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These 4 letters will revolutionize your workflow

Small business owners and entrepreneurs are sort of superhuman. We take on more work than most, and we singlehandedly manage almost every element of our businesses. It’s not surprising that most of us are exhausted: we simply don’t have time to do it all.

Where some people can manage their time and stress with carefully set timers and desktop planners, I can’t. My tasks evolve and change every day and I can barely plan a week in advance, let alone a month. It’s hard to set schedules when life never stops throwing curveballs.

It’s for those exact reasons that I got excited when I first heard about the four D’s of time management. They’re flexible, they allow you to prioritize what’s important, and they don’t require alarms and calendars.

They’re as simple as this: Delete, Defer, Delegate, Do.

When it comes to managing your time and staying on top of tasks, the four D’s require you to ask yourself three questions. They’re:

1. Can I delete this?

2. Can I defer this?

3. Can I delegate this?

Here’s why these three questions matter, and how they’ll completely revolutionize your workflow.

Can I delete this?

Whenever you are given a task or an opportunity, ask yourself a simple question. Is it worth your time? It’s all too easy to fill up a day with meaningless tasks, and it’s okay to bin them.

Whenever something arises, ask yourself if it helps bring you closer to achieving your goals, and if it adds value to your business. If it doesn’t, just delete it. You don’t need to attend unnecessary events or answer every email.

It can be difficult to delete things, but it’s important to remember that your time is absolutely your most valuable asset. Don’t spend it on junk!

Can I defer this?

Chances are there will be tasks that matter, but that aren’t urgent. Ask yourself what work is time sensitive and what isn’t; is there anything you can put off while you complete more urgent tasks?

If you’re struggling to hit deadlines (as I often am), remember that deferring doesn’t mean procrastinating: it means prioritizing. If a task isn’t time bound, put it away for now.

If you have a deadline looming, a spring clean won’t be the best use of your time.

You can complete deferred tasks when time frees up in your schedule, or when you find yourself with a free afternoon. Until then, focus on what needs to be finished now.

If you’re struggling to stay on top of your workload, consider deferring a few tasks. If a job isn’t time sensitive, deferring it isn’t procrastinating: it’s prioritizing.

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Can I delegate this?

It’s tempting to try and do everything yourself; after all, you know how you like things. But being a jack-of-all-trades can actually damage your business, and you. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself if you can delegate tasks you don’t enjoy or aren’t good at to others.

That way, you can spend your time on the work you really excel at, and your business will benefit.

Ask yourself this question: Can someone do it just as well as I can? Can someone else do it better than I can?

If someone else is able, delegate. If you have employees or work in a partnership, delegating tasks can help build a strong, balanced team. Sharing responsibilities means that you’ll find yourself in a state of growth.

If you can’t delete, delay or delegate…

If you’ve asked yourself the questions above and a task is still on your to do list: do it.

What I love about the four D’s is that my to do list ends up filled with tasks which actively bring me forward. It makes me consider the real value of my time, and it’s a system I really recommend.

So, if you’re looking to get on top of your tasks, remember: Delete, Delay, Delegate and Do.

- Lena Klein

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