When the day seems to get out of your control early and steamroll over you for hours, leaving you exhausted, you are probably missing the three “D’s”. These can be difficult to begin yet liberating once you make this part of your regular daily routine.
The three “D’s” are Do, Delegate, and Defer. Do you look at a request for information or new project and think, “When do I have time to do this?” A better question is; “Do I have to be the one to do this or do I simply need to arrange to have it done?”
The next question is, “What would happen if this were moved to a later time or scheduled farther in advance?” Note that these are the essential Do, Delegate, and Defer questions.
DO: Which tasks are your job and which are not? Just because something is dropped on your desk or passed along to you does not mean that you have to do it. Even if your boss sends something for you to do which will totally throw off the time planned for a client project, don’t automatically sign on and cram more into the day. Show your boss the time management plan you have for the client project and the new item and ask which is more important to be done first.
Make the boss prioritize your time use. Chances are this “do” project was something that the boss didn’t want to do and just passed it off as part of the job. That’s not actual delegating, that’s avoidance. Stay focused on what you are hired to do because that’s what you will be evaluated on at each review.
DELEGATE: Delegating is not passing off unwanted projects or less important projects. That’s what has been giving delegating a bad name. Proper use of delegating is to transfer responsibility or a part of a project to another worker to give that worker more experience, challenge, or acceptance within the team.
It’s not a “Here, you do this” type of task. When you delegate a task, explain what it is and why you have chosen this person to receive this project. If you are a supervisor, 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. 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 are off doing something that’s useful but not necessary at this time on this day.
To cultivate this mindset into a productive habit, keep an index card with three D’s in bold print as your reminder to put tasks and requests through 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.