As I wrote in Boss Bitch, when starting your own business, it’s important to have your next move lined up, as well as a solid cushion of savings before you burn that corporate bra. Hey, if you can make all that happen in a few months, go you! But, if you want to make those chocolate shop dreams a reality, I would suggest setting more realistic goals for this year, like “Make sure my business plan is airtight,” “scale back expenses so that I have nine months of living expenses in the bank,” and “find an independent health-care option for when I leave my corporate job and lose my benefits.” These smaller, actionable goals will keep you on track toward achieving the big one of leaving your job altogether. Plus, it will feel motivating to cross them off your list in, say, years one and three, so that by the time you get to year five, you’re ready to start making it rain (chocolate).

Now, on to your tasks. Let’s say they are:

  1. Pick up dry-cleaning. Unless you have no clothes left in your closet, which I find hard to believe, then dry-cleaning can wait.
  2. Meet with a cocoa supplier in your area. Meeting with resources and gathering recon toward starting your business is very important, especially if you want to get it off the ground quickly. Do this.
  3. Go to a bar with your friends. Yes. If your goal is to find true love, dating apps are all well and good, but meeting someone the old-fashioned way is better, especially with a squad of wing-women.
  4. Go to a luncheon at work for a new committee. If you’re planning to leave your job, there’s no need to waste time taking on additional responsibilities at the office. Veto.

If we connect the dots: Task 2 goes with Goal 2. Task 3 goes with Goal 3. And Tasks 1 and 4 aren’t related to your goals.

So, if you skip Task 1, did you “procrastinate” on picking up your dry-cleaning? Yes. Does that mean you have more time to get ready for the bar and drive to and from the cocoa supplier? Yes—and that’s more important to advancing your long-term goals of finding a partner and starting your own business. If you skip Task 4, did you decline joining another committee, which a) you don’t have time for, and b) won’t advance you toward your goal of starting your own thing? Yes. And that means you have more time to get ready to go out shopping for love at the bar, which is a goal of yours.

Crossing everything off your list might feel satisfying and might make Mr. Thomas Jefferson proud, but you’d be letting yourself down in the future—and for what, a few more cathartic checks on a to-do list? Truly working smarter means putting off what can be done tomorrow or even the next day and focusing instead on the quality, not quantity, of tasks you prioritize today. It’s the only way to work less and win more in the long run.


Conventional Wisdom: My day is dictated by what’s in my inbox each morning; I have to respond to those emails before I do anything else.

Your day, your week, your life is dictated by you. You are the author. So start each day with in-tention, not in-box. You’re in charge of each day’s narrative, because you’re the one writing it. And if you don’t like where you are, it’s a safe bet that what got you here won’t get you where you want to go.

Conventional Wisdom: My life is too chaotic to have a set schedule.

If you want to make the most of each day, you first need to know (at least roughly) what the cadence of your day is going to look like. Of course, stuff comes up, and your weekday schedule, like mine, changes a lot. But giving yourself a foundation, any foundation, on which to construct your priorities for the day will only keep you building a more productive life. You can’t control the chaos (we all have our own version of it), but you can control your response to it.

Conventional Wisdom: Winners are the best at everything.

No way, no how. In life, and in the Miss America pageant as I discovered, the winner is the best at managing her time and skill set, finding the most efficient way to get to the goal. And there she is, Miss Productive.