Time is our most precious personal resource; once we’ve spent it, we’ll never get it back. As busy entrepreneurs, we seem to have less time than anyone else, so it just makes sense to look for ways to use our time wisely. Here is one technique that has worked for many.
The Four D’s
When you think about it, there are only four actions you can take against any one of the many tasks you have on your plate:
- Do it.
- Delegate it.
- Delay it.
- Delete it.
As you approach each task on your to-do list, ask yourself which one of the four D’s is best.
The first option is simply to do the task yourself. Get it done, checked off, and out of the way. This is often the best option if it’s urgent, important, or you are the only one with the experience and training to do it.
It might sound counter-intuitive at first, but doing a task might not be the best option. Let’s look at the other three options before we decide.
If your to-do list is full of simple, routine actions, then delegating is a strong choice. Delegating is also a great choice for tasks that are beyond your skill set and that would take too much learning-curve time away from your core work. If you don’t have time to do everything yourself, then getting help is a smart alternative to doing it yourself.
Getting help doesn’t mean you have to hire a full-time employee. You can get help in a multitude of ways:
- Engage a company to do a task. From walking dogs to managing Google Ad campaigns to handling your bookkeeping and taxes, there are companies like ours that would be delighted to take over your task for you.
- Automation is a form of delegation. Can software do what you are doing?
- Find someone on Fiverr.com or UpWork. You can hire someone for a five-minute task or a 5-day task. Find them on any website that lists freelancers for hire.
- Plenty of people are looking for part-time jobs, just in case you don’t have enough work for a full-time person.
If you can write instructions about how to perform the task, you can delegate it. And if you’re worried about losing control or quality, simply add milestones where you check the person’s work. Initially, it might not be faster, but in the long term, it will pay off.
If a task is not urgent or important, delaying it might be the right option. The problem with this option is that you have to handle the task at least twice: once when reviewing it and deciding whether to do it, and again when you finally decide to do it. If you keep deciding to delay it, you’ve handled it more than twice. Not only can this take up precious time, it can be a drain on your energy as you see the incomplete task on your to-do list for a long time.
However, there are times when delaying a task is best:
- Delay if it’s not urgent and you have other urgent items to attend to.
- Delay if it’s not important.
- Delay to prioritize other, more profitable tasks first.
- Delay when the task is best done in batches. Here’s an example: Rather than answer each email as it comes in, think about blocking out three times a day where you check and clear your email. You can apply this time-batching concept to just about everything to gain efficiency: posting on social media (write and schedule a month’s worth in advance), returning phone calls, attending meetings (book them all on one day and keep other days clear), and running errands (delay until you have three to four errands, then do them all in one run.
Be careful of delaying a task over and over again. Something else may be going on with your mindset:
- The task may be uncomfortable for you (find someone that loves to do what you don’t and delegate), or
- How to get started is ambiguous (get training or find someone experienced to shorten your learning curve).
Some tasks should never have been added to your to-do-list in the first place. When there is no return on investment for a task, perhaps the best choice is to delete it.
Take a look at some of the things you do out of habit. Does it still make sense to do that task, or is it simply done because it was always done that way?
Do, Delegate, Delay, Delete
Try the four-D time management trick for yourself to get an instant boost in efficiency and productivity.