By P. Daniel Ward, MD, MS, FACS,

One of the most challenging elements of being a surgeon is time management. This is especially true for business owners. There is never enough time in the day to accomplish all that your business requires. And you can forget about the plethora of journal articles and books that we would all like to read—if only we had the time. 

We can learn a lot of lessons from others who have faced similar time-management crunches. One of my favorite techniques is something U.S. and Allied Forces Supreme Commander and President Dwight D Eisenhower used. He is one of my favorite presidents, who I believe is underappreciated for the role he played in creating the great society that we live in today.

President Eisenhower’s technique was to divide tasks into either “Urgent or Not Urgent” and “Important or Not Important” duties. He would divide these tasks into a 2 x 2 matrix with “Important and Not Important” at the top of each column and “Urgent and Not Urgent” at the top of the two rows. Where the task appeared in the matrix determined how he would handle the issues.

The 4 Ds of Time Management

The four ways to handle these issues can be summarized as follows. Think: 4Ds.

  1. Urgent and Important= Do
  2. Not Urgent and Important= Decide
  3. Urgent and Not Important = Delegate
  4. Not Urgent and Not Important = Delete

For tasks marked Urgent and Important, he would simply do them. These tasks may include going to the clinic, going to the operating room, and attending the staff meeting where you are a speaker. These tasks need you. You must do them.

For tasks marked Not Urgent, and Important, President Eisenhower would decide when to do them. An example of this might be something as seemingly simple as exercising or sleeping. These tasks may not be urgent; nobody is going to die if you don’t work out, right now, but you will die if you don’t prioritize your health. So go ahead and schedule that 4:30 AM workout. It is important.

For tasks marked Urgent and Not Important, he would delegate. These are the tasks that need to be taken care of, but not necessarily by you. Tasks such as answering the phone, getting the mail, paying bills, or even responding to e-mails would fall into this category. If possible, delegate them.

For tasks marked Not Urgent and Not Important, you won’t be surprised to learn that he did not do them—and you shouldn’t either. Delete them. These are tasks like reading the news, playing video games, scrolling social media, etc. Simply delete these tasks to free up more time in your day.

By putting these tips into practice, you will find more time to build the better version of you and a better version of your practice.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s message. Please send me an email ([email protected]) or check me out on social media at @wardmd.

P. Daniel Ward, MD, MS, FACS, is a double-board certified facial plastic surgeon and owner of Ward MD and Form Derm Spa.