Home Digital The Four Corners Offense of Time Management

The Four Corners Offense of Time Management


Before the shot clock was modified and installed into the game of basketball teams would employ a four corners offense to significantly slow the game down. The offense was developed and popularized by long-time North Carolina head coach Dean Smith in the early 1960s. You may be thinking, “What does this basketball strategy have to do with me and time management”? The answer is simple.

To become effective at controlling your choices, which ultimately lets you make better choices, you have to become an “effective worker”. To become an “effective worker” you must understand and deploy the concept of slowing down to speed up. Slowing down to speed up allows one to do the right things, for the right reasons, at the right time. To summarize an “effective worker” is a results worker versus an activity worker. This slow down to speed up strategy is opposite of what most people think about when they think about time management. For most time management translates into managing time better so one can get more done in the time available.

The challenge to this logic is you can not manage time. Everyone receives 86, 400 seconds each day. Once those seconds are gone you get none of them back. Therefore time is an irreplaceable asset. With a bank account if you spend $100 dollars you can put $200 back in the bank to replace the first $100 and have $100 for the future. Unfortunately when your 86,400 seconds are gone you can not replace or get any of them back. The solution for trying to manage an irreplaceable asset like time is to become effective. Becoming effective means you know how to slow down the clock to make better choices in the moment. The outcome, as in basketball, is you will only make a shot with the highest probability of scoring. By making a better choice in the moment one can become more effective.

We call this strategy one of many best practice processes. The return for individuals, teams and organizations from these best practice processes comes in when you apply them to tool boxes like Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, GroupWise or any CRM software program in an effort to create organizational consistency around planning and organizing. Let us take a top down view of what comprises the four corners offense of time management. The first corner in this strategy is called Do it Now. The second corner is titled Decide When. The third corner is titled Delegate and the fourth corner is named Delete/ Dump.

– Do it Now

– Decide When (date Activate)

– Delegate it

– Delete Dump it

The remaining part of this article will review how to apply one tactic within the four corner strategy that carries the greatest value to individuals and teams. The four corner tactic with the greatest value is titled Decide When. To understand the Decide When tactic in the four corners strategy one has to think in terms of a 90 degree drawing of two lines on a piece of paper.

On the vertical axis is all the 50 or so to do’s or what I call doable details. Each doable detail represents an X on the vertical axis line. Above the horizontal axis line one writes in seven names of the week Sunday to Saturday. Now instead of building a vertical what to do list on the vertical axis line you will slow down in the moment of choice and ask yourself these questions: what is this doable detail and when do I need to do it and where do I store it till I need it For example in the moment of choice on Friday morning I realize this is a memo that I need to reply to and write to Steve on Tuesday. Therefore, I move this doable detail to Tuesday’s list. Next I ask where I want to store the information till it is needed again? Since it is an e-mail I can insert it into to Steve’s contact record notes section or insert a hyperlink in the notes section.

The net effect is I now have a horizontal when to do list versus a vertical what to do list. Now think about the power of using this best practice process of date activating into a tool box like Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, GroupWise or any CRM software program. One can get a sense that just using one of the four corner tactics like decide when, will allow you to make better choices in the moment, by slowing down to speed up. At the same time it gives you an opportunity to rapidly retrieve information from the future across the horizontal when to do list. This impact becomes even greater when one applies the best practice process of prioritizing the when to do list based on importance, highest values and urgency. Look for more best practice four corner tactics in future articles.

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