A lot of people talk about how having priorities can help you, but few of them talk about what happens when you don’t have priorities.
Well, I’m here to tell you a lot could go wrong if you don’t have any priorities.
And no, I’m not trying to be dramatic.
Although you might not be convinced enough by the benefits of having priorities to actually organize your life around them, what would you think if I talked about the repercussions of not prioritizing? Would you be convinced if I tell you that not having them could, for example, end your career?
In fact, the lack of priorities can affect negatively both your professional and your personal life. Moreover, trying to do it all at once will be detrimental to your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Does it sound more relevant now? I surely hope so!
Here are the consequences of not having priorities in your life.
The Consequences of Not Having Priorities
When nothing is a priority, everything becomes one
When you don’t prioritize, everything becomes a priority.
All things matter and have the same level of urgency to you, so you try to do it all at once. Everything seems equally important.
What is the problem with this?
Stop for a moment and think about how many times you’ve felt you aren’t enough, like you just can’t keep up with everything that must be done. When you are done with something, you still have a million things to do.
Ever felt like that? If you feel like you are juggling and trying to comply with all of it, I’m here to tell not only that you can’t, but that nobody can.
Trying to do everything at once will result in an unbalanced life, and unavoidably, one area of it will suffer in order to satisfy the high demand in the other.
In life, not everything is important, and not everything needs your attention. When you prioritize, you learn to do only the amount of things you can handle.
Not having priorities gets you overwhelmed
Visualize an empty glass. Now, visualize somebody filling the glass with water. Ok? Next, imagine the glass is receiving water from five different sources of water at the same time. What do you think will happen?
You don’t need a Bachelor’s in physics to guess… the water is going to overflow. The same thing can happen to us.
When we try to do it all, everything at once, we feel flushed with information, tasks, ideas, responsibilities, and so on. You are not sure which of them you should attend first.
As a result, you get overwhelmed. The Merriam-Webster dictionary (n.d.) states that you feel overwhelmed when you are “completely overcame or overpowered by thought or feeling”.
Overwhelmed people often end up dropping everything or committing mistakes.
Prioritizing is putting only enough water in our glass. Otherwise, if it’s overflowing, it can’t serve its purpose.
Burnout because you don’t have priorities
Burnout usually follows an extended period of feeling stressed. Nowadays, it is more common to hear people talking about it. But, what is it?
Although the World of Health Organization (2019) defines burnout as an “occupational phenomenon”, a term that shouldn’t be applied to other areas of life, we can find the following definition in the Psychology Today (n.d.):
“Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. Though it’s most often caused by problems at work, it can also appear in other areas of life, such as parenting, caretaking, or romantic relationships.”
Not establishing priorities can contribute to the accumulation of stress and pressure. After an extended period of time, you will burnout. It is more common than you might think, and you are subject to it.
By prioritizing, you can set boundaries, and reduce not only your workload but also all those unnecessary and unimportant to-do’s.
You always say yes, even when you should be saying no
“Yes. Why not? I can reschedule my compromise for later.”
How many times have you found yourself saying one of these answers in response to an invitation when you should actually be saying no?
When we don’t have priorities, we are prone to sacrifice our compromises and schedule because we don’t believe what we already had planned (if you plan your week or day ahead) is something important that requires our time and attention.
As a consequence, we waste our time and efforts in things that don’t contribute anything at all to what we wish to achieve in life.
Yes, it can be uncomfortable to say no. However, it is a necessary life skill.
Psychology Today (n.d.) states: “When you have too many conflicting responsibilities, simply saying “no” to new tasks is an important (albeit challenging) way to reduce your workload”.
You must accept two things in order to stop saying yes repeatedly: one, you can’t possibly say yes to everything if you want to work on your goals, and two, saying no is completely ok.
And if someone can’t take a no for an answer, well, you know what they can do.
Focusing on what’s urgent and not important
According to Stephen R. Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”
But what’s the difference? Why should we be prioritizing one thing over the other?
Urgent activities are those that you have to do, well, now. Those are the ones that you put in your daily to-do, tasks that must be resolved immediately.
But what’s the problem with attending those? The truth is, those tasks keep most of us busy with temporary things, with things that won’t contribute to our goals in any way.
On the contrary, the important things are those that affect our goals in the long term, those for which we might not be seeing immediate results, but that is contributing to what we really want.
For example, an important task could be taking a one year course to be able to change your career. You will be investing time in it but you won’t derive anything from it right away.
Nonetheless, if you prioritize that course as something important, you will see results, whereas, if you deem it as something you can do later, or when you have time… Well, let’s say you might never do that career change.
Not investing in ourselves
Time is something we can kill, it can go over us, it can fly… It is also something we can invest. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: your time is precious, and it deserves to be treated as such.
Do you know what else is precious? YOU. So the main person you should be investing your time in is you.
When you aren’t present in your own list of priorities, you are neglecting yourself, your life, and your loved ones. When you prepare this week’s schedule and to-do list, you SHOULD BE in it.
Not sure how investing time in yourself could look? Develop a self-care routine, make time for those pottery classes you wish to take, exercise, or go out with friends.
If you are not a priority in your list, then, nothing else can be.
A final word on not having priorities
Having priorities is essential for a healthy life. Moreover, it allows you to focus on what’s significant and to leave aside what isn’t.
Although we have a long life and we shouldn’t live rushed and anxious, we should always spend our time as a finite resource, because at the end of the day, it is. Time management, productivity, personal growth, and goal setting, all depend on spending your time wisely.
However, if none of this is important to you, remember, having priorities is also important for maintaining your mental and emotional health.
How do you set your priorities straight? If you don’t know how to do it, you can go and check this post.
Covey, S. (2013). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. Simon & Schuster.
Psychology Today. (n.d.). Burnout. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/burnout
Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (n.d.). Overwhelmed. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/overwhelmed
World Health Organization. (2019, May 28). Burn-out an “occupational phenomenon”: International classification of diseases. https://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/burn-out/en/