Optimise your time – The 4Ds – Delete, Do Less, Defer, Delegate

We all have the same 24hrs in a day. Given the output of some people, it feels like they have 10x the amount of time. There are 1,000s of productivity tips, tricks, tools and apps out there. Being told to prioritise, focus and be more productive.

They all want us to do more, produce more. Producing less is usually a better option. The best don’t do more more, they do less.

They do what counts. They leverage their time better.

Decompression time and healthy lifestyle choices are often the first to disappear. We use “brute force” to get things done, things being the key word, potentially valuable things, often not.

I suggest a different approach.

Firstly, make the space to do what you need to do and then think how you can get the most out of your time. We seem to have been indoctrinated that producing more and being busy is the desired and optimum state, allowing us to achieve more. Always, go, go, go…

We know we need to prioritise, we need to focus (like the Harvey Lee Method), but there is a step before that.

We need to de-clutter what we do.

A lot of people promote outsourcing your life, optimising this and that, to free up time. A more rational view is that there is no point doing something the best you can do it, or managing someone else doing it, when it shouldn’t be done at all.

There is a method called the “3Ds”, which I’ve added one more D to make it the “4Ds.”

  1. Delete – Stop doing it, it’s time consuming and a low return on your time.
  2. Do Less – Do something less frequently (Cleaning?).
  3. Defer – Wait until the mood strikes you, or you have the time (it’s amazing how often this shifts it to Delete or Do Less bucket).
  4. Delegate – Then outsource it, this is still sub-optimal to the rest, as you still need to manage the process and output.

The order is important, delegate is the last step, ideally the activity doesn’t even make it that far. We often outsource things that shouldn’t be done at all.

Indicators that it should be 4D’d:

  • It is cheaper to outsource hourly cost vs. target hourly income,
  • I would (not could) substitute it for a higher value activity (including decompressing),
  • It is something I don’t enjoy doing, find meaning in or use as part of my recharge,
  • I get a better return on other people’s time (they are sufficiently better at it).

Some of the ways I have optimised my time:

I categorised my regular activities and my biggest gains were in the first (delete) bucket.

  • I don’t commute –  saving 2-3hrs a day
  • I don’t cook (unless for pleasure) – 1hr per day
  • I work from home (fewer interruptions) – 1-3hrs per day

Just doing this allows me to double my time available time to be productive.

What should you 4D?

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