Establishing Priorities

Try as we might, we can’t be good at everything.  We also can’t please everybody.  We all have the same 24 hours in a day to work with.  We must choose what we do with that time and determine how it should be spent.  If we have made goals we must also establish priorities that will help us reach those goals.  If a student wants to earn a good grade on a test, they must make it a priority to study for that test.  This means that studying becomes a priority over other things such as playing video games or hanging out with friends.  It doesn’t mean that a person can’t do those things, just that in order to reach their goal studying must be the first priority.  If a person chooses to hang out with their friends instead of studying it may be a reflection that their goals are unrealistic as the person can’t make it a priority to reach them.  Below are some criteria for establishing priorities to reach one’s goals.

How urgent is the goal?

The urgency of a goal helps to determine its priority. If some goals are to be met, they must be accomplished now, today, or at the most, this week. You cannot wait until next week to get ready to preach this Sunday’s sermon. You had better not wait too long to start rearing your children right. However, be careful in establishing priorities on the basis of urgency alone. One sage said, “Never do today what can be put off until tomorrow.” That is not what is usually said, but it may be better. That sage was saying something of the same thing as General Eisenhower when he said, “The urgent is seldom important, and the important is seldom urgent.” If a leader refuses to plan his work around his goals and priorities, he may spend most of his time doing urgent, but relatively unimportant, tasks.

How important is the goal?

There are four levels of importance. First – the very important things that must be done. Second – the important things that should be done. Third – the kind of things that may not be necessary, but may be useful. Fourth – the unimportant things that can be eliminated.

Can someone else do the task?

This question should be asked. Many things can be delegated to a subordinate, freeing the leader for more important tasks. The leader who desires to lead a large ministry will have to delegate a large part of his work to subordinates. Of course, there are some things that don’t have to be carried out by a particular leader, but some other person can do them.

How often must it be done?

Many things that must be repeated should be delegated to someone else, even if that someone must be trained to perform the task. This is not true of all things; for example, the pastor needs to preach, even though he does it several times each week. It is something to consider.

Is it part of the larger task to which I am committed?

Some tasks that may be done are simply not a part of the larger task of an individual, and probably should not be done. If a task does not contribute to the accomplishment of the lifetime objectives, it should be considered for elimination.

What will happen if it is not done at all?

This is the ultimate question. Is it really important enough to be done?

Characteristics of Goals

Every year thousands if not millions of people make New Years’ resolutions.  These resolutions include such things as lose weight, eat healthier, be a better person.  While these are noble things, they are not true goals as they lack specific criteria.  Lose how much weight?  By when?  What classifies as being a better person?  When it comes time to set goals for yourself, it is important to keep the following characteristics in mind.

It is important before one starts trying to write goals that he differentiates between goals and purposes or objectives. A purpose or objective is an overall aim that may be impossible to attain. They are not measurable. “To be a good father” is an objective. How can you know if you have done this? Long-range goals are very close to objectives, but they should meet the criteria for good goals. A good goal will be specific, measurable, accomplishable, dated, and written. These five basic factors need to be recognized before starting to establish goals.

Goals should be specific

An objective is a more general statement of a larger target than a goal. An objective is something that you work a lifetime to accomplish and may never be accomplished. A goal is a bite-sized chunk of an objective. It should be stated in exact terms.

Goals should include a measurement device

A goal should be worded in such a way that it will show a specific number of things to be accomplished. This is one step more in being specific. A goal should not simply say “to be evangelistic,” but could say “to win one person to Christ each week for a total of 52 weeks.” Another example could be “to save $10.00 every Friday for one year” and not just “to save some money.” This could be based on an objective of becoming a better steward of
material possessions.

Goals should be attainable but should be challenging

A goal should be something toward which to aim. If a goal is so close and so easy it requires no effort to achieve, then it is a poor goal. On the other hand, if a goal is so difficult that the probability of accomplishing it is so slight that it seems impossible, then it is a poor goal. If a goal appears too difficult, then break it down into sub-goals or smaller pieces, and accomplish a little bit of it at a time. Whenever a goal is necessary but involves an unpleasant task, the division into smaller goals can make it more appealing. Make a goal something that can be reached. Easier and shorter term goals will serve as stepping stones to more difficult and longer term goals.

Goals should be dated

A date should be set for accomplishing a goal. It will usually even be better to say “by September 30” rather than to say “in three months.” Sometimes we forget the starting point, and the end of three months could be moved. Specific dates should be used for immediate and short-term goals. Intermediate and long-range goals would probably only be dated by years. ASAP (as soon as possible) is not acceptable. Set a date and work toward meeting the date. If the date cannot be achieved, then establish a new date.

Goals should be written

It is far better to write your goals down on paper than to try to keep them in your mind. A few days during the Christmas season or summer vacation can be profitably spent preparing some annual goals for your personal life. Put your commitment in writing. In fact, it is usually good to even share your goals with a friend. Some goals may need to be shared with a supervisor to be sure your personal goals are reflections of the goals of the larger ministry.

When you have actually written down a list of goals that reflect the qualities just presented, you are then ready to go to the second major step. Most people make so many goals that they have problems in accomplishing them, and so they need to establish some priorities.

Classifications of Goals

The key to setting goals is knowing how to classify them.  While the end goal may be to pastor a large church or earn a Ph.D. there are numerous goals in between to accomplish the final goal.  Recognizing the difference between goals is important in accomplishing them.

Long-range goals

A goal that would require 5 or more years to accomplish is a long-range goal. The ultimate long-range goals would be the life-long objectives one would like to accomplish. Usually long-range goals would be achievable in 5–10 years. One can just about become anything he wants to be, if he works at it for 10 years. A high school graduate could even go all the way through college to a Ph.D. in less than 10 years. One could become a medical doctor, build a business empire, or build one of the largest churches in the world in 10 years or less.

Intermediate goals

Goals for the next 2–5 years might be called intermediate goals. They should contribute toward the long-range goals. Examples of intermediate goals are to complete a graduate degree, to change vocations, or to take a Holy Land Tour.

Short-term goals

A goal that could be accomplished in 1–2 years might be called a short-term goal. This type of goal would indicate you are going to expend a major effort to accomplish it in the near future. It should be a stepping stone to an intermediate goal and contribute toward the accomplishment of a long-range goal. Many personal goals fit into this category.

Immediate goals

A goal that could be accomplished in 3–6 months, or at least in less than one year, could be considered an immediate goal. Many goals can be accomplished in a very short time. These goals also need to be related to longer term goals.

Setting Goals

The Bible tells us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  Without goals to strive for people languish in indecision.  With goals a person can quickly decide if an action will help them reach their goals or not.  Some goals are simple such as relax and have fun while others are aggressive such as earn a Ph.D. by 32.  Whatever your goals are, they will give you direction to your life.

What is a goal?

  •  Something toward which to aim
  •  A target
  •  A specific purpose worth working towards
  •  A desired outcome that can be measured in terms of progress toward an objective
  •  A statement of faith – how one hopes things are going to be at some time in the future

Reasons for Goals

Goals give direction. Goals provide targets for aiming. A wise man said, “You aim at nothing and you’ll probably hit it.” Goals provide something toward which to plan and work. A person with goals for his life has direction. He will know where he is going, and he will know the way.

Goals provide a standard for choosing activities. Goals are ends toward which a person is working. One chooses activities to be the means to reach the end, and then the means becomes an end. This is an end-means inversion, and it always spells trouble. By checking activities against the established ends or goals, one can avoid unnecessary activities or work.

Goals motivate. Goals held before workers provide an incentive to work harder and longer. An attendance goal for a high Sunday will produce extra effort. A goal established to visit so many houses, or to jog so many miles, can keep one going. Extra resources will sometimes be called upon to accomplish a goal.

Goals provide mile posts. Goals are based on objectives. You may never accomplish an objective, but a goal is a bite-sized piece of an objective. A goal serves as a mile post to indicate how far one has traveled. Sometimes larger goals should be broken down into smaller goals to make the mile posts easier to reach. This is more than direction; it shows one has reached a mark or small target.

Goals provide a measurement device for evaluation. Evaluation is very important. It is the final step in planning. When goals are written, then evaluation is simplified. The goals say exactly where one wants to go and when one wants to arrive. The evaluation process simply finds out if you arrived at the destination as intended. It is impossible to evaluate without goals or standards being established.