I have yet to meet a fellow entrepreneur who didn’t want to step up their time management game. The problem is that entrepreneurs and all business people — get overwhelmed by the plethora of hacks and advice thrown their way. But, I think one of the easiest, and most effective places to start upping your time management self-rating, is by trying out the 4Ds of time management.
Using the 4Ds of Time Management to Your Advantage
If you’re unfamiliar, the 4Ds are deleting, delegate, defer, and do. Dipping into this dish of four will boost your productivity because it encourages you to spend more time on the things that really matter. First, you need to know precisely what the 4Ds are in more detail and how to use them to your advantage.
Some people call this a “drop,” but the idea is the same. Scrap all of those personal and professional commitments that aren’t important or necessary. Tossing or dropping may make you anxious — what if you trash a critical email? If you don’t attend that event, you could miss out on building a new connection. As Steve Jobs once said, “deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”
In other words, you don’t have to trash everything in your life; this strategy is meant to make your life easier, not stressful. Take the time to evaluate what’s wasting your time and remove the time-wasters from your schedule. The time-waster list might include unproductive meetings; it could also include:
- Interruptions when you’re working during peak productivity hours. These could smartphone notifications or people popping in your office. Identify these distractions and eliminate them.
- Projects that you start, but will never complete.
- Emails, such as newsletter subscriptions that you no longer open or care about.
- Clients or employees who drag their feet and hold you back on finishing projects.
- Tasks that could be automated.
- Calendar tasks that you’re going to do habitually, like brushing your teeth.
One final advice here. Some people also use the Pareto Principle, which is the 80/20 Rule, to help them drop wasteful activities. It then encourages you to prioritize on your most results-driven tasks. Here is the best ways to pivot when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
“If you really want to grow as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to learn to delegate,” Richard Branson has famously said. Of course, this is often easier said than done. Entrepreneurs are known for wanting to do everything themselves either because of trust issues, control, or concern that quality will decline. An entrepreneur or founder may not have the resources to delegate tasks to others.
“Most tasks should be delegated or outsourced properly, depending on the task and the level of the employee,” Laura Stack, an award-winning productivity expert, and bestselling author told Forbes. “For example, delegating a low-dollar task like photocopying or fixing a computer to a highly-trained, highly-paid software engineer would be foolhardy.”
In short, if there are activities that need to get done, but are a waste of your time, then these tasks need to be assigned to someone else. For example, I know how to code a little. But, I save time and money by delegating any coding tasks to someone who knows what they’re doing.
“Yes, business owners could do it, but you are throwing money away if there is a low Personal Return on Investment (or PROI) in doing it yourself,” Stack further explains. “The next time you consider assigning tasks to team members, think about what they should be doing with their time — as opposed to what would be a waste of time for them. If the task doesn’t fit, delegate it, outsource it, eliminate it — or learn to be satisfied with mediocrity.” Here’s how to delegate effectively.
Others may refer to deferring as delaying, but the concept is the same. For tasks that can’t be deleted because they’re essential, you can defer them to another date or time. The reason this strategy is useful is that it frees up time for you to address what needs to get done right now.
When everything seems important or urgent, deciding what to put off until later can be a tough decision. Personally, this works best for activities that are down the road. For example, if you have a meeting at the end of the month, go ahead and schedule it in your calendar. But don’t spend any time today creating an agenda and sending invites.
The principle can also be applied to managing your inbox — which can be a real time-saver. You could create a new folder and move any new messages that have to be read there. You’ll check these emails when you have the availability. But, since they’re not urgent, you don’t have to worry about them as soon as they arrive in your inbox.
Jump in and do the work. The final 4D of time management is, in the words of Wan How, “Buckle down and get the task done.” I know this also sounds easier said than done when you have what seems like a million things scheduled to your calendar. Wan suggests prioritizing your tasks before diving into your work. This way, you’ll “only work on one thing at a time.” Wan adds, “I don’t start on something else that adds to my work-in-progress pile until I finish a current assignment.”
Besides prioritizing your tasks, you could also implement the 2-minute rule. The 2-minute rule comes from David Allen, the mastermind behind Getting Things Done. The gist is that if something takes you less than 2-minutes to do a task, like responding to an email, then you should go ahead and get it done. “The rationale for the two-minute rule is that that’s more or less the point where it starts taking longer to store and track an item than to deal with it the first time it’s in your hands.” Allen calls this, “the efficiency cutoff,” in Getting Things Done.
I’ve also found that this method is great when starting a new habit of procrastinating on a task. Once you get started, you build-up the momentum to complete the specific item you’re working on. In psychology, this is related to the Zeigarnik effect, which states we remember interrupted or unfinished tasks more than the completed ones. As a consequence, this creates mental tension since it’s on the top of your mind. The only way to get relief is by finishing the task and fighting procrastination.
Mastering the 4Ds of time management.
To get the most out of this simple and powerful time management technique, list and track your daily activities. It’s the only way that you’ll be able to see how you’re spending your time. And, more importantly, where it’s being wasted. You can either use a handwritten time log, your calendar, or software to track your time.
The key is to look for activities that aren’t helping you or your business grow, along with items that can be quickly dropped, assigned to someone else, or saved for later. After you understand how your time is being spent, and where the 4Ds fit into the picture, you’ll be on your way to becoming a time management ninja. And, as a result, you’ll get more done in your already hectic days.