Skip to main content

How to Prioritize Your Goals


Residency: you’ve accomplished so much to get to this stage.

As you approach the end of your medical training, you’re probably thinking about all the things you need to do, including setting up your practice, managing your money, and ideally doing it all while enjoying a full, balanced life.

That’s a lot to juggle. So how do you prioritize your to-do list and those longer-term goals you need to get started on?

Learning from the pros

When successful leaders have a problem, they know that someone, somewhere has probably come up against the same obstacle—and might have even written about it. Exploring what’s already been done is the quickest route to a solution.

Warren Buffett is someone we all could learn from. He is currently worth $85 billion and in 2008 was the richest man in the world. He’s been called an investment genius and from the outside, Buffett’s knack for setting and reaching goals seems too uncanny to be a skill anyone could learn.

But according to Buffett himself, it doesn’t take genius or luck to achieve success like his—only the right method.

Using his method, here’s how you can prioritize your goals and to-do list in three simple steps.

  1. Write a list of the top 25 things you need to get done and want to get started on. Include career, financial and family goals, such as:
    • Pay off your medical school debt
    • Plan a vacation to celebrate the end of residency
    • Open an RRSP or tax-free savings account
    • Save for a wedding
    • Buy a home
    • Start a family
    • Figure out child care
    • Research locum opportunities
    • Find out more about loan forgiveness programs                                             

    Even if you don’t have as many as 25 goals, the key is to write them down.

  2. Circle the five items that are the most important right now—the ones that are the most critical, or that you care more about than anything else on the list. These are your current priorities.
  3. The other 20 items on the list? These are important in the grand scheme of your life but right now, they’re distractions. Cross them out, and don’t look at them again until you’ve succeeded with the top five.

A narrow focus is essential for wide-ranging success

This ruthless kind of focus may not be new to you—after all, you’ve survived medical school. But if it is new, finding that focus and keeping it might be hard, given the many demands on your time. 

Buffett, 87, says his career-long success isn’t really about what he’s done. It’s about what he hasn’t done.

Even today, he doesn’t have a computer in his office, keeps an almost empty calendar, and delegates as much as he possibly can to his staff—so he can focus on the things that matter, and only on those things.

If you don’t take the time to identify where your goals and tasks rank on your list and give them the attention they deserve, they won’t get done. At least, not to your satisfaction.

After you focus, get help planning

Once you’ve identified your priorities, it’s time to make specific plans for how to achieve them. Here again, you don’t have to waste time reinventing the wheel. Instead, seek out experts who can help.

If your goals include managing your money but you don’t know where to begin, it’s a perfect time to talk to an advisor at MD Financial Management. We’re the only firm exclusively dedicated to helping Canadian physicians achieve financial well-being.

Prioritizing your goals is an active process. You have to plan it out, but it may be the best way: stop juggling, discover balance and build success a few goals at a time.