Management Tip: The 3 Ds

Running a business can be both rewarding and stressful. Over the years – my biggest stress is that I could (and still can) be the bottleneck with projects which then causes even more stress. Wildly enough – I learned one of the most important lessons that has helped me run a business from PTA training.

“When you get any task/communication from someone else – you need to do one of three things: do it, delegate it, or dump it.”

  1. Do it:This task is important now.
  2. Delegate it: This task can be done by someone else. Let me be more effective doing something else – knowing someone else can take this on.
  3. Dump/Delete it: This task is not important and I am not going to let it sit in my list of things to do/inbox.

By doing one of these three things each time with your tasks – you can easily get through your list of things to do while making you more effective.

How to Get Stuff Done

The last few weeks I have been extremely busy and on top of that I have been dealing with a sick child and also being sick myself. There is no time to be wasted so efficient use of the time I had was crucial. I feel that since owning my own business, I have had to work very hard to make the most of my time and have a few tips:

  • Focus on 1-3 big tasks per day. Any more tasks than 3 will most likely cause you to spend too much time switching gears. I have begun making a list (yes – let the comments start pouring in as I was anti-list for a long time) of these items and then crossing each item off as I finish. This is surprisingly very rewarding.
  • Limit how often you check email. (See a post I wrote on this in the past)
  • Start the day with an easy task. It sometimes takes more time to get going mentally in the AM so starting with an easy task quickly builds confidence for other tasks later
  • Take time every hour to take a small break to keep your mind fresh
  • If you are having a problem with something you are working on – move on and come back to it later. Sometimes I can easily get lost in a problem and stop thinking about it rationally but by stepping away and coming back to it – I can often solve the problem quicker than if I would have stayed with it.
  • Set a stopping point or time and stick with it. Feel good knowing you have put in 6-8 hours of work a day and realize that there will be things to do tomorrow and not everything needs to get done today. By setting limits, you will feel much more refreshed the next day and your spouse/family will be happier as well.

Email Overload? Here Are Some Tips.

Most people rely on email for their day to day business and personal communication – so much so that your mailboxes are most likely overflowing. Here are a few tips I have practiced over the last few years to keep my email under control.

  1. Make a judgement call with each email message you receive. If it will be beneficial in the future to view, keep it, if not, get rid of it on the spot. You will be amazed at how many message you have like this – and cluttered they make your mailboxes. Toss out the “Thanks”, “Got It”, “x is Out of the Office” and any other one liner responses as soon as you get them.
  2. Separate your personal email from your business email. I recommend using two separate email accounts to keep it simple. This way you separate your personal life from your business life and instantly know that Susan’s famous apple pie recipe must be in your personal email. This way – you also benefit by not having to read any office email when you are at home relaxing…and trying to catch up with friends. (think church and state)
  3. Organize your mail with mailboxes. If you get a lot of mail – use multiple mailboxes to separate clients’ work, newsletters, listservs, etc so you can easily use your judgement by looking at unread counts on certain mailboxes without having to sift through a long list of unread messages in an inbox.
  4. Archive old mail. As a rule of thumb, I archive my mail by year. By archiving your email, your common email mailboxes (inbox, sent messages, etc) will less likely become too unruly.
  5. Just like most things in life, a little effort goes a long way. By keeping your email mailboxes tidy you are more likely to find what you need, and to work more efficiently.

Rake Smarter

I have a decent size backyard and after years of raking – I finally figured out how to rake more effectively.

  1. Don’t be the first person on the block to start raking. People have a tendency to start raking way too early. If you are the first, other neighbor’s leaves are going to just blow into your yard, and most likely you failed to look up and see a lot more leaves on the trees.
  2. Only start raking after there has been a good wind or rain storm. I always wait until after a good wind storm or rain before I start raking – this ensures that most the leaves are off the trees and the rain helps the leaves stay in place after you rake them to the street (assuming you do not bag leaves and rather the city picks up piles you create in front of your house). I have laughed many a times at my neighbors who rake on a nice sunny day then wake up the next morning only to find their piles back in their yards. Nice fall weather is for golfing, not raking.
  3. Use one of the large garbage cans with wheels to transport raked leaves. This is by far the biggest time saver. I have tried sheets of plastic, dragging the piles of leaves with my rake, etc – but using a big garbage can on wheels makes it so much easier. (This is also a good technique for moving.)
  4. Do not push any existing piles of leaves. This is a huge time suck. I realized I spent about 60% of my raking time gathering and pushing leaves into one or a few big piles. By only focusing on a small area, and creating small piles (then put into the garbage can for transport) you can save a lot of time and focus on actual raking, and not moving the leaves. As a rule of thumb, I only rake an area the length of my rake. When I have cleared that area, I move on. A side note: when Amy first saw me do this she thought I was crazy, but when I cleared the yard in record time I got a “wow” out of her.
  5. Don’t be a perfectionist. With one gust of wind or even a few hours, your yard will have some leaves in it again. Don’t kill yourself trying to get every leaf. You will only waste time.
  6. Wait as long as possible to do the details. I have a nice combination of ivy and bushes in the backyard and getting the leaves out of there is frustrating…and because of this, I only do it once and as late in the season as I can. No need to be frustrated more than once.

I never liked raking as a child, but with my new more efficient practices, it is almost fun just to finish as quickly as possible and watch my neighbors scratch their heads when I only rake once (major) and then do a small detail job (latest date possible before major snow) while they are raking every weekend.