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  • Writer's pictureGayle Scroggs

Four Sure-Fire Ways to Find More Time

Overwhelmed by your To Do list?  Learn the best-kept secrets to cutting it back while honoring your priorities.

By Gayle Scroggs, Ph.D., P.C.C., Editor


Do you wish you had more time?  Wouldn’t it be great to have an extra five or ten hours each week?


No one can manufacture more hours in a day, but it is possible to shorten that To Do list to work smarter--not harder or longer. You can easily learn to apply “Four D’s” to your task list to  save you valuable time and energy for things that really  make life worth living.


First, get out your To Do list. (If you don’t have one, start keeping one.)  Now, one at a time, carefully review each task and apply as many of the following “D” strategies as possible. Ask yourself the corresponding questions two or three times to get past any initial hesitancy to change a time-sucking habit.  See the suggested tips under each strategy to get going. And don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for every time-saving tweak!


1)     DELETE IT.  “Does this really need to be done at all?” 

Eliminate any task if doing so won’t put you in danger or in the doghouse. Forget social media. Stop reading the news and watching Netflix. How often do you automatically say “yes” to other people’s agendas?  Challenge yourself to say “no” at least once a day. Only read priority emails and trash the social and promo emails. (Gmail will automatically categorize incoming mail this way for you.) 


2)     DEFER IT. “Can this be put off for a couple weeks or more?” 

Deferring less important tasks will provide focus time for the immediate, urgent project.  Postpone major unnecessary trips. When possible, ask for rain checks for social invitations. Let stuff pile up and dust kitties roam. Close the door to messy rooms until you have time to clean (or see the next strategy). Don’t toss clothes in the hamper after a single use.  Take short fun breaks to keep energized.  As you put off doing noncritical tasks, don’t be surprised if no one notices (or takes care of it themselves). Plus you might discover some things never needed doing in the first place.


3)     DELEGATE IT. “Who else could do this?” 

If you can’t delete or defer it, find someone else to do it. Ask your biggest supporters for help. Outsourcing works especially well for lawn mowing, meal preparation, childcare, housecleaning, and laundry if you can afford it (and remember you are worth it). Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you have to. If someone asks you to help when you are uber-busy, say no and kindly refer them to someone else.  Don’t underestimate what your partner and even children can do—nor how much pride or pleasure they take from it.  P.S.  Remember to express your gratitude for their thoughtfulness. 


4)     DOWNSIZE IT. “What’s the bare minimum necessary?” 

This surprising hack doesn’t show up in classic versions of the Four Ds, however it quickly became my favorite. If you can’t pass a task to another person or skip it, leverage your creativity to minimize the time needed for acceptable results. Don’t fritter away precious energy on tasks that don’t need Olympic efforts, e.g., cooking, housecleaning, phone calls, emails, etc. Throw enough ingredients for a week’s worth of chili into your Instant Pot. If you’re really pressed for time, buy frozen veggie burgers and bagged salads. Respond to phone calls and emails with text messages. Respond to text messages with auto-generated responses when you can get away with it. Go for a 20-minute run instead of an hour at the gym. Devote a predetermined number of hours to volunteering and hold that boundary.  In short, aim for “good enough” where excellence is not necessary, and never shoot for perfection.


Step back and notice how much shorter your list is!  Of course, some tasks will remain. For those that cannot be deleted, deferred, delegated, or downsized:  Just do it and be done with it. You will save precious time and energy that dilly-dallying wastes.  


Tip:  One of my clients suggested a fifth D for “Dance” after discovering that making a task fun made it go faster.  Do it and make it a dance!


Experimenting with the Four D’s will give you a clear perspective on how you are investing your 1440 daily quota of minutes. Your personal area of weakness will likely relate most to one of the four D’s.


For example, do you find it hard to say “no” to others? Start deleting more!  Or do you too often go for low hanging fruit when you need to tackle more important tasks?  Use any of these strategies to target your time better. 


Do you tend to overfunction and micromanage?  If so, cultivate your delegation skills. Do you fall for the lie of your inner perfectionist that your self-worth hinges on doing even trivial things extremely well? Time is limited—so hone your downsizing ability and focus on what really matters.


Using the Four D approach to master your To Do list will lower your stress and give you more time for you. Imagine how Delicious that will be!


© 2024 Gayle Scroggs, Ph.D.

Image credit:  Above Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY 



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