When you work from home it’s imperative that you not waste time. Learning and implementing these 4 D’s of time management will help you get more done and be more productive.
You start out with the best of intentions and then…poof. You look up at the end of the day and wonder what happened. Where did your time go? What did you accomplish? And why can’t you seem to be productive when you’ve got so many things you want…and need…to get done?
You’re certainly not alone if this describes (even some of) your days. It’s not a personal flaw and you’re not a failure because sometimes you don’t plow through the list of things to do.
However, you might be missing a few time management skills that put YOU in charge of your day and stop the cycle of flitting from one thing to another.
Now let’s start with the obvious…you can’t really manage time. Time isn’t something that bends to our will. In fact, even with the best plan and the best skills, all you can really do is manage yourself. However, once we learn to manage ourselves the rest seems to fall into place.
So what are some good skills to help us manage ourselves and the list of things we need/want to get done?
There are a set of principles called the four “D’s” that can help. Once we begin to implement these skills we’ll begin to see our productivity soar.
Now most of us have a daily To Do list that is overwhelming (admit it, you know your list is too long). And while it may seem like a good idea to use the To Do list to capture all those miscellaneous tasks, the reality is that when we look at a list that’s a mile long, we feel frustrated and aren’t sure where to even start to make a dent in the list.
So what are the 4 “D’s” anyway?
The four “D’s” refer to Do, Delegate, Defer, and Dump.
When something gets added to your list of projects or tasks, do you ask yourself, “When do I have time to do this?”
Most of us don’t, but we should.
In fact, an even better question is; “Am I the best person to do this or should someone else do it instead?”
Once we determine whether we’re the person to do a particular task, our next question should be; “Does this need to be done right now or can it be scheduled for some time later on? ” These three questions are the essence of Do, Delegate and Defer system of time management.
How To Put the 4 D’s Into Practice
So now that we know what questions to ask to help us manage tasks (and ourselves), how do we put these skills into practice?
DO: Which tasks are things that you should do and which are not? Just because someone thinks you’re the person for the task (even if that someone is you) doesn’t mean that you need to add it to your list (or at least not right now).
Look at the time management plan you have for projects and tasks that are already on your plate. If this new activity doesn’t fit with the current priorities, then it doesn’t need to crowd out something that is more important. It can be hard because we’re all prone to Shiny Object Syndrome, but staying focused on the current priorities is how we manage ourselves while getting the important things done.
Sometimes we (or others) end up with things on the list that don’t need to be there at all. Maybe we’ve had a new idea or seen something work for someone else and thought we should try it. Chasing shiny objects simply derails the projects we’ve already got in the works. And if something truly IS a good idea, it can always be come back to later.
DELEGATE: Delegating is not passing off unwanted or less important projects. In fact, that idea is what has given delegating a bad name. Instead, when we delegate properly, we give responsibility – or part of the responsibility – to someone who is capable and able to do the job properly. In fact, they may even do a better job than we would.
Delegating isn’t a case of dumping something on someone else. It’s not about passing along undesirable tasks or projects so that you get them out of your hair. When you choose to delegate a task, explain what it is and why you have chosen this person to receive this project. If you work from home and have a virtual assistant this is a golden opportunity to build up your employee by treating delegating as a show of support not a dumping option.
DEFER: Not everything on the desk, in the email or on the phone is urgent (see post about the Eisenhower Matrix). Be clear about what must be done today and what is not necessary. Where you get stuck is with tasks that are nice to do or useful to do but are really not necessary to do. Or they are not necessary to do at this time.
For example, notice how easy it is to be looking up something business related online then get distracted by an intriguing news story or a banner ad for a product that interests you. In moments your focus is lost and you’re headed down rabbit holes chasing things that are totally irrelevant and unimportant.
DUMP: Of course, that fourth “D” that may be the most important when it comes to managing your time. And that is making a conscious decision to Dump some items and not do them – or have anyone else do them either.
Use the 4 D’s regularly to keep you on track
Keep an index card with three D’s in bold print as your reminder to put tasks and requests thru the test. Ask those critical questions then decide whether you need to DO, DELEGATE or DEFER. This simple approach will compliment any time management system.
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