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Setting Priorities: Focusing Your Efforts

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Forge Your Wealth is meant for education and entertainment and should not be used for financial advice.

The most powerful resource you will ever have is your effort. In a previous post I have mentioned how time can be wasted and the fact that it is a valuable resource in more detail. No matter what you are doing, you are putting effort into it. If you are running a marathon, you are putting effort into it. If you are sitting on a couch watching TV, you are putting effort into it. But effort cannot be shared. Can you run a marathon while sitting down watching TV? Of course not. You need to focus your effort onto one or only a few things. That is why one of the main issues that separates the successful from the less successful is the skill of setting priorities.

The Harms In Not Setting Priorities

Setting priorities is the best way to focus on what you need to become successful. A study shows that taking on too many tasks impairs critical thinking and decision making, two skill you will need for literally anything worth your time. Furthermore, it takes time to switch between tasks. Instead of focusing on too many goals, it is best to have only a few goals in which you can put your efforts in individually.

Personal Example

I have a good personal example of this. A few months ago my PI at my university asked if I wanted to graduate early. While I was working on my thesis I knew that I would have to put more effort into finishing my thesis to graduate. However, I was writing my blog around the same time. While I could separate the tasks at hand, I felt like I needed to set my priorities differently. I love my research and writing a blog, but which should I focus on more? Simply put, I put more years of efforts to the PhD than Forge Your Wealth and it would be harder to restart obtaining my PhD. Forge Your Wealth was not going anywhere so I shut down Forge Your Wealth temporarily so I would not be distracted.

Because of this, I have obtained my PhD in biochemistry and now I can tell you about it on Forge Your Wealth. I have completed one of the greatest achievements of my life by setting priorities differently while still being able to carry on with future achievements.

Why Do People Not Set Priorites?

Setting priorities is one of the most healthful habits you could have. But do you feel unfocused? If you do, it may be because you have not set your priorities. The most basic rule to setting priorities is Warren Buffett’s 5/25 rule. It is surprisingly simple, write down your top 25 goals, but only circle the first 5 goals. This is simple, but is it easy? Probably not. The reason this is simple but not easy is because you know what is important to you, but there is so much that is important to you that you have a hard time focusing on the 5 most important things to you. Do not worry, everyone has a hard time with this, it is not just you. The reason this is hard is because you want to diversify your efforts just in case some of your goals do not work.

No one was successful at everything so that is not an option, so would you rather be successful at some of your goals or none of them? If you spread out your effort, you will not be successful in any of your goals. Therefore, you will need to focus on only a few of your goals, as Warren Buffett said: “Everything you didn’t circle (not the top 5) just became your ‘avoid at all cost list’”

Your Priorities Change

So should you forget about everything aside from your top 5 goals? At this time, yes. Setting your priorities will focus your efforts and avoid putting wasted effort into what is on your ‘avoid at all cost list.’ But if you do this, you will be able to work towards completing your top five goals. By focusing my efforts I have completed my PhD and now I can focus on the next steps in life. Setting priorities is not just the way to success, but it is the way to evolve.

Finding meaningful relationships tends to be a universal goal and is on many people’s list of priorities. However, when most people find meaningful relationships, they continue to try to find other meaningful relationships instead of focusing on the relationships that fulfill them. Because of this, finding meaningful relationships is almost always among most people’s priorities.

When I found my wife, instead of trying to find other relationships, we put in effort to nurture our relationship. Because of this our relationship has evolved from a romantic couple, to an engaged couple, and now to a married couple. I hope my wife would be concerned if one of my goals was to try to find a meaningful relationship.

Setting Priorities Is Not Settling

You may say: “well, this is not enough for me so I need to spread my efforts and not set priorities so I do not settle.” Focusing efforts is not settling, in fact it is the opposite. By setting priorities, you are trying to complete an achievement so you are moving on to the next achievement. Setting priorities keeps you moving forward so you do not need to settle. If you want to be financially sound (you should, you are reading a personal finance blog) then you must focus on investing, saving, paying off debts, etc.

To obtain the focus to achieve you must take focus from other areas. Some are as simple as taking time away from watching TV or sports and focusing on your career, business, or whatever else makes you financially sound. Some sacrifices are harder. Many people sacrifice friends and other relationships to achieve their goals. If these are not helping you to your goals then not only should these not be in your top 5, but they should not be in your top 25. This is hard for people and it is yet another reason most people cannot set priorities. But you need to realize what is important to you and to work until you finally achieve it.

Final Thoughts

Setting priorities is difficult because it forces you to admit what is important and to evolve as a human. But to grow, you must focus your efforts into a few things that are important. If you go out into the world and put out a lack of effort, the world will owe you nothing back in return. As Ron Swanson on Parks And Recreation said to Leslie Knope when she was struggling with being a good political candidate and trying to be a good head of the parks and recreation department: “Never half-ass two things whole-ass one thing.” I am not paraphrasing nor censoring his quote because I feel like it is a powerful quote that would lose its power if I paraphrased it. Follow my and Ron Swanson’s advice to help forge your wealth.

Author: Papa Foxtrot

Most of my life I was careful with money and learned where I should invest it. I was very lucky to have parents who taught me financial literacy when I was young. Unfortunately, I am very lucky because many people lack the financial literacy I know. The purpose of Forge Your Wealth is to teach people who are just starting out in life how to obtain their wealth or anyone who just realized they may need to learn more to handle their finances. I currently have a PhD in biochemistry, just started a job in industry (will not disclose where exactly for personal and professional reasons) and am currently married to the love of my life. I am one of the lucky few people in America who graduated with no student debts, my wife was not. Over the series of a little over 3 years we paid for our wedding with no debt and paid off her federal student loans.

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