Published on July 12, 2021

What Is the Most Important Step in Prioritizing Goals?

What Is the Most Important Step in Prioritizing Goals?

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of attending one of Tony Robbins’ seminars, you have likely heard him say, “successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” I’ve found that he was spot-on—questions reflect how we see the world. As a productivity consultant, one of the most important questions I ask my clients is, “what is the most important step in prioritizing goals?”

Every CEO, executive, manager, and entrepreneur knows the importance of setting goals, but not everyone understands how to set them properly. In fact, many people make the mistake of confusing goals with dreams.

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming. It’s often a great place to visit from time to time, but as Napoleon Hill said, “a goal is a dream with a deadline.” It gets the point across, but there’s a little more to it.

There is an art to setting goals. A vague idea in your head is not a goal, nor is a list of things you want to accomplish. There is a system to setting goals that will help increase your chances of success many times over. Failure to use a system for your goals reminds me of something Brian Tracy used to say: “failing to plan is planning to fail.”

For anyone serious about success, mastering the art of setting goals isn’t just important, it’s imperative. Thankfully, it’s not complicated. In fact, it’s just the opposite—it’s downright simple.


So, let’s take a look at how some people approach goal setting, and then we’ll be able to answer the question: what is the most important step in prioritizing goals?

1. The Ivy Lee Method

Ivy Lee is a name that CEOs, entrepreneurs, and managers should be familiar with. Back in 1918, he walked into the office of Charles M. Schwab, the president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, and shared with him a technique that Schwab later said was the more profitable advice he had ever received.

Inquiring minds would want to know what that advice was. After all, Lee ended up being paid $25,000 for it (the equivalent of $400,000 in 2016 dollars).

He asked Schwab to give him 15 minutes with each of his executives, this is what he taught them:

  • At the end of each workday, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish the following day.
  • Rewrite them in order of importance.
  • The following day, as soon as you arrive at work, work on only the first task. Do not stop working on it until you have it finished.
  • Repeat this process every working day.

The key here is two-fold. Limiting yourself to just six goals ensures that you ignore all non-essential goals and working on them one by one (in order of importance) means that you will succeed in finishing your most important goals first.


2. The Jim Rohn Method

Jim Rohn was the master of making things simple, and his goal-setting technique is a perfect example of that. It’s a simple four-step process:

  1. Decide what you want.
  2. Write them down on a piece of paper, and make a list.
  3. Add a date next to each goal when you expect you can finish it.
  4. Go to work and check things off your list.

It’s simplicity itself. The key element here is determining what exactly it is that you want.

3. The WOOP Technique

The acronym WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan.

  • Wish – Have goals that are exciting, challenging, and realistic
  • Outcome – Visualize yourself achieving the goal and how it would feel.
  • Obstacle – Identify any potential obstacles that could prevent you from achieving your goals.
  • Plan – Create a meticulous plan of action to deal with each obstacle.

Nothing ever goes according to plan, but the mistake many people make is assuming things will go off without a hitch. Things inevitably go wrong, and chaos ensues. That’s why the fourth stage of the technique is so critical. Having a plan in place to deal with any obstacles you might come across will save you countless hours of stress and headache.

4. The SMART Technique

This was the first goal-setting technique I was introduced to as a young entrepreneur. It actually originated from a management paper by George Doran, former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company, back in 1981.


It’s great for beginners as it’s easy to remember. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound.

  • Specific – You know exactly what your goal is.
  • Measurable – You can measure and track your goal.
  • Attainable – Your goal is realistic and achievable.
  • Relevant – Your goal inspires you.
  • Time-Bound – You have a clear deadline for your goal.

The key to this technique is setting goals that are within reach, that are specific, and can be measured. For example, you have to hand out flyers. Your goal should not be “to hand out 1000 flyers in two hours.” The reason is that you cannot control if people will take the flyers. As such, if you fail to reach your target, you will feel disappointed.

A more appropriate goal statement would be, “I will hand out flyers for two hours and greet people with a smile.” This is achievable because your attitude and the amount of time you spend on the task are entirely under your control.

5. The HARD Technique

HARD stands for heartfelt, animated, required, and difficult. Unlike SMART goals, which focus on realistic goals, HARD goals are meant to challenge you. They are meant to get you out of your comfort zone and push you to your limits.

As such, HARD goals may not be the best ones for goal-setting newbies. But once you have achieved some results using other methods and are ready to take things to the next level, these could be just the ticket.


  • Heartfelt – Each goal must have an emotional attachment.
  • Animated – See yourself as having achieved success and imagine vivid pictures of achieving each goal.
  • Required: – Build a sense of urgency into your goals.
  • Difficult – Have goals that stretch you and welcome the challenge.

6. The Brian Tracy Method

Brain Tracy breaks down goal setting into six steps.

  1. Take a clean sheet of paper and write the word “Goals” at the top of the page with today’s date.
  2. Write out at least ten goals you would like to accomplish in the year ahead.
  3. Each goal must begin with the word “I,” followed by an action verb.
  4. Describe all goals in the present tense as if they had already been achieved. For example: “I earn $100,000 by the end of this year.”
  5. They must be written in positive form. Don’t write, “I will stop eating chocolate.” Instead, write, “I eat healthy snacks.”
  6. Write goal lists for your work, personal life, finances, and health.

The Answer

It should come as no surprise that there is a lot of overlap between the techniques. So now, let’s answer the question, “what is the most important step in prioritizing goals?”

The best person to answer this would be the best-selling author and speaker Simon Sinek who, in his famous TED Talk, explains that it all starts with “why.” As he explained, “Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the “I have a dream” speech, not the “I have a plan” speech. Martin Luther King, Jr had a vision for the future and it inspired him to take the actions that changed a nation. His why was crystal clear not just to him, but also to everyone.

Regardless of which technique you choose to set goals, you must understand why you are doing it. As Friedrich Nietzche said, “He who has a strong enough why can bear almost any how.” Accomplishing big goals requires big effort which is why only a small percentage of people actually achieve them. They don’t have a strong enough “why” to motivate them to do the necessary work, to keep fighting for what they want.

Final Thoughts

Managers, entrepreneurs, and CEOs all understand the importance of setting goals, but not every one of them is actually taking the time to write them down on paper.


Ideas in our heads stay there. They only become real when they are right there in front of us in black and white. Once they are written down, they become real to us, and then we can figure out just which goals to prioritize and, most importantly, why.

More Tips on Prioritizing Goals

Featured photo credit: Scott Graham via

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Adrian Shepherd

Adrian is a productivity consultant and the CEO of iSucceed

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Last Updated on July 29, 2021

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

If there was a rule book of life, there would be one particular page that was highlighted, underlined, and titled as most important. It would be the one which told you that you need to master effective goal setting and have an aim in mind before you get on with the process. While there may not be an actual rule book of life, we do have this helpful goal setting guide to offer.

Yes, goal setting is important. In fact, it’s more important than achieving the goal itself. This is because it is the sense of direction that is needed for you to fulfill any task in life.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed if this sounds new to you, as all the following information has you covered.

Today, you’ll find out all about the importance of goal setting, types of goals, and tips to define realistic goals for yourself!

What Are Goals?

To kick off our goal setting tips guide, you need to first recognize what goals are and how they are different from objectives, dreams, and expectations.

A goal is essentially your aim for the long-term future. It is the bigger umbrella, the main focus.

Objectives, on the other hand, fall under the umbrella of goals. They are the stepping stones that help you achieve your goals[1].

Objects vs goals for goal setting tips

    For example, you may decide you want to learn a new language. Your goal is to be fluent in the new language. Everything you do to achieve this goal, such as the daily tasks and monthly learning aims, are the objectives.

    Similarly, your expectations, visions, and dreams are not your goals. If you wish to learn a new language someday, that is your dream. If you see yourself fluently speaking multiple foreign languages, that is your vision. If you think you’re capable of learning a new language, that is your expectation.

    However, if you aim to fulfill these visions, dreams, and expectations practically, that is your goal.

    Why Is Goal Setting Important?

    Why should you bother with goal setting at all? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to just get on with your daily objectives, follow a dream or vision, and let life take you wherever?


    While that road can feel exciting and spontaneous, if you actually want to tick off things from your list of goals to achieve, learning how to set goals is necessary.

    Being committed to a goal puts your brain to work in one specific direction. Believe it or not, by having a defined goal, your brain does its magic unconsciously, 24/7, with full efficiency, to achieve the desired results[2].

    Goal setting is important to shift your focus, boost your motivation, and give you a sense of direction. Without formally defining a particular aim that you want to reach, you won’t be able to keep your objectives in line.

    Hence, this one tiny step can end up saving you a lot of hassle and time while also encouraging your productivity.

    Types of Goals

    Before we move onto the technique of setting effective goals, we need to first take a look at all types of goals in this goal setting tips guide.

    These categories will not just help you brainstorm new one for yourself, but it will also guide you to list them down in the right way.


    One of the two broad categories of goals is based on time. These goals define how far in the future you want to achieve them.


    There are certain smaller goals that you can easily achieve in a day or two. In fact, some of these daily goals can be recurring, too. For example, you may want to run for an hour every morning.

    Now, these daily goals can also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. You may be running every day because, in the long-term, you want to increase your stamina.

    Daily goals are highly effective for people who want to improve their mental wellbeing, time management skills, and stress management.


    Next in line are short-term goals. As you would have already guessed, goal setting in this area is aimed at the near future.

    The great thing about these is that they are generally easier to achieve. This is because short-term goals are set for the foreseeable future. You are aware of the circumstances and have a general idea of how much the situation can change.


    Just like daily goals, short-term goals may also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. Your short-term goal may be to lose 5 pounds in one month. That could be a goal in itself, or maybe it is just one objective to fulfill your goal to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the next two years.

    Another example of a short-term goal is to fulfill the checklist for promotion within the next 6 months. Or, you may want to reduce your screen time within the coming week.


    Lastly, we have long-term goals that are meant to be completed over a stretched period.

    Whatever you want to achieve in a later stage of life is a long-term goal. An insurance plan, for example, is a long-term goal.

    Some long-term goals don’t have any time frame at all. They are goals that you want to accomplish at some point in your life. So, something like traveling the whole world is a lifelong goal with no specific time constraint at all.

    There’s one thing about long-term goals that isn’t great.

    They are the hardest to keep up with since you’re not seeing any huge achievements regularly. This may take a toll on your motivation. To tackle this problem, it is best to divide a long-term goal into various, short-term and daily objectives so that you’re always tracking the progress you’re making.


    Moving forward, you can also start goal setting based on the results you want to achieve instead of the time period.


    Like most people, you will likely want to succeed and excel in your career. Anything that has to do with this intention, regardless of the time frame, is a career goal. These are usually measurable goals, such as receiving a promotion within two years, finding a job at a certain company within the next six months, etc.

    You can learn more about how to set successful career goals here.


    The past few years have all been about emphasizing your personal health. So, when it comes to goals, how can we forget the ones that have to do with our personal gains?

    From health to finances to relationships, everything that brings you happiness and composure as a person is a personal goal. It’s important that these are realistic and attainable goals for your life.


    Whether you want to get rid of your debt, quit smoking, start a side hustle, have children, or travel the world, all of these goals are personal and very important to have on your list.

    How to Set Goals

    The best way to guarantee the fulfillment of goals is to set them the right way.

    1. Use SMART Goals

    Every goal you define has to be SMART[3].

    SMART stands for:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Relevant
    • Time-Bound

    In summary, your specific goals should be very well defined. They shouldn’t be generic or broad, and every detail should be clarified as you’re goal setting. 

    If you want to start running, how often do you want to do it? How long will each session be? For how long will you continue this habit?

    There has to be a connection between your goals and beliefs or you’ll never be able to achieve the results you want. Most importantly, do not be unrealistic. You cannot learn to fly, and forcing yourself to try is only going to demotivate and stress you out.

    2. Prioritize Your Goals

    As you’re looking into how to write goals for the next month or year, it’s likely you’ll come up with more than one. In this case, it’s important to prioritize which are the most important or the ones that have the tightest deadline. This is going to be subjective, as only you know which goals will have the most impact on your life.

    3. Think of Those Around You

    As you’re working on goal setting, keep your loved ones in mind. You may have a partner, children, or employees that depend on you, and you should take them into consideration with your goals. For example, if you set a goal to travel to 10 different countries in the next two years, how will this affect your children?

    If you want to lose 30 pounds this year, is there something your partner can do to support you? S/he will need to be made aware of this before you set off on your weight loss journey.

    4. Take Action

    Setting goals is the first step, but in order to be successful, you have to follow this with action. If you set goals but never act on them, they become dreams. Create an action plan laying out the steps you need to take each day or week in order to achieve your big and small goals.

    You can also check out Lifehack’s free guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen. This helpful guide will push you to take action on your goals, so check it out today!


    5. Don’t Forget the Bigger Picture

    Most people refer to the big picture as their vision. Whether it is the long-term result or the connection of the goal with your desire, keep it in mind to keep yourself from getting distracted.

    You can learn more about creating a vision for your life here.

    I also recommend you to watch this video to learn 7 strategies to set goals effectively:

    How to Reach Your Goals

    You can ensure your progress by following some foolproof tactics. The use of relevant helpful tools can also keep you on the right track.


    One rookie mistake that most people make is that they work on too many goals simultaneously. Create an action plan and focus on one thing at a time.

    Divide your goal into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Taking it one step at a time makes it much easier. However, do not break them down too much. For example, for long-term goals, you should go for weekly checkpoints instead of daily ones.

    Also, keep track of your progress. This will keep you motivated to work harder.


    With so many categories of goals and so many aims, it is almost impossible to remember, let alone work, on all of them.

    Luckily, numerous goal tracker apps will help you keep track of your goals, as well as your plan to achieve every single one. Have at least one installed in your smartphone so that your plan is always within reach.

    The Bottom Line

    In conclusion, using a goal setting tips guide is not rocket science. All that it takes is strong will power along with all the knowledge that you’ve learned so far.

    Try out the tactics and goals setting tips mentioned above to be able to set successful goals so that you can achieve the life that you want!

    More Tips on Achieving Success

    Featured photo credit: Danielle MacInnes via



    [1] Smart Insights: The difference between marketing objectives and marketing goals?
    [2] Confluence: Goal Setting Theory
    [3] University of California: SMART Goals: A How-To Guide

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