10 Ways to Prioritize Like a Boss

We rounded up the best tips and advice from successful business owners on how to get stuff done.

When it comes to running a successful organization, we tend to hear a lot about inspiration and motivation: the story of why leaders do what they do. But how do they do it? Prioritization is the new buzz word in business because it focuses on how owners and managers spend their precious time. And what they do—and in what order they do it—makes a profound difference to their companies and cash flow. We interviewed seven bosses who shared their prioritization strategies and tips.

Worst comes first

We’ve all heard the way we start the day, set the tones for the day. And for CEO’s, like Clint Carnell of HydraFacial, a skincare company, that means the tough task is top on his prioritization list. “I tackle the most challenging issues of the day first thing in the morning,” says Carnell. “I’ve found avoiding them causes (prolonged) stress, but knocking them off the list gives you a sense of accomplishment that fuels the rest of your day.”

Cancel culture

To be efficient, you gotta know how to prioritize your time. And for Megan Driscoll, CEO and Founder of EvolveMKD, an award-winning PR firm based in New York City, that means looking over her calendar each morning and crossing appointments off her list. “I start my day by reviewing my calendar each morning and canceling my attendance in meetings where my presence isn’t mandatory. This leaves me with more focused time to think and work.” Don’t miss these 8 almost effortless ways to be way more productive.

Set deadlines

If you’re the type who never gets any work done without a deadline, create one for yourself. “I’m a big procrastinator, so I impose deadlines on myself so I have some compliance about getting tasks done,” shares  Jonah Shacknai, CEO of Dermaforce and founder of MaxInMotion, which provides scholarships to young athletes. “I then get myself in the mind space that those deadlines—whether they are artificial or not—are meaningful, real, and externally driven,” he says.

Do less, achieve more

Making that priority list tiny and mighty is key, says Joni Carswell, CEO and President of Texan by Nature, a conservation nonprofit. “Output quality and quantity suffers when operating in an always-urgent environment,” says Carswell. “It goes back to goal setting, planning, and prioritization. We’re fine with doing a few things really, really well as opposed to doing a lot of things at a sub-par level. ” So stay focused on your mission and goals and prioritize the distractions away.

Know that priorities change

What’s on your task list can change depending on what’s the highest priority at that moment. “We’ve learned to break down our priorities by category,” says Amy Segal and Melissa Dodge Segal, twin sisters and co-founders and co-CEOs of TogetherSegal, a petit clothing line. “For example, sales and marketing is one category, development of new designs is another category, production is another.” If the twins are in the middle of design conception then fabric sourcing and development scheduling become a priority. Once a line is launched, they move up sales and marketing to urgent and important. “Breaking things down by category based on our business timeline and schedules really helps with prioritization.”

Prioritize time for inspiration

“I prioritize time to think above all else,” says Albert G. White III, president and CEO of CooperCompanies. I run a global company that serves a diverse array of customers and patients,” says White. “Having time to think through the challenges and opportunities that are happening within my industries is critical to being a thoughtful leader.” And White doesn’t believe in wasted time. “Allowing yourself even five or ten minutes to check a game score or read an interesting article (unrelated to work) can provide a much needed mental break that creates the space for your mind to work through complex challenges and opportunities.” Check out these 15 time management tips that actually work.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Sometimes running a household is a lot like running a business, you have to stay on top of the little tasks to leave room for the big ones. This is certainly true for Sarah Hansen, co-owner of Knox County Brewing Company, based in Galesburg, Illinois. “My highest priority is to finish the small tasks that can cloud my ability to be creative,” says Hansen.”I like to choose things that I know I can finish. Then I move on to what will take more brainpower and creativity. I get a sense of enjoyment from all those little checkmarks!”

Schedule self-care

A Gallup survey showed that nearly half of American workers experience burn out, which is why it’s so important to make self care your highest priority. Sunday Vidal co-Founder and partner at APC Collective, a boutique marketing agency, says prioritizing meditation is her all-around secret to a better life. “That time in the mornings is like a gift to my work and my family. The day runs smooth, and even if things are falling apart or we’re running at a frenetic pace, I’m able to handle the stress without losing my cool.” Vidal also says that quiet time gives her more energy, better focus, and a stronger sense of intuition and self-trust, which is paramount when making big decisions.

Do it once, do it right

Did you know that the average person spends 28 percent of their workday reading and answering email? That’s why Carnell says he only looks at email and text messages once. He’ll respond immediately, delegate the task, or delete the email. “This keeps my email box clean and organized,” says Carnell.

Keep meetings tech-free

“If you can be present at each thing you do. It’s amazing how much can be done in ten minutes when you focus only on that task,” says Carswell. “We don’t have devices or open computers in our meetings; the expectation is that you are present and engaged. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish with focus,” she says. “I see people use four times longer to do something because of device distraction and daydreaming.” You should also consider adding some of the daily habits of naturally productive people to your routine.

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Robyn Moreno
As a storyteller, leader, and Emmy-nominated TV host, I've learned that "You can't be what you can't see." That's why I have worked tirelessly to stand up, speak out, and share the inspiring stories of women via my work at prestigious publications like Glamour, InStyle, and Woman's Day, as well by serving as the Founding Hamptons Editor for PureWow; the Founding Contributing Editor for Cosmo for Latinas; Editor-In-Chief of TheFetching.com; and most recently, the Editor-In-Chief and Co-President of Latina Media Ventures. Latina Media Ventures is the #1 brand for Latinas in the United States with three signature properties: the flagship Latina Magazine; Latina.com, and TheLatinKitchen.com ​ As Editor-In-Chief and President of Latina, I revitalized a legacy brand into a digital powerhouse and launched our first ever digital magazine issues. In addition, I launched our profitable ecommerce site, our popular influencer program, and our empowering event series: LatiNXT. As a regular contributor to Today for more than 10 years and brand personality with two other books around lifestyle themes and identity for women under my belt—Borderline Personalities (Harper Collins;) Practically Posh (Harper Collins)— I've become adept at harnessing the power of voice and personality on every major media platform from TV to online. ​ I have been invited to the Whitehouse, the Sundance Film Festival, and SXSW Interactive; and have interviewed powerhouse women from Rihanna to Latina activist Dolores Huerta, Jennifer Lopez to Hillary Clinton, and beyond. As a popular keynote speaker, I've presented at Hispanicize, The Omega Institute, BlogHer, Pennsylvania Conference for Women, Texas Conference for Women, and Yale University among others. ​ I'm currently writing a new book, Finding My Magic, which is a journey of re-discovery and reclamation of both my culture and myself. I am certified yoga teacher and life coach and I live in Cold Spring, New York with my two spirited daughters and my supportive hubby, Sven. ​ Sign up to receive inspiring newsletters and notes from me, and to get updates on my new podcast, "Finding Your Magic" at RobynMoreno.com