Goals But Not Priorities


It’s been said that “If you do not have goals all you have are things to do.” I believe there is a corollary to that statement, “If you do not have priorities, all you have are goals.” My “Things to Do List” contains goals. Each day I have perhaps as high as a dozen. Most of the time I put a dent in the list, rarely do I ever accomplish them all. At the end of the day I look at the list and feel pretty proud of myself for all that I have done. Usually it’s only half of the list. So, in order to feel like I’ve accomplished more and feel better about myself, I increase the list, just so I can check off more things. Sometimes, it can get almost absurd. Getting out of bed and brushing my teeth really should not qualify as a thing to do or a goal!:)

Here’s the problem. Often our “Things to Do List” and our goals are just a way of feeling like we accomplished something without addressing the priorities. Years ago, I read a little booklet which changed my life. It was written by Charles E. Hummel and is entitled, Tyranny of the Urgent. At the time it  impacted my life, but after 35 years I had forgotten most of the directives of it. Yesterday I found the booklet on the Internet. It discusses the fact that sometimes so many urgent things “have” to be done every day that we never get around to the important things that should be our priorities. It’s not that these things are not somewhat important to us; it’s just that the “urgent” things take up our time. Prioritizing won’t get rid of the urgent things that become tyrannical but it will force us to put them in their place. It may cause us to lose a little sleep if we have to stay up to finish the urgent things that we put off because we were accomplishing our priorities. But lose a little sleep for a week or two and I would venture to say that you will get better at prioritizing your life and maybe some of the urgent things will become less urgent or not urgent at all.

The first thing prioritizing will do is keep you from getting distracted by the tyranny of the urgent. If we focus on doing the important things (priorities), we may have more time to do the less important things because the totally un-important things will be left off the list. Most important, we will feel better about ourselves and our accomplishments. Try prioritizing – lower the urgent things on your list and put first things first.

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This article has 6 comments

  1. Matt Santos 11/25/2011, 7:03 pm:

    This is the dilemma we students have to deal with every day in medipractor school. Studying for medical classes is urgent, but it is not always our first priority. Priority # 1, of course, is reading blue books. 😉

    • JStraussDC 11/25/2011, 10:24 pm:

      At least you have your priorties right Matt! 🙂 If it’s any consolation in over 44 years of practice and almost 75, 000 new people, no one has ever asked me where I ranked in my class standing so not putting extra effort into my medical courses did noy hurt me… and the information in the Blue Books helped build the practice and change lives. Hang in there.

      • Joe D. 11/26/2011, 2:37 am:

        As President of our graduating class, Joseph, I’m sure that you ranked just behind me…..lol.

  2. dan sevier 11/26/2011, 6:27 am:

    Thank you for the reminder! I’ll order it tonight.

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