What is the Most Important Step in Prioritizing Goals? Here’s the Answer

Whether you’re getting ready to head into the workforce and settling on a career or looking to settle a family down, there’s one thing you’re going to hear just about every five minutes is that you need to set goals.

You need to set goals for where you want to be in your old age, what you want to get out of your relationships, what you ultimately want to do for a living, and just about everything else. However, no one tells you how to set those goals up or which ones you should be targeting first.

That can be a problem because it can lead to you losing your way, wasting time on less worthwhile goals, or otherwise taking a winding path to your destination rather than a straight shot.

To help with this, we want to cover the art of prioritizing goals. So, let’s see – what is the most important step in prioritizing goals?

What is a Goal?

It may seem a bit elementary, but we want to be thorough. No matter what aspect of your life it’s for, a goal is something you desire to achieve or gain. It’s often complemented with smaller goals that work as milestones or stepping stones towards the primary goal.

This is a great way to organize various aspects of your life since it gives you a target you can aim for rather than just dispersing your effort towards whatever comes your way.

Why is it Important to Prioritize Goals?

If a goal is a way of organizing your efforts, prioritizing goals is a secondary form of organization that tells you which goals you need to target first and how you plan to do so.

This is key because as you enter different parts of your life, you’ll have several main goals, and each of those will have milestone goals or branching goals attached to them. If you don’t identify the most critical goals to go after, you can quickly lose your way.

It’s like traveling through winding back roads to get to a new destination. If you have GPS, you can get right to your destination in no time. If not, you can take 20 wrong turns and drive around for hours. Think of prioritizing your goals as a sort of metaphorical GPS.

So, What is the Most Important Step in Prioritizing Goals?

As we said, you will have a long list of goals in your life. Generally, you’ll have one main goal for various facets of your life. Let’s say you land a job at a white-collar firm. Your goal would probably be to rise to the top of that firm and make a huge paycheck. However, you might also meet a person you love very much, and you might have the goal of getting to know them well enough to tie the knot with them.

These primary goals will be numerous, and they’ll each have their own milestone goals. Using the marriage goal as an example, you’d probably set goals like going on a first date and then getting a second date. After that, you seek to maintain that relationship until it blossoms, moving in together, buying a pet together, etc., until you eventually reach the point where marriage is appropriate.

Also, learn: Why Is It Important To Set Realistic Goals? [Explained In Detail]

First and foremost, you don’t necessarily want to prioritize all the little things. Those are stepping stones, and you’ll naturally need to do those in order. So, the main goals are what you’ll be looking at.

How do you determine which ones you need to prioritize and which of your high-priority goals should come first?

what is the most important step in prioritizing goals: deciding what you care about the most

Well, that is a highly personal choice. The most straightforward answer comes down to identifying what you care about the most in life. In other words – deciding what is truly important to you is the most important step in prioritizing goals.

Suppose your love life and the idea of starting a family are far more important to you than any career or a personal hobby. In that case, you should prioritize that goal and begin working on the steps necessary to reach the level you see as success on that front.

If you’re a more career-driven individual, your prioritized goal might be different depending on where you’re at in your career. If you haven’t started it, you might prioritize your education or landing the job (learn more about it here: How to Choose a Career). If you have, it might be more beneficial to prioritize working towards your end goal with the company you’re at.

It’s up to you, but your main prioritized goal needs to be the one you care about the most. Also, keep in mind that you might have high-priority goals in each category of your life. Yes, you may value a career over family or vice versa, but your end goal with each will be prioritized within that category.

For example, you may aim to earn a promotion in your career, but you may also dream of starting your own business. On top of that, you may have various relationship goals. Within each category, you’d prioritize the options that mean the most. Such as choosing to work towards starting a business more than focusing on the safe route and chasing the promotion.

This is a simplistic way to look at it, but it also deserves its fair share of due diligence.

How to Prioritize Goals: Top 3 Methods

Now that you understand the ideology behind prioritizing goals and know what the most important step in prioritizing goals is, let’s learn how to prioritize the goals.

Here are the top 3 tried-and-proven methods, applicable for any goal prioritization, developed by leading business professionals, known innovative minds, and other successful individuals.

1: The Two-List Method by Warren Buffet

Warren Buffet is one of the world’s top investors, and you don’t reach that level of success without being able to streamline your path to the top. As such, it’s worth paying attention to how he organizes his goals to avoid going off track or otherwise coming up short.

This is a straightforward method to use, but it does lack the room for flexibility that most life plans should have.

You need to take a deep internal look at yourself and your life to start. What are 25 things you want to succeed in during your life? These can be things from any part of life. They can deal with relationships, your financial life, property gain, spiritual growth, or literally anything. Once you’ve found 25 of those things, write them down and label them “List 1″.

how to prioritize goals using two-list method

Now that you have your first list, go through it and choose five list items that mean the most to you. Make sure you take extra care to select the areas of your life that are indeed the most important. Now, write those five down in a second list, name it “List 2”, and circle all five entries.

You probably think you know where it goes from here. If you’re anything like us, you’re probably assuming that the leftover 20 entries from list 1 are minor goals you can tinker with on your days off or as you get time, but according to Warren Buffet, that is not the case. Instead, those are the 20 things you should view as distractions and ignore them completely. He calls that the “Avoid at all costs” list.

If you want to follow the advice of the 7th richest man on the planet, you’ll ignore everything besides your top five goals until you have completed each of those top goals. Then, you can start whittling down list one as you have time.

Notes on the Two-List Method:

Warren Buffet has obviously done something right. His investments have taken him higher into the elite class than most of us could even get close to, and the two-list method should be taken seriously.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect approach or event that’s a good fit for everyone.

It does lack a lot of flexibility or nuance. You pick five things from everything you aim to achieve in life, and then you ignore the rest of your bucket list unless you accomplish the five things you chose. Yes, that streamlines the process and gives you clear targets to aim for, but depending on your other goals, you might miss out on some pretty important parts of a fulfilling life. With this one, it’s best to use discretion while still adhering to the big-time investor’s advice.

2: The 80/20 Rule by Vilfredo Pareto

In the 20th century, an Italian economist known as Vilfredo Pareto developed the 80/20 rule to describe wealth distribution since it has been a fundamental concept used by goal-seekers everywhere.

In short, the 80/20 rule states that just 20% of your efforts bring about 80% of your results. When applying this to goal-prioritization, you need to find the goal that will automatically make the other 80% of your aspirations happen or make them obsolete. This streamlines the entire process by letting you focus on one thing, but it, indirectly, makes the other goals come to fruition.

To do this one, you start very similarly to Buffet’s method. You write down your top 25 aspirations. Then, you choose the five that mean the most to you. However, unlike Buffet’s approach, you don’t simply ignore everything outside your top five and call it a day.

With this method, you take a long, hard look at your top five goals and try to find one of them that would make the rest easier.

For example, let’s say you have the following five goals:

  1. Secure a high-paying job.
  2. Buy a house.
  3. Build a family.
  4. Travel to your favorite country.
  5. Buy and drive a classic car.

That’s a very basic list with some superficial goals, but it helps illustrate our point. The obvious goal that will facilitate all your other goals is getting a high-paying job when going through this list. If you do that, buying a house, building a family comfortably, traveling, and owning luxury items will fall into place.

how to prioritize goals

The 20% of your effort brings in the other 80% of your results.

Notes on the 80/20 Method:

The 80/20 method will work for most people, and it’s a powerful tool for goal prioritization and lifestyle streamlining.

However, some people may find that their goals are so detached or out of the ordinary that finding one goal to facilitate the rest is overly difficult or nearly impossible.

That’s okay. That’s why there are multiple methods to use.

3: The 4 Areas of Life Method

Finally, we have a more complicated yet far more focused method to look at. This is the four areas of life method. In essence, it divides life into four main pillars. These pillars are fitness, finances, family, faith, or what you believe in, whether religious or not.

At first, this is a complicated version of the other methods. Write down four lists, one for each of the categories we mentioned. Then, write 25 goals for each of them, and they can be big or small. You should have 100 goals split across four lists with 25 each when you’re done.

Now, go through each of the lists and pick the ONE goal that is most important in each category. When narrowing your goals down, take a lot of time because you’re only picking one for each category.

Also learn: How To Organize Your Life: Top 30 Tips & Advice (2022 Guide)

In the end, you have four goals spread across the four primary pillars of a fulfilling modern life. This is like the Buffet method, but instead of just picking five goals regardless of what they’re connected to, you have four that are extremely targeted in their own categories. Each part of your life should begin to improve dramatically as you complete each one.

Notes on the 4 Areas of Life Method:

This is a reliable method, and we highly recommend it. However, it takes a lot of time to do it properly, and it condenses each of the four parts of your life into just a single target. Granted, accomplishing that goal will likely facilitate many other things in its category. However, it’s still a very condensed look at a large portion of your existence, which can be difficult for some people to work with.

Final Thoughts

Having goals related to different areas of your life and putting effort into achieving them means that you’re living with purpose and intention to improve your life.

Now you have the answer to: “What is the most important step in prioritizing goals?” You learned how to prioritize your goals, which means you’re many steps ahead and much closer to achieving your dream life.

Put in some effort and just keep going – only persistence and determination will get you there!

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"These 8 easy steps helped me get out of a rut and get motivated to reach my goals" - Jeff (Dallas, TX)
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