No matter how well we plan our days, we all face those days when we have too much to do or when an unexpected event throws our plans off – whether it’s a boss or client having an urgent request or a child being down with high fever and who needs to be taken to the doctor. So how to handle those days without the stress building up, but instead experience a sense of accomplishment?
On those days when they’ve got too much to do, people typically jump into their work so as not to waste time and start randomly tackling their tasks. As the day progresses, they keep moving from one task to the other, unsure whether they’ve picked up the right one to start with, and as a result waste a lot of time going back and forth. The outcome of the day? Hardly anything was done! Frustrating, isn’t it?
I can easily relate to this behaviour as I’ve been guilty of it myself until I realised it was completely unproductive. So I learned to spend the time needed upfront to re-evaluate my priorities and streamline my workload to make it manageable. This approach has proved very helpful, and even more so when I started integrating time management expert Julie Morgenstern 4D’s concept.
The 4D’s concept gives you a comprehensive framework to examine your options, namely Delete, Delay, Diminish, or Delegate, when you have too much to do. So take your to-do list out now and ask yourself the 4 following questions for each task you have on your list for today:
Can this task be DELETED?
Don’t assume that everything you put on your to-do list must be done. Sometimes we do things out of habit without re-evaluating whether they’re still necessary, or just to make other people happy. Ask yourself “What’s the worst that would happen if I did not complete this task?”, “does it support one of my goals” and learn to say no, to yourself and others.
Remember when you say yes to something, you always say no to something else, whether you realise it or not. Deleting a task from your to-do doesn’t mean you are unprofessional or irresponsible. On the contrary, it means that you are going to create space for what’s really important in your life.
Can this task be DELAYED?
Let me reassure you, you’re not procrastinating here. It isn’t that you’re putting off doing something out of carelessness or laziness but trying to reschedule a task to a more appropriate time based on your time constraints and priorities. So give yourself permission to postpone a task by one day or one week if it suits you better.
Can this task be DIMINISHED?
This can be done either by creating shortcuts such as automating or skipping altogether some steps of a process or by reducing the deliverable itself. We too often tend to think there are only two ways to do things: either perfectly or poorly. But there are shades of grey in between. So on those days when you have too much to do, it may be a good occasion to put aside your standards for perfection and aim for an acceptable middle ground.
Can this task be DELEGATED?
Sometimes we don’t recognise there are people around us who can help us. We just assume that we only can do the job. But there are options, if you pause and consider, whether at work – being a team member, an intern, or a personal assistant – or at home – being your spouse, your kids, or an external service provider that can be engaged for cleaning or ironing.
Other times we worry that the person might not do as good of a job as we would. But isn’t there value in delegating if someone can do a job well enough while giving you the opportunity to focus on those tasks that require your knowledge or skills? Delegating is actually a good opportunity to develop your staff or get your children to pick up new skills. Kill two birds with one stone!
What does your schedule look like for today now? You know, time is finite so there’s no other way than making choices about how we use it. The 4D’s concept is a great way to get back in control of your time. It has personally taught me to let go of the guilt I was experiencing when I was streamlining my workload because I had too much to do. I trust it can help you too. So have a go and let me know how it went!
This post was first published on Connected Women.