The Most Important Thing to Do Today

Delivery man with a box and place to sign. The Most important thing to do today.
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Today is a new day. Time to make your list and get going. But wait one minute; before you start tackling tasks, ask yourself, “What is the most important thing to do today?” This may sound like a silly question. After all, everything seems important. However, when everything is important, nothing is important. We need to have a clear grasp on our priorities in order to achieve our goals.

I was reminded of this truth yesterday. 

Let me back up and explain that a little over a week ago, while away for the weekend in another state, I opened my computer to get some work done. As usual, I typed in my password to open the home screen, but the password box kept jiggling, indicating that I had the wrong password. I knew my password was correct, so this both baffled and panicked me. Had my computer somehow been hacked and locked by someone in the hotel? 

My sweet husband joined the effort to figure out what was going on. We went through a series of key commands, restarting, and restarting with keys depressed, all to no avail. We finally decided to try and reset my computer, which required entering in my email. It was at this point that we realized my keyboard appeared to be stuck in ALL CAPS mode. I couldn’t get a “.”, and hence could not type in an email address.

We then proceeded to try tapping and “lifting” keys. Nothing worked. I couldn’t get into my computer because I couldn’t get lower case letters.

As you can imagine, this was unsettling. My husband and I decided to seek service at a Best Buy about a half hour away (there was no Apple store anywhere). We had a small time window, because we were meant to be on the road, headed to an event later that day. We were at the Best Buy when it opened, and I went to the Geek Squad area and took a seat in the section of the store indicated by a sign to be for those “without an appointment.” I waited for the people ahead of me who had appointments, and then approached the counter. I was asked if I had an appointment. I said that I was from out of town, and that I did not have an appointment, which is why I was sitting in the “without an appointment” area. He told me that they can only help people with appointments, which he could schedule for me. I looked around and noted that no one else was waiting, but alas, he wouldn’t help me. I’m still confused as to why they have a waiting area for people without appointments if it is there policy not to help those without appointments.

So that was the end of the Best Buy excursion.

My husband made an appointment (from his phone) at the Apple Store back home for the afternoon I got back. I would have gone in the morning, but I had a client. [Side note: this was one of those times when I was glad that I am an advance planner, as I had printed contracts and invoices before I had left for the trip.]

After work, I headed to the Apple store. They were able to confirm that my keyboard was stuck, and while this was “an unusual problem,” because I was under warranty, my computer could be sent in for repair at no charge. 

I said, “Sent in? As in, I won’t have it?” Yes, this was indeed the case. “For how long?” I asked. I could expect it to be returned in 3-5 business days, meaning Friday at the earliest and Monday at the latest. I would need to make sure someone was around to sign for the computer, because otherwise it could get stuck in a delivery “hell.” 

Given no alternative, I signed my life away (well, check-boxed it away digitally), and relinquished my computer. I’ll admit, it was difficult. You never realize how much of your life (and business) is on your computer until you don’t have it. Fortunately, I had recent back-ups, so I wasn’t at risk of losing anything. Also luckily, I had my phone, which was my lifeline. But it’s hard to write blogs, print invoices, and otherwise take care of business exclusively from a phone. At least, it is for me.

Wednesday night I received an alert that the computer had been repaired and had shipped. I was thrilled. Maybe I would even get it a day early! Thursday, the tracking information said, “Shipment delayed.” I tried to breathe through it.

Friday morning the tracking indicated that the computer was “Out for shipment” as of 5:40am. This is where the title question of this post came into play. What was the most important thing I needed to do that day?

I said the following out loud: “The most important thing I need to do today is be here when the delivery truck arrives so I can sign for my computer and get it back.”

Now, if your life is anything like mine, you have a long list of tasks to complete each day. I had rearranged my client appointments, but I still had many things to do. Many of them involved going somewhere in my car. I figured that if the computer had been loaded for delivery at 5:40am, odds were good that the computer would arrive before noon.

Apparently, the odds were not in my favor.

As the day rolled on, I kept being tempted to just “dash out” and take care of a couple of things. My husband was (mostly) around, although he was working, and could at any moment get involved on a call, thus not hearing the doorbell. The truth was, the only way I could ensure that the computer would end up in my possession – i.e., not get taken back into delivery hell for lack of signature – was to stay home. I kept reminding myself that if I got some things done, but at the end of the day did not get the most important thing done (i.e., get my computer back), the day would feel like a failure. 

Were there tasks at home that needed attending to? Yes, there were. They were not necessarily the ones I felt like doing, or even the ones that felt critical to complete, but there were things I could do that would allow me to remain on call for the delivery truck. I just needed to keep my top priority at the top of my list until it was successfully completed.

This is how the story ended.

As of 6:00pm, there had still been no knock at my door. I had consistently checked my doors to make sure nothing had been left, but no luck. I “vented” my frustration and concern to my family. My husband then stepped away, and in a few minutes came walking in with a box that he had just found left at the back door. Apparently, the UPS truck had just come down the driveway and left the box at the back door.

The good news was, I had my computer back. The better news was, it was working. 

What joy! What relief!

Now, you might say, “See, you didn’t need to wait around all day,” or, “You wasted the whole day waiting to sign for a computer for which you ended up not needing to sign?” While this is somewhat true, it might have turned out differently. In theory, the delivery driver should have required a signature. Why he didn’t, I’ll never know. However, had he followed procedure, and had I missed him because I had given my attention to something less critical, I might not have gotten my computer. The most important thing I had to do was get my computer, and I succeeded. Therefore, no regrets.

In light of this experience, these are my take-aways:

  1. Back up your computer regularly. Just do it. You never know.
  1. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today (in my case, print contracts). It might save you when the unexpected happens.
  1. Be clear, every morning, about what is the most important thing to accomplish. 
  1. Don’t allow yourself – no matter how tempting it may be – to do something that might interfere with accomplishing the most important thing. 
  1. If something comes up, and you have to give top priority to a new most important thing, acknowledge the necessity of the switch, and then move forward.

*     *     *

I have to say it feels pretty wonderful to sit here, tapping away on my new keyboard. Keeping “first things first” had a happy ending.

Do you struggle with getting off track? Do you clearly identify your top (or couple of top) priorities each day? What tips do you have for staying focused until the task is done?

Seana's signature

16 thoughts on “The Most Important Thing to Do Today”

  1. Wow! I had computer problems over the last month too. That is so discouraging but glad it all worked out. You definitely had your priorities on target!

    I am finding that there are more truly important simultaneous priorities. When families have a loved one with a medical condition and older parents, or one family is moving and there has been a loss of a loved one, it is really hard to know how to prioritize and where to find additional resources. For me, I hope to help the families find affordable resources to boost their needs.

    Thank you for sharing this great story!

    1. Yes, for many, there truly are multiple “top” priorities. Caregivers particularly have this situation. Especially for them, the daily list needs to be managed with care. A long list of tasks, meant to be done while also doing other things, can get overwhelming and discouraging. As you say, additional resources are often the solution!

  2. I feel for you, Seana. You illustrated very well just how important it is to identify and honor that which is most important on any given day. Also, I can totally relate to the feeling of helplessness when you know you have things you can do but don’t want to do them because you aren’t able to take care of what you really want to be doing. This is a great post! I’m so happy you got your computer back and all is well.
    Diane N Quintana recently posted…Reasons You Are More Productive When Someone Is Helping (Particularly If You Have ADHD)My Profile

  3. Oh, Seana! I was with you every step of the way as I read your computer and return delivery saga. We’ve become so dependent on our devices that it feels impossible when they aren’t working. I’ve had several tech hiccups these past years, and it was never fun.

    I love how you kept your priority top of mind on the day your computer was being returned. It can be irritating to wait for a delivery, which forces us to be home during a specified time. But it sounds like you made good use of your day and, most importantly, got your computer back in working order. Phew!

    Your takeaways are fantastic. And how terrific the ways you were able to use this unpleasant experience to boost your growth mindset. I am so happy for you and that you’re back in action.

    1. I am so happy too! Crazy how dependent we have become. However, in many ways, we have adapted to change in our environment, which is a sign of growth. It is also a good reminder to me personally not to judge younger people on their devices. The world has changed, and they have changed with it.

      Even better was the fact that I was able to get out and tackle the rest of my list the next day, so it all worked out!

  4. Ugh, what a terrible experience! I’m so glad it worked out in the end. I might have been tempted to try a wireless keyboard to see if that worked, but that would be a pain if you don’t usually use your laptop at a desk or table.

    I cannot figure out why signatures are sometimes but not always required. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the value of your goods, as evidenced by yours being left on your doorstep. Once I ordered a piece of equipment from Staples that was a few hundred dollars and decided to add a letter opener to the order. The items were delivered separately, and I had to sign for the letter opener, but not the equipment. Go figure!
    Janet Barclay recently posted…Free Keyword Research ToolsMy Profile

    1. We tried another keyboard when we were at Best Buy. My “stuck” keyboard was overriding every attempt to try another keyboard. The computer I received back has an entirely new keyboard. I just admit, it is nice and clean. 🙂

      That story about having to sign for the letter opener is HILARIOUS! It just goes to show that things are not always handled in a way that makes sense.

  5. Ugh, such a story! Best Buy was not cool! And also just the way these things go with human error (and maybe some computer error) around every corner.

    I’m just glad you got the computer back, it works, you learned something from it, and used it as a lesson for all of us.
    Tamara recently posted…Best Ever Caramel Apples For FallMy Profile

    1. The best response to stress for me is to try and see how I can grow through it. And yea, Best Buy just wasn’t doing it for me. I gotta give Apple points for getting it fixed quickly!

  6. Haha, I LOL’d when I saw the photo of you kissing your laptop. And I totally related. Next to our physical health, and that of our loved ones, is there anything worse than computer or car troubles? I often write myself a sticky note with the top 3 things I have to do today. If there’s one that MUST be done today — if nothing else — it gets written first, largest, and boldest.
    Hazel Thornton recently posted…Always believe in yourself (and have a backup plan)My Profile

    1. So simple, and so effective! Sometimes it takes effort to stick to our top priority. So many other things are more attractive/more appealing/easier/etc. But if, at the end of the day, we don’t take of what was most important, we are likely to feel lousy about the day.

  7. Oh, girlfriend, I have HAD those days. My first thought when reading this was that you could have tried a Bluetooth keyboard, but if you’ve never paired your laptop with a different keyboard and if your computer requires a password just to start it up, that would probably have been a non-starter. (My old Mac had wonky USB ports, and sometimes when the computer would start, it wouldn’t recognize my keyboard, and that Bluetooth keyboard was a savior!)

    I went through a similar series of days after my car was stolen when anything that would have been on that day’s list had to be put on hold until I could connect with the right combination of insurance representatives, police, witnesses, as well as the body shop and dealer. All I wanted to do was have a “normal” day of blogging or client work, but THE CAR (your version of THE LAPTOP KEYBOARD) took priority over everything.

    I believe in all of your take-aways. My computer is backed up to the cloud and an external drive, and I never leave anything to do “the next day” except grooming (but that’s because I’m so not a morning person). Once you identify your number one priority for the day (which may not always align with your #1 priority in life), stick to it like glue!

    Glad you have your laptop back!
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Take a Break — How Breaks Improve Health and ProductivityMy Profile

    1. Me too – so happy to have it back. As a matter of fact, I thought of you often as I was going through this week. All the hassle of your car was worse than my computer issue, and you persevered, so I figured I could as well.

      We did actually try an external keyboard, but the “stuck” keyboard was overriding it. And we couldn’t get into the computer to tell it to ignore the built-in keyboard. It was a catch 22.

      However, all’s well that ends well, so I’m just thankful that Apple got it fixed quickly, and that the shipping finally arrived. Today I’m more thankful for my computer than I was two weeks ago, that’s for sure!

  8. What a story, when the least expected happens, while you’re out of town. Great advice at the end, we follow these rules in our family just for the “you never know”.
    I find having a list for daily tasks on an app is important so I don’t forget. Not necessarily by order, but need to be done by the end of the day, and sometime a specific time, like doctor’s appointment. And I just take care of it and remove it off my list.
    Janet Schiesl recently posted…Prioritize Organizing-FreezerMy Profile

    1. I know so many people have found great success with apps. Their convenience can’t be beat. My phone is what got me through the temporary absence of my computer. I guess I’m showing my age, but I don’t love looking at the tiny screen. I find I work more quickly and efficiently with a larger keyboard and screen. However, I was very thankful for the cloud backups and accessibility between my laptop and phone, and also my iPad once I got home!

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