‘Delete, del­e­gate, delay and do’ is a time-man­age­ment tech­nique you’re like­ly to find help­ful.


5 min read

Opin­ions expressed by Entre­pre­neur con­trib­u­tors are their own.


Cur­rent­ly, we’re scal­ing our cowork­ing busi­ness while main­tain­ing our con­sult­ing one. The result? We are essen­tial­ly work­ing two full-time jobs. And, need­less to say, we’re feel­ing a bit over­whelmed.

Relat­ed: 3 Rules I Use to Stay Pro­duc­tive and Not Over­whelmed

You don’t need to be in our shoes to feel out­paced by the pres­sures of life. Keep­ing up with fam­i­ly oblig­a­tions, deal­ing with health con­cerns and address­ing just the dai­ly demands of run­ning a busi­ness can leave you feel­ing dazed.

When these feel­ings start to build, we find that employ­ing some or all of the fol­low­ing tech­niques can be help­ful in less­en­ing the anx­i­ety and stress.

Write it down to get it off your mind.

The first step to get­ting your to-dos under con­trol is to write them down. Yes, you need to make a to-do list. How­ev­er, the list can be either elec­tron­ic or paper-based. A writ­ten to-do list helps you visu­al­ize your tasks. It gives you a way to pri­or­i­tize your tasks. In addi­tion, by writ­ing down your tasks, you no longer need to “remem­ber” them.

The list remem­bers your tasks for you. If you wake up in the mid­dle of the night with tasks weigh­ing on your mind, writ­ing them down can help you to release them to your list and get back to sleep.

Use the “4 Ds.”

Once you have your to-do list writ­ten, whit­tle it down by employ­ing this well-known time man­age­ment tech­nique. The “4 Ds” stand for Delete, Del­e­gate, Delay and Do:

  • Delete — Look at your list and elim­i­nate all the items that aren’t absolute­ly nec­es­sary. We find that many peo­ple strug­gle with this part of the process. Their ratio­nale is, “If a par­tic­u­lar task wasn’t nec­es­sary, why would I have put it on my to-do list in the first place?” If you can’t make your­self delete an item that is low pri­or­i­ty, move it to the bot­tom of the list. More on this lat­er.
  • Del­e­gate — Off-load every­thing you can for com­pe­tent help to com­plete. Remem­ber, you can’t, and shouldn’t, do every­thing your­self. Del­e­gate to employ­ees if you have them or to con­trac­tors. Don’t get hung up on the false notion that you don’t have time to del­e­gate, that teach­ing some­one else to do a task will take more time than doing the same task your­self. What’s more, the div­i­dends will off­set the train­ing time if you choose wise­ly. If you are wor­ried about oth­ers tak­ing on tasks of high impor­tance, set fol­low-ups on your cal­en­dar. Sched­ule in a lead time to ensure time to rework or make cor­rec­tions if nec­es­sary.  

Relat­ed: Feel­ing Over­whelmed? Here’s How These Entre­pre­neurs Stay Pro­duc­tive.

  • Do – Sched­ule time to accom­plish items at the top of your list. We find that block­ing time on our cal­en­dars to work on our pri­or­i­ties is help­ful.
  • Delay — Items that you haven’t been able to do, delete or del­e­gate will remain on the bot­tom of your list. This cat­e­go­ry can be trou­ble unless you stay on top of it. So, exam­ine your list dai­ly. Make sure that delayed items don’t become a pri­or­i­ty such that they have to be moved up. Instead, work to move these items into the above three cat­e­gories. 

Prioritize and focus.

When your cal­en­dar says that it’s time to work on your to-do list, you need to focus. Choose the item that requires your imme­di­ate atten­tion or the one that will make the most pos­i­tive impact and get it done.

The oth­er items may still weigh on you, but you must focus. If focus is an issue, set a timer for 25 min­utes. Work dili­gent­ly on your top pri­or­i­ty for that length of time. When the timer rings, eval­u­ate your progress and reset the timer. Some peo­ple call this the Pomodoro Tech­nique. Work­ing in short bursts helps many peo­ple who have focus issues.

Take care of the people in your life — including yourself.

With all the focus on tasks, it’s impor­tant to remem­ber the peo­ple in your life. This includes your­self. Make time to get ade­quate sleep, eat healthy food and spend some time with fam­i­ly and friends.

And, yes, it can be easy to ignore these peo­ple when anx­i­ety is high. But resist that urge to work, because spend­ing time with oth­ers helps you come back to your work more refreshed and pos­i­tive, increas­ing your over­all pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.

No mat­ter how much work we have on our own plates, we stop by 7 p.m. each evening, spend time togeth­er, get some­thing to eat and relax. The work will still be there in the morn­ing, but we will be ready for it.

Relat­ed: A Sim­ple Strat­e­gy to Pre­vent Feel­ing Over­whelmed and Over-com­mit­ted

Being an entre­pre­neur is demand­ing. We like to say, jok­ing­ly, that entre­pre­neurs only have to work half-time. They can do what­ev­er they want with the oth­er 12 hours of the day. Yes, there will be times when you feel over­whelmed. Just don’t pan­ic or let anx­i­ety get the best of you. Instead, employ the tac­tics list­ed above to weath­er the tough times.

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