By Michael Lynch, Electronic Media Producer, College of Nursing

There is a fallacy of time management: if you get more organized, you will get on top. Unfortunately, in our infinite world, where there is just too much to do we will never be able to get on top of everything. When we complete more tasks, more appear to take their place, and if we do more as a result of better managing our time, we don’t get it all done—we just become busier.

I’m sure you have all noticed that we now divide time into ever-smaller increments, scattering our attention across a thousand micro-activities. When we live like this we actually prevent ourselves from engaging an issue deeply or thinking properly. We prioritize the urgent and immediate, rather than the important and strategic, and we become more and more stressed out.

New studies show that our brains consciously do only one thing at a time. Multitasking is an oxymoron. When we think we’re multi-tasking, we’re actually context-switching. If we try to do many things at once, our working memory gums up and along with it our ability to move events into long term memory, where we can retrieve them, contemplate them, and use them. We don’t live in the era of assembly lines and repetitive tasks anymore and it’s time that management took a hard look at the way time is used and work with their employees to promote more thinking, creativity and problem solving rather than focusing on individual tasks.

Here is a quick tip from executive coach Joelle K. Jay:

The 5 D’s:

Whenever you have to complete some small task or action item–every time you have to get through a stack of email, voice mail messages, or a stack of paperwork, the 5 D’s are crucial. You will drastically cut the time you need to get through the stack.

Here are the 5 D’s and how you can use them to maximize your time:

Do it means do it now. Use this for any task that takes fifteen minutes or less.

Delete it means there are some things that do not require your response. Just because someone sent you the message/document/suggestion doesn’t mean you have to reply. If an item doesn’t advance a relationship or achieve an important goal, get rid of it.

Delegate it means pass it on to someone else who can handle the job. They don’t have to do it better than you; they don’t even have to do it as well or as fast. They probably won’t. But unless it’s a top priority or specific result that only you can deliver, you’re not the right person. Pass it on. This is not a game of hot potato. It’s a way of reorganizing work so the right people do the appropriate jobs for maximum efficiency and results.

Decide on it means no more moving items from one stack to another, telling yourself, “I’ll get back to that.” Will you attend the meeting or won’t you? Will you agree to that request or won’t you? Make a decision. Move on.

Date it means that you get to choose when you will give big-ticket items your undivided time and attention. Figure out how much time you need and block it out in your schedule. You can forget about it until then.

To put this into practice, trying writing a mini-version of the 5 Ds on a sticky note and put it near a stack of papers, projects, emails or administrative tasks. Set aside some time to tackle the tasks using the 5 Ds. Notice how they cut down the time it takes to finish the tasks.