2. Tanya PiazzaJanuary 24, 2012

    I've always had a consistency problem. I'll start off strong with strong goals, and as time passes, the goals have been buried under other things. I would love to run a half marathon. Last year, I did my first 5k. I didn't run the whole thing which is what I would like to be able to do before I go signing up for a half marathon. I had bought a treadmill and was using it quite frequently until our neighbors complained (apparently being "loud" for a half hour during the middle of the day is unacceptable but blasting rap music at 3am is totally cool).

  3. Oh, the irony.  Perhaps your neighbors sleep in the afternoon?  :)

    I hope that you can stick with your goals, and congrats on the 5K -- that's a fabulous achievement and start!

  4. Thanks, Jennifer!  Great comment -- and I like that phrase "action items."  I'm a lofty person, too, at times, so this helps to ground me.

  5. I have so many priorities and so few concrete goals. 


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