Time Management

As a general manager, the most precious resource you have is time.  To excel, you need to upgrade the manner by which you deal with new projects and underlying tasks.  The ‘Delete, Delegate, Do’ framework provides a highly effective approach to time management.

First, delete unessential tasks

Having established a reputation for expert statistical analysis skills, I am frequently called upon to assist others when they hit a brick wall.  This means that many of the projects that I engage on are predestined to be grueling and time consuming.  So, I have learned that it is critical to carefully review all requests.

In one such project, my company’s customer service organization called me into a meeting with an interesting request.  They wanted me to develop a complex algorithm to prioritize which clients to proactively contact based on usage of our products, satisfaction scores, and so on.  In my early days, I would have jumped immediately at the opportunity to be the hero that solved the unsolvable.  In my older, perhaps wiser, and far busier incarnation, I started to probe.  My first question, as always, was: ‘What is the problem that you are trying to solve?”  The service team responded with a worthy goal; they were on a mission to enhance client satisfaction through direct client outreach.

Taking a consultative approach, I explored whether there were other ways to achieve this goal.  As it turned out, there was ample capacity in the service organization to proactively call every single client in the target population within a reasonable amount of time.  Hence, there was no real need to prioritize.  The customer service team could initiate their program immediately and I could delete the arduous task of constructing a complex algorithm before I even started.  Moreover, by using a consultative approach, I emerged as an even greater hero by suggesting a superior outcome.

Keep in mind, though, that it is neither constructive nor helpful to your reputation and your career to delete tasks lightly.  To assess whether or not an action can be deleted, identify whether there is a real problem to solve and determine whether it is large enough to be worth addressing.  Many tasks will fail to meet these criteria.  If there is a valid problem, explore if there are more efficient approaches that result in equivalent if not better outcomes.  In a good number of these cases, you will be able to delete the task.

Next, delegate tasks you can reliably entrust to others

After deleting all unessential tasks, your next step is to delegate all tasks you can reliably entrust to others.  To delegate effectively, select individuals that already possess the requisite skills to be successful.  You owe it to them to share why the problem is worth solving lest they attempt to delete the task.

Do the rest (and remember to single task)

In the end, you will be left with a set of tasks that can neither be deleted nor delegated.  For these projects, I recommend applying the lightest possible prioritization.  Tasks should fall into two simple categories.  The first is the “Do It Now” category of items that you can and should tackle immediately. Everything else falls into the “Schedule It Now” category.

There is a vast ocean between “Schedule It Now” and “Do It Later” and I choose this language very carefully.  The busier you become, the less free time there is on your calendar.  I can guarantee that those tasks that are not actively scheduled for completion either will end up not getting done (in which case you should have deleted them to begin with) or will need to be done during precious evenings and weekends.  This latter behavior will not be appreciated by your family, your friends, or your doctor.

Perhaps the most important advice I can provide is that you should exclusively single-task.  In the words of psychiatrist Richard Hallowell, multitasking is a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.”  Though you are no doubt able to walk and chew gum at the same time, actions that engage the thinking brain like processing e-mails, participating in conference calls, and building presentations should be done in isolation.  Single tasking will pay dividends in speed and quality, not to mention reputation; you do not want to be the one on the conference call that always says, “Can you please repeat that?”


The “Delete, Delegate, Do” framework is an invaluable tool for effective time management.  Occasionally, you will find a fourth “D”, for Delay, inserted between delegating and doing.  I strongly recommend against this extra step.  If a task needs to be completed and you do not have time to do it immediately, then your best tactic is to actively schedule the time required.

Here are the concepts you can immediately apply to be a proficient time manager:

  • First, delete unessential tasks
  • Next, delegate tasks you can reliably entrust to others
  • Do the rest (and remember to single task)


  1. Marshall says:

    Yeah I agree, why not break the first goal up into smaller ablheveacie goals? Get organised and write everything down so when you do achieve something and get something done you can tick it off the list and this visual will show you what you have done! Goodluck!

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