The Power of Setting Priorities

April Garcia is an international business adviser, performance coach, and speaker on productivity and time management. She also hosts the entrepreneur and personal development podcast PivotMe. As creator of breakthrough digital course Get More Done in Less Time, she’s a time management and productivity guru. She’s passionate about helping people get to that next level of success without working 14 hour days. She’s been there, and she wants to share with other professionals a better way to work.

Covid changed the way we all do business, and some people have had a hard time with time management now that they are remote (or hybrid). Remote work sounds good at first, but it’s easy to fall victim to the unique distracractions that come with working from home. You can’t just assume time management will fall into place. You have to put techniques to work that will help you manage distractions. If you don’t, you’ll just keep expanding your working day to make up for lost productivity because you were doing the dishes or petting the dog. 

April says the most important strategy is setting your priorities and blocking time out for those. With time blocking, you set aside time to focus on one thing. Set a timer for the necessary chunk of time, and focus on only that one task during that window. If you’re managing people who are prone to interrupting you, let them know that you have blocked out time to do a critical task and you won’t be available for the duration of that block of time.

The first block of your day should be reserved for the top priority– for that which matters most on that day:

  1. Know with absolute clarity the one thing that matters most. 
  2. Schedule that one thing for the beginning of your day– make it the first thing you do.
  3. Get it done by 9:27 am.

April says you don’t need any specific apps or tools to manage this. It doesn’t matter how you want to record it. Write down somewhere (in your planner, on a sticky note, on a digital calendar) the ‘one thing’ for the day (every single day) and then plan to get that task done by 9:27 am. 

Accountability is a huge factor in this as well. Some people can hold themselves accountable to the most important thing. The only motivation those folks need is seeing the ‘one thing’ on the calendar. Others will need an accountability buddy for this, but it’s important to pick the right one. Pair yourself up with someone who is good at the thing you need to be held accountable to. This is true for any aspect of your life– not just work. So, for example, if you want a buddy to hold you accountable to a fitness goal, choose someone who is already committed to their own fitness routine.

At the end of the day, most people will look at the items on their to-do list that didn’t get done. April says that strategy doesn’t work. You leave the office feeling negative because you spent the last part of your day focusing on what you did wrong rather than what you did right. April says you should still check on your productivity in the afternoon, but spend a good chunk of time before you leave focusing on what you did get done. Reviewing what you accomplished allows you to leave work feeling good about yourself. Your mood will be better for the rest of the night, and you’ll return to work the next day with a positive outlook. 

Part of the problem with the to-do list is that we’re putting too much on it. April says you have to be realistic about what you can accomplish in a work day. She suggests practicing ruthless prioritization. The ‘one thing’ strategy is a part of that. You have to get comfortable with the idea that not every email will get answered. You will let someone down during the day. There will be things that don’t get done. But when you determine the priorities, you get to be in control of what gets done on any given day. 

TheAprilGarcia website

PivotMe podcast