Goal Achievement: Urgency, Importance, & Value

(Updated from a previous post)

Prioritizing means making choices that will most effectively get you to your destination with less effort and less stress. (Photo credit: Kristin Snippe/Unsplash)

In the past, I had no problems making our daily life flow smoothly, but with big undertakings I would get caught up in the myriad of little things that popped up and allow myself to almost completely lose sight of what I was trying to or needed to achieve. I obsessed about everything and was often a complete wreck, asking myself why I ever thought I could accomplish anything.

The adoption process for each of our girls, paying off our debt, moving to Hawaii, and setting up our first big travel adventure, and leaving Hawaii were all master classe in how to prioritize when taking on a big task or having a big goal. I learned over and over again about the necessity of establishing priorities in order to keep the process moving along smoothly in order to complete everything that needed to be done. The biggest thing I eventually figured out was everything didn’t necessarily need to happen in a precise order but tasks needed to be assessed for urgency, given a value, and then prioritized and set up in a logical order. Doing this ensured lower priority tasks didn’t get in the way of the bigger stuff.

I have always been goal focused, and the SMART. method of goal setting (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) has helped me sharpen that process. Having a solid, specific goal is just the start though. It gives a big picture overview but then there’s the next step: focusing on what tasks need to be done in what order to get the job accomplished. I’ve learned to recognize that certain things I would like to do first are not always the most important things to be looking at or focusing on and can and should be put aside until later in the process. For example, when setting up travel plans, our highest priority task has always.been building our savings and figuring out different ways to do that. Without those savings, we won’t reach our goal. Decisions about lodging, transportation, and other aspects of our travel plans come later as we get closer to a departure date.

I’ve learned along the way there are steps for setting priorities when working on a big task. They can be moved around a bit as needed, but these generally have proven to make any job go more easily:

  • Set a specific goal (using the SMART method). This is the most critical part of setting priorities. Without a specific goal I have no real idea of what I’m working toward and I can’t realistically decide what needs to be taken care of and in what order.
  • Assess urgency, importance, and value of the tasks that need to be done. Once I know the tasks that need to be completed, the first thing I do is make a timeline. Sometimes this is easy, but other times it’s not because of unknowns. However, without a timeline there’s no way of seeing the big picture, what can and needs to be done first, and what can wait. A timeline also helps to evaluate what aspects of planning are more critical or important than others. Finally, a timeline can tell the value of making one task a priority over another. Taking care of one or some tasks before taking on another can provide the information to help make informed decisions, and make the next task or several other tasks easier. For example, looking at Airbnb listings 18 months ahead of time might seem frivolous since we’re not going to be booking anything that far out, but it gives us an idea of prices, and how much we will need to save for lodging expenses, so there is value in doing that task earlier than might be expected.
  • Do something every day. While the big things are easy to figure out because they’re usually the most urgent or have the biggest impact, even the smallest effort on days when nothing seems to be happening will get you closer to achieving your goal. Keep a chart of your savings. If you’re traveling to a foreign country, study the language a little bit every day. Post pictures of your destination where you can see it every day to stay focused.
  • Know what and when to let go. My advisor once said to me when I was struggling to finish my thesis, “Laura, finished is better than perfect.” Struggling to get every detail tied down and perfect can and will drive you crazy. The same applies when prioritizing and working toward a goal. Do your best but don’t expect perfection all the time.
  • Measure progress. Keeping lists, charts, etc. are a great way to reinforce that you’ve got your priorities in the right order, and that you are on track with getting necessary tasks completed. Keeping track of progress is also extremely motivating and can let you know when you might need to make changes, or whether it’s time to start on another task. Setting smaller monthly and weekly goals as you get closer to achieving your goal helps make sure everything gets done.
  • Expect things to change. Change is always going to happen, probably more than expected. Refusing to make or accept changes can and will bog everything down faster than expected as well.

Setting a goal is just the first step in making sure something you want or need gets accomplished. Prioritizing what needs to be done is an equally important part of the equation. Setting priorities is a learned skill, one that can take time but that will provide value later, and help minimize the work that needs be done. Learning to address and recognize the urgency, importance, and value of necessary tasks has helped make the process of accomplishing our goals easier, has helped make time move along more quickly as well, and greatly reduced anxiety. There is something that can be done each day, even if it doesn’t seem like much, and before you know it, you’re at the finish line.


4 thoughts on “Goal Achievement: Urgency, Importance, & Value

  1. I am also a planner. As an RN,I have had to learn how to set measureable goals when working, and now that I am retired, this serves me well,still.I have an OFF TOPIC QUESTION..I have followed your blog for years..and notice you swear by HOKA BONDI shoes. I am having foot issues , nothinig structural, just discomforts related to age and arthritis, podiatrist recommends Hokas. What kind fo BONDIS do you like?There are several kinds now!! I know you have had great luck with ith them and they are an investment.. any advice?THANKS! LOVE that you’re still blogging!! My husband and I have not traveled since 202 and may be hitting the road again soon.. need good walking shoes!!!!


    1. I’m sorry for the late reply – we had a busy weekend! One thing your comment got me thinking about is where did my planning and goal setting come from. I know I worked hard when I was young to complete things, but honestly don’t remember planning like I do now. I think my time in the navy may have been when things coalesced, and then as a navy wife, with Brett deployed so much, I had to plan and set goals. However it happened, I am definitely a planner now!

      I love my HOKA shoes, and so grateful I have a pair to start off with at Trader Joe’s. I told Brett the other day that I think I might buy a second pair with my first paycheck! I’m currently wearing the Bondi 8 and I love them. Lots of padding, decent arch support (I have high arches), and they come in wide. They’re what I’ll buy again if I get a second pair. When I wear them it’s like I’m walking on air!


  2. This post was very timely for me because I’m currently setting goals at work and we use the STAR method and I’m also setting personal goals because I plan to sell my house about a year from now and there is so much that needs to be done. Setting goals keeps everything on track, otherwise it would just be a mess.

    There is a store near me that sells HOKA and I’ve been curious about them since you first mentioned them. I will have to check them out. They are pricey though, but I’m sure they’re worth it.


    1. Selling a home and moving is the ultimate chore. No matter how much you prepare, there’s always more to do, it seems, and no one is ever satisfied whether it’s the agent, the buyer, etc. You’re doing the right things though by setting goals now and getting those organized so when it’s time to sell you’ll be done.

      The START method has seen us through several times when we’ve had big goals. I did get tripped up for a while over the little stuff, but have figured out now how to prioritize those things, and see what’s more urgent and necessary.

      HOKAs are worth every penny!


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