My approach to time management – Not To Do list

My approach to time management is simple – eliminate tasks which don’t absolutely require my involvement and focus on a few important tasks where only I can add value.

I learned time management while preparing for the dreaded college entrance exams – SAT. I quickly realized the power of elimination while trying to guess answers to those esoteric vocabulary questions on SAT. It worked, so I started applying them to life in general.

Life is too short to waste on doing things which you don’t love to do, tasks where you don’t have an expertise, and things which won’t help you grow and move forward on the critical path to success towards achieving your goals. Entities around us have a tendency to inundate us with things which fall in each of those categories.

I’ve also realized that at any given time, my mind cannot really focus on more than a few tasks (and those tasks are obvious.) Regardless of their interestingness, some tasks need to get done. The highest order bit is to identify the tasks which absolutely require my involvement (coincidentally these are also the tasks, which I enjoy). Then delegate those remaining tasks to someone who is competent, who would enjoy and who would be willing to do the tasks, which don’t require my involvement.

The easiest way to do so is to hire a personal assistant (or even a virtual assistant.) Ideally the best folks suited for such tasks tend to be college students (they’re smart, educated, affordable and fun to work with).

When I refer to the tasks, which absolutely don’t require my involvement, I don’t mean mundane redundant tasks which can be automated. For instance, buying groceries, making bill payments, etc. Most such tasks can be and should be automated. There is a class of tasks which may be boring for me, but really interesting and challenging for some folks. For instance, doing preliminary market research, organizing events, prioritizing reading lists, filling in expense reports, etc.

Here’s how I manage my time.

  • Make a list of all tasks which I need to do.
  • Divide the list into two: To Do and Not To Do
  • Delegate the tasks from the Not To Do list to folks best suited for those tasks. Follow up diligently until the task is done.
  • Focus all my mindshare on the To Do list, which doesn’t contain more than five tasks at any given time. In fact I don’t even need to look at the list to remember which those five items, as they’re often obvious.

I try to make sure that the tasks are delegated to a person who would enjoy doing the delegated task and I’m genuinely express my gratitude as well as appreciation to that person for agreeing to finish those tasks.

My Not To Do list contains:

  • Get the car repaired.
  • Organize an event for a non-profit organization.
  • Research about three industry trends.
  • Submit four expense reports
  • ..and a few other..

What’s on your Not To Do list?


Photo used under Creative Commons from Photo taken by Patrick Hocker.

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