Ian Portsmouth: Welcome to the Business Coach Podcast, an advice-oriented series that tackles the top issues and opportunities facing Canada’s small businesses. I’m your host, Ian Portsmouth, the editor of Profit Magazine and we’ve developed this podcast in cooperation with BMO, Bank of Montreal.
Today, we have a special episode in store for you, I am location back stage at the Art of Management here in Toronto where a dynamite line up of management speakers is assembled to share their insights and advice into multiple aspects of doing business better. Joining me right now is David Allen, the founder and President of the David Allen Company, a management consulting, coaching and training company. But you might know him as the author of the international best seller “Getting things done, the art of stress free productivity and ready for anything, 52 productivity principles for work and life”. David, thank you for joining the Business Coach Podcast.
David Allen: Glad to be here.
Ian Portsmouth: Could you give us an estimate of how efficient the average executive or business owner is today? I mean if 100% represents maximum efficiency and perfect time management, what’s the average score of people out there?
David Allen: Well, I think most people who would be listening to this would probably rate pretty high on the efficiency scale. It’s just that once you get up to the higher levels, a tiny incremental difference can make all the difference in the world. So it might be pretty easy to go from 70 to 90, but to go from 90 to 92, that’s the challenge and that’s really kind of the stratosphere that my stuff really applies to, it’s that kind of fine tuning that can make a huge difference.
Ian Portsmouth: Executives and managers tend to have very long to do list or huge in-boxes, email in-boxes and many of those people struggle to get through them. You advice to people to apply what I’ve called the four D’s of productivity to their to-do list or their in-boxes, do it, delegate it, differ it and drop it. You probably don’t need to explain to our audience what you mean by do it, but what about differ it? At first glance, it seems like procrastination.
David Allen: All I am saying is don’t do it right now. You know, if you ran down every rabbit trail that is in there that you actually need to at some point run down to would be pretty ineffective. You need to be able to keep an inventory of all the stuff that you do need to do, you can’t finish when you first recognize what it is and be able to manage that inventory. Differ simply means, look, don’t do it this very second but what you need to do is park it in a appropriate place so that you have it as a set of options to pick from when you have discretionary time.
Ian Portsmouth: Now, delegate is one of the principles and of course, we all know how hard it is to delegate. Often, we don’t delegate because we don’t trust the people who we would delegate things to or we feel that we’re better at the task than the person we might delegate to. So what would be your advice for managers who have trouble delegating and need to delegate more effectively?
David Allen: Well, you need to ask yourself, look if there is somebody else out there making less money than who can do an effective job of whatever that action is and if so, you’re not being fiscally responsible if you’re doing it instead of them. So you do need to hand it off but again most people actually avoid it because a lot of people don’t trust themselves to be able to track and manage and monitor it. And the fact that people’s personal systems have some big improvements in that area. If you’ve just created a waiting for list where you’ve actually kept track of every deliverable you are waiting from everybody else and you review that personally as often as you need to so that you can feel responsible for lighting fires and checking status and renegotiating with your staff appropriately. It’ll give you a lot more confidence to be able to do that. Because you won’t give away anything you don’t feel in control of yourself. So the more you get in control of your own 10 acres, the easier it’s going to be and the more obvious it’s going to be and you need to offload a whole bunch of that.
Ian Portsmouth: Drop it seems like such an obvious thing to do with some of the things on your to do list. That is also difficult to do and that’s why so many today list and in-boxes grow almost exponentially. You say that people need to feel fine about what they are not doing.
David Allen: Well, basically you need to define what your work is. The late Peter Druker said that’s the biggest job of any knowledge worker is defining actually what your work is. So even before you can do the do it, delegate it, differ it and drop it dynamic, you need to understand what the thing is you got to begin with, what exactly it means to you, what outcome are you committed to that is sitting inside that email if any. What action step do you need to take? That does not show up in the work to begin with, that’s the work you have to define. So once you do that, then it forces people to start to, look, make more clear operational decisions. Is that really something you’re going to do or not? And if not, you either dump it, file it just for reference or stage it for later review later on. So getting yourself to be more rigorous about what exactly this stuff means to you is really a critical element and that’s one that most people wait to make those decisions until it blows up as opposed to making it when it shows up and that’s a big behaviour change.
Ian Portsmouth: Many of the people in the audience of the Business Coach Podcast are of course business owner and business owners have a lot of demands placed on their time by investors, by their own employees, by their executive teams. How do you balance your needs to manage your time and perhaps compartmentalize what you do with the demands that people around put on your time?
David Allen: All that really comes down to, look, what horizon are you having, what conversion with, what’s important to you. Ultimately, you are going to have to come down to where are you going, how do you need to create your structures and how do you allocate your resources to be able to get there. There is no rocket science about that but it is a pretty subtle discussion you need to keep having with yourself and asking yourself, look, am I allocating resources appropriately and that can be your time, your attention, your money, anything that you are doing out there needs to be evaluated against where you are going in the short term, what’s the long term vision that’s driving all that, what’s the ultimate purpose, what are your core values, all those are great questions, you know, we always need to ask ourselves and to get clear about. And only when you start to answer those or at least approach those conversations where you have some criteria to make those kinds of decisions.
Ian Portsmouth: David, thanks for joining the Business Coach Podcast.
David Allen: My pleasure.
Ian Portsmouth: David Allen is the President of the David Allen Company and the best selling author of “Getting things done, the art of stress free productivity”.
That’s it for another episode of the Business Coach Podcast. Be sure to check out other episodes, which you can download from BMO.com, profitguide.com and iTunes. If you have any comments or suggestions about the podcast, then please send them to me at email@example.com.
Until next time, I’m Ian Portsmouth, the editor of Profit Magazine, wishing you continued success.