Lunch AND Learn: Setting Goals & Managing Priorities

Topic: Setting Goals & Managing Priorities

Date: May 17th, 2017

Invited speaker:

Tony Tsai, Director of Education Strategies from Vice Dean’s Office of Education


During this month Lunch and Learn, Tony Tsai discussed the importance of thinking about our values and about identifying what is most important in our life. This is the first step to set our goals and manage our priorities.

When we are young, we are going through life stepwise: I will graduate from high school, I will get a bachelor’s degree, I will get a PhD, a Postdoc position and finally the faculty position. We focus so much on our career that sometimes we forget about other important aspects in our life, like family, health, leisure, etc. Consequently, sometimes we find ourselves in the situation where we are not entirely satisfied with our life choices, wishing that instead of focusing entirely on one aspect of life, we could put some effort to work on other areas too. Then we wish to be prepared and know in advance what my priorities are, what is that I would like to do, or who I would like to be, and what it will take to get me there (to achieve my goal).

You need to know your values in order to define your own agenda and to be able to make choices and manage priorities. Then take action. Self-talk is not the same as action – and action is what is necessary to move from intent to implementation.  The more goals you have, the more of them will come true. Define your goals on a timeline: goals for the week, the month, the year. Also keep in mind your “big picture” – where/who you would like to be in 5, 10, 15 years from now. What are the small steps to achieve a big/long term goal.

To use your time properly, set clear and defined goals according to your personal values and priorities. For example, if leisure is the area you would like to improve, instead of saying in general: “my goal is to enjoy Utah”, define a specific goal to visit two national parks per quarter of the year and stick to it. It is important to dedicate some time to something that you are very passionate about. It gives you satisfaction, happiness and is really good way to balance your life.

In general, you can define eight domains/values modules in life: Intellectual (Learning), Career, Financial, Leisure, Physical (Health), Family, Social and Spiritual (Religious). Try to prioritize them from the most to least important and set 1-5 short- and long-term goals in each area. Additionally, Tony recommended we assign a number from 1 to 5 to each of the eight domains, with 5 being the highest, and to keep our total for all eight at or below 25. This forces us to rank them according to priority and thereby identify where we need to focus our goals. It is good to remember, that when setting goals, whether personal or organizational, it is best to follow the SMART rules:

  • S (Specific) – Something you can see and touch (not abstract).
  • M (Measureable) – Numbers. How big? How many?
  • A (Attainable) – Attainable, but a stretch. Be flexible. Set 50% for unknown.
  • R (Relevant) – Solving something that people care about.
  • T (Time-bound) – by a certain time.

Tony Tsai concluded saying that the more intentional we are, the faster things move. Meaning that the goals that are properly thought out and reflect your intentions and desires will allow you to prioritize a lot easier. Because prioritizing your goals also encourages forward planning and focus on thinking ahead.


Setting Goals UPDA – May 2017 Goal Setting Handouts – May 2017