There have been hundreds of books written on time management.  I’ve read most of them.  I’ve implemented and tested most of them and have been a devotee of David Allen’s Getting Things Done for the last 10 years.

The issue is that most time management systems are very difficult to stick with over time.  They can become complex and really have no connection to a greater vision for your life.  You end up just chasing todo’s and swamped in busy work.  This is not the way an entrepreneur should live their life.

The ultimate entrepreneurial time management system is very simple.  It gives the entrepreneur total control over their time and their energy.  While it does require high levels of trust and telling the truth about your emotional state, it can save you 1,000’s of hours per year.  This time management tool is known as Delegate and Elevate™.

The Delegate and Elevate tool has no complex workflow that requires daily maintenance.  There isn’t an endless number of software applications dedicated to organizing the system and you aren’t tempted to try them all.  The system completely bypasses incremental efficiencies and provides exponential freedom.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?  How can one simple tool require less work and provide an exponential return in productivity?  I’ll show you how to implement this system into your life in this step-by-step guide.

The Delegate and Elevate tool has four simple quadrants.  The four quadrants represent all of your time. The first quadrant, starting in the bottom right, is all of the time you spend doing things that you don’t like and aren’t good at.  The second quadrant, in the bottom left, are all the time you spend doing things that you don’t like, but you have some level of competency in.

The third quadrant, in the top right, is the time you spend doing things that you like for the most part and are quite good at.  The last quadrant, in the top left, is the time you spend doing things that you absolutely love and are great at.

I promise you, these four quadrants will change your life.  They set you up for a lifetime of continuous growth.  You will gain capability and mastery.  You will unlock trapped capability and energy that already exists within your organization.

The following steps will guide you through this ultimate time management system:

Step 1: Activities Inventory

The first step in this simple time management method is to list out all the activities you involve yourself in during the course of a quarter.  90 days seems to work best and I’ll show you how we use this tool for goal setting later in this article.

I personally list everything on a whiteboard. Big and small.  My advice would be to hand write your list. Slow down with it.  Really think about the activity.

This should take you about 15-20 minutes.  Take the time now to make your list.

Step 2: Become Emotionally Connected and Categorize Your List

The second step is to categorize your list according to the four quadrants.  I suggest labeling your list with 1, 2, 3, or 4.

“All progress starts by telling the truth.” ~ Dan Sullivan, The Strategic Coach

Take a deep breath and go through each item on your list.  Really think about how it makes you feel.  You have to be totally open and honest with yourself when you do this.  It does you no good to lie to yourself. Don’t be a martyr either.  You are doing things you don’t like but think you have to “suck it up”, I’ll convince you that you are doing more harm than good with that mindset.

  1. Love / Great – Things that completely excite you.  You want to know more and more about it.  You are somewhat obsessed.  It gives you energy when you are doing this activity.  You are great at this now, and you fully plan on reaching new levels of mastery as you go forward.
  2. Like / Good – You like these activities and you have a long career doing really well with this.  You aren’t particularly passionate about it.  It’s just OK for you.  Typically, this is where you make money now.  You do this activity and you don’t really talk about it to people.  You don’t read books on how to get better.  You’re really as good as you need to be.
  3. Don’t Like / Good – This is where most of the world spends their time.  These are things that suck the life out of you.  They are annoying to you.  They get your blood pressure up.  However, you’ve spent a career getting pretty good at this activity and people generally like the results.
  4. Don’t Like / Not Good – These are activities that you absolutely despise.  You’d rather do anything to avoid it.  The issue is that you feel like you are the only one who can do this.  You aren’t good at it.  It’s new to you and you aren’t the least bit interested in getting better and would avoid learning it if you could.

Once, you’ve labeled your entire list with the appropriate quadrant, now it’s time to figure out what to do with it.  When I did this for the first time, I realized that 80% of my time was spent in the bottom two quadrants.  For me, most of my income at the time was generated in quadrant 3, Don’t Like / Good.  

Step 3: Amplify, Eliminate, Delegate and Automate

Now that you are clear on how you feel about your activities, we have to figure out what to do next. There are some additional tools I teach my EOS® clients that provide you with additional clarity on how to rid yourself of things you don’t like.  However, in the context of entrepreneurs in general, I’ll leave those tools out.

Take a looks at all the activities in the bottom right quadrant, Don’t Like / Not Good.  I want you to eliminate your thinking that you have to do these activities.  I’m not sure if you know this, but, you only have one life to live.  You aren’t doing any good by spending your precious time on earth doing these things. Stop it!

Now, if that has to get done, delegate them.  There are many services like Upwork, Leverage, and LessDoing that can easily take care of this work for you at a much lower rate than your time is worth.  If there is enough of it, this could be an opportunity to hire someone part-time or full-time to take these tasks over.

In addition, there are some things that are repetitive and follow the same set of rules and process.  These are ripe for automation.  About 6 months ago, I automated all of my appointment setting, as well as sending books to prospects and leads.  These were repetitive things that took a lot of energy but follow a consistent set of rules.  I used ScheduleOnce, Zapier, NewKajabi, and Amazon to accomplish this.

I ended up saving about 400 hours of effort annually by doing this.  I also freed time up to spend on other things which will have an exponential return for me and my team.

Next, take a look at everything in your bottom left, Don’t Like / Good.  For me, this actually included an entire business.  That’s right, an entire $30,000,000 company.  That took more than a quarter to delegate. Most often, things in this quadrant need to be delegated as soon as possible but require tremendous amounts of trust.

As rugged individualists, we almost always believe we can do these quadrant 3 activities better than anyone else.  We don’t trust anyone else with them.  This is completely flawed thinking and it’s ruining your life.  It’s draining your team’s energy and smothering their capabilities.

That’s right.  By continually doing things in quadrant 3, you are making your team miserable and stupid. Not to mention you are miserable and wasting your life.

To effectively delegate quadrant 3, you need to be a great communicator.  You need to make yourself irrelevant.  To do that, you have to trust your team completely and be patient with them.

I write a document that describes what success looks like when the activity is completed or document the process.  This way the person I delegate the activity to is completely clear on what my expectations are.   You have to make sure they get it, want it, and have the capacity to do it.

I’ll show you how to start this process in the next step.

For now, things in quadrant 2, Like / Good, can be left alone.  However, over time they will most likely move to quadrant 3.  When that happens, and it will, you’ll want to eliminate or delegate those things as well.  These activities can also become quadrant 1 activities over time.

As for quadrant 1, Love / Great, we need to amplify these activities and take them to the next level. These are the things that will take you and your organization to the next level and you want to be spending the majority of your time doing these activities.

Step 4: Set Goals to Exponentially Increase Your Productivity

The next step in ultimate time management is to set goals based on your four quadrants.  We work in 90-day increments as we find it’s the best window to work in.  Not too long, not too short.

Less is more when it comes to goal setting.  3-7 is the rule of thumb and 5 is the average.  Imagine a world in which you are eliminating, delegating and automating things that suck the life out of you, freeing up your time to amplify and spend more time on things that you love and are great at.  Amazing things will happen.

I recommend you focus on first eliminating everything in your bottom right quadrant.  Freeing yourself up from these activities will have the most impact on your time and energy.

Select 5 things on your worksheet that you’d like to eliminate, delegate, automate and amplify.  These 5 things are your quarterly rocks/goals/priorities for the next 90 days.

If you follow these four steps, quarter after quarter, you’ll find yourself with more time, more control, and significantly happier.  You’ll be living a life of freedom, purpose, and impact.

What will happen as you focus all of your time in the top left quadrant, you’ll create a ripple effect throughout your organization.  As you delegate items that no longer excite you, you will be creating tremendous opportunities for other people within your organization.  Everyone is different.  Believe it or not, there are people who love doing the things you hate.

As you focus on things you love and are great at you’ll gain more and more capability and mastery. Mastery always leads to a clearer and clearer view of your purpose and vision.  You’ll have more space to create and innovate.

This process is endless.  You’ll get tired of certain activities, that’s OK.  They will become barriers to living out your ideal life.  You’ll create new goals to eliminate them.