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:
- Back up your computer regularly. Just do it. You never know.
- Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today (in my case, print contracts). It might save you when the unexpected happens.
- Be clear, every morning, about what is the most important thing to accomplish.
- Don’t allow yourself – no matter how tempting it may be – to do something that might interfere with accomplishing the most important thing.
- 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?