Do, Delegate, or Defer

I just read Ari Meisel's Less Doing, More Living: Make Everything in Life Easier in one day. Even though I read a lot about productivity and am pretty organized, it still gave me food for thought...and apps to try.

The premise of the book is that 20% of effort begets 80% of the results, so you should only be spending your time on the effective 20%. You do this first by optimizing all your tasks, then automating or outsourcing most of what's left and only doing what no one else can do for you. This is similar to what's been discussed in other books I've read and written about, but he adds a twist.

Ari hates to-do lists. He explains that they are dumping grounds for everything and anything you have to do and therefore are overwhelming and demoralizing by their very nature. Instead he uses his e-mail inbox as a very targeted to-do list.

If you're like most people and drowning in e-mail, you may find that hard to believe, but he takes the following steps to make it possible:

  1. all e-mail is first filed as either essential or optional;
  2. essentials are then either tackled right then and there, sent to a virtual assistant, or snoozed until a later date;
  3. optionals are read when there's downtime.

In other words—

  1. DO what you can immediately;
  2. DELEGATE as much as possible of the rest and even automate the outsourcing itself with useful tools such as If This, Then That; and
  3. DEFER whatever is left over until an optimal time.

Ari never has more than a few e-mails in his inbox (he keeps it to ten max) and uses those few e-mails as his priority to-do list. As someone who works hard to get to inbox zero or close to that, I can totally relate. I've used Boomerang and now Inbox's built-in snooze to hide e-mails until I can deal with them, similar to what Ari does.

If This, Then That is only one of many useful resources Ari shares. There are various ones to snooze and schedule follow-ups, organize your finances, batch tasks, customize, outsource, and many more. I've already created a few social media "recipes" via If This, Then That and will be on the lookout for other simple tasks I can now automate. 

Can you think of an activity that you do repeatedly and does not really add value? Any way to optimize or automate it? Can you then eliminate, delegate, or defer it? 


Karina is VP of Operations and HR at 24/7 Teach.

A version of this was originally posted on Business Common Sense blog.

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