Time is an essential resource and asset that is equally distributed to every human being irrespective of age, race, gender, or financial, social, or political status. The passing of time is the greatest equalizer on earth. Young and old, affluent and poor, female or male, all humans are gifted with equal numbers of seconds, minutes, and hours every day.

The way you manage each hour of every day will significantly impact your productivity, which will dictate whether you are successful or not in your endeavor. Whether we assign a dollar value to it or not, time is valuable to all of us.

One of the critical attributes of the highest achievers in every sphere of life is their ability to manage their time responsibly and exceptionally well. To succeed, you must learn to recondition your focus from activities to results and recognize that the busiest people are often the most ineffective or unproductive in their work. Managing your time can greatly enhance your productivity, which will help you get more done in less time.

If you assign the same task to groups of people with similar levels of experience and background, and under the same circumstances, some people will complete those tasks quicker than others. Why is this case? The difference between these people is how they plan their time and execute tasks. The more productive people can allocate their time wisely, spending it on higher than low-value activities, which translates to increased productivity.

To boost your productivity, you need to know and understand the concept of balancing your time with your important tasks. When it comes to planning and executing our daily tasks, we all have four (4) options.

These are the “4Ds of Time and Task Management”.

1. Delete

This involves evaluating all your daily tasks to decide which ones are important, which ones are necessary, and which ones will amount to a waste of your precious time. You want to identify and prioritize the high-value drivers of your work, your “true tasks.” Any task that does not serve your short-term or long term goal is a distraction getting in the way of reaching what you truly value in life. The delete process helps you say “no” to anything that doesn’t contribute to your “true goals’.

According to Warren Buffet, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”

Once you can identify those time-wasting tasks, you’ll need to purge them from your to-do list. For a working professional, you get some email notifications simply because you belong to the organization. These emails, which do not require any action from you or provide any useful information, should be automatically deleted. Also, there may be tasks on your table that will not add any value to you or your organization and will not move you closer to your “true” goals. Such tasks should be immediately removed from your list. The goal is to effectively eliminate unnecessary items from your list and streamline your daily tasks. But how do you decide which tasks you should say no to? To help you handle this option properly, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

Will this activity contribute to the result that I desire to achieve?

Is this activity relevant to my short-term or long-term goal?

Are there any negative consequences for not performing this activity?

2. Do

Once you have deleted all unnecessary tasks from the list of your daily tasks, the next step is to perform the task yourself. You want to spend your time on those tasks that move the needle of your goals. When you marked a task as belonging to this category, you should do it yourself, especially if there is no other person that can complete the task as well as you want or even better than you. In an ideal situation, a good leader ensures that he/she gets other people trained to support and perform similar tasks in the future. Doing this will help free up more time for other important activities.

Many managers are under the false impression that they need to perform all the important tasks themselves to see concrete results. Effective managers know otherwise, they empower subordinates by allocating important activities to them, thereby developing their competencies. To help you handle this option properly, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

Can I get someone else to work on this activity, at the same level or better than I do?

Can I train someone to take up this activity?

Are there any benefits to performing this activity by myself?

3. Delegate

Great time managers are great delegators. They know how to maximize their time by determining what they need to work on and when they need to get other people to do. Delegating or outsourcing some tasks can be a great way to multiply your efforts and get more done. It also frees up vital time for you to focus on more meaningful activities that will help you achieve your goals.

If you work on your own, you can find a Virtual Assistant (VA) or hire freelancers and delegate tasks to them as appropriate. If you are a leader or part of a team, you can reassign specific tasks to subordinates or colleagues who are better suited to complete those tasks. To help you handle this option properly, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

Can I get someone with better skills and qualifications to perform this activity?

Will I save more time by delegating this activity to someone else?

Will I get the same outcome if I get someone else to do the task?

4. Defer

Obviously, there will be some tasks that are important but can be done later. Such activities, which will typically fall under the ‘Important but Not Urgent’ section of your priority list, should be put on a waiting list to work on them when the more pressing tasks have been completed. The most effective way to ensure that you get things done is to review your “waitlist” at the end of the day to ensure that you have completed all your activities for the day. To help you handle this option properly, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

Can this activity be postponed to a later time without any negative impact?

Are there other activities that are of higher priority in my to-do list?

Is there a plan in place to ensure that I work on this task later?

By using the 4Ds of Time and Task Management, you will strategically position yourself to get your tasks adequately organized, which will help you execute them in an efficient manner. You will easily identify the markers for those activities or tasks that should be deleted, deferred to a later time, or delegated so that you can work on those tasks that are impactful and important for your overall goal.

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