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How to manage personal and professional priorities

By Michael Crump | 04 April 2016

Extended phone calls on your lunch break while waiting in line to speak with your utility company, missed deliveries, wait times at appointments. Sometimes your personal priorities butt into your work/professional priorities and can throw off your work day by hijacking your to-do list.  We’ve all had to endure the stress of running our lunch breaks a little long or taking time away from our desk to sort out something over the phone.

The truth is, there is just no way to avoid this. Things inevitably need to get done. The key is to make sure that personal priorities and professional priorities don’t get muddled. Clearly define which is which and you’ll be on your way to kicking goals at work and at home.

Learning to separate the personal from the professional is the most effective way to prioritise the two. Here’s how:

What are some of your priorities for 2016?

Have separate to-do lists

The most tried and tested way to remember everything you need to do is to keep a to-do list. However, keeping all your tasks on one to-do list is going to result in either two things: a really long to-do list or a confusing mess – if not, both.

Manage your to-do lists accordingly with one clearly for work and one clearly for outside of work. For example, “pick up post” should not be on your work to-do list. 

Depending on how you keep your to-do lists, physical or digital, it’s a good idea to have them in different places so that visually the two are separate. Label your to-do list or mentally lock away priorities in different parts of your memory – which is a lot easier said than done. If your priorities are not tasks but rather bigger picture goals like getting a promotion or spending more time at home with your family, don’t lose sight. Write down your goals in a notebook and keep it in a safe place or keep a photo in your wallet of your family so that when you’re not working or have just got home from work, you can remember what you’re working towards.

to-do list notebook on blue wooden table

Triage to-do lists

Prioritising your priorities might sound a bit funny but it’s truly an effective method of achieving things. Number each item on your list in order and stick to them accordingly.

A trick you can use is to knock off quick and easy tasks first so that you shorten your to-do list. But make sure that by doing this you’re not stealing precious time away from the more important and number one priority.

The triage method for working through your priorities is a simple and effective solution. By assigning tasks and priorities with a level of importance, you can manage your time wiser and never lose sight of the most important things. Think about whether or not your personal priorities are more important than work or vice versa. If you have family, is getting everything done at work and staying back late more important than spending time at home?

The easiest way to do this is to decide what is more important. Of course, this will change on a case by case basis.

Can you concede on some priorities?

At the end of the day, what matters more? Is it a big deal if you don’t get to the post office today but get to present your next big idea at work or spend more time with your family at home? It’s not a bad thing if you don’t get around to all your priorities. What is important is that you stay on track with all the right priorities. These are your high priorities – like working towards a promotion or handing in your assessments on time to finish your course. If you find that you might not have time to go shopping on the weekend if finish another unit of competency, then realise that the sacrifice is probably worth it. You never know, you could have even more free time to devote to your personal priorities.

The best way to make sure you’re staying on track is to set time frames.

dark haired woman journaling in park

Schedule times for things and stick to it

Stipulating a schedule and time for tasks is the number one way for getting through your priorities. If you know a big priority will take you a long time, leave enough time to get that task done. Say your final assessment is due in two weeks before you complete your Diploma of Business (BSB50215), then setting aside a few hours to finalise your submission the day before is a good idea. Planning ahead will give you ample time to reschedule should things pop out of the blue.

If it’s balance you struggle with, then try to leave work on time otherwise you’ll run out of time for personal things and you’ll find they’ll carry over into your work hours. This is a cycle you don’t want to get stuck in.

Are you being realistic?

Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s important to aim high while being realistic about your priorities so don’t stress if you can’t change your whole world during office hours. When you first set out to plan and prioritise, make sure  you keep this in mind before you get ahead of yourself. Keep things simple and focus on what you really want to achieve. If you’re just looking ahead at the short term, think about what you can realistically achieve in that time - i.e your next piece of assessment or unit of competency. Another reasons for sepperating the personal from professional is managing your stress in the different different situations. Work stress may require a different tactic to other life stresses that accumulate.

lady reading book and having coffee

Of course, there are higher causes that you can apply this too and not just “pick up post” or “email Jane in Accounts”. If you have high hopes of climbing the corporate ladder then you can apply all these tips towards achieving that goal. Or, if you want to take a nice holiday this year you can get that bit closer to really sipping Pina coladas by the sea if you  follow through with the previous steps.

Tell us your tips and tricks for achieving your priorities.

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