The Investment Scientist

Overwhelmed by Tasks?

Posted on: October 1, 2013

ImageIf you are successful in your line of work, you are probably overwhelmed by tasks and find yourself wishing there were 25 hours in a day and 8 days in a week.

Well, that wish will not be granted, at least not by me. But there are ways to make those tasks less overwhelming. I call it ‘The Five Ds’: Delete, Do Now, Delay, Divide, Delegate. Let’s go through them one by one.


Tasks that add no value, just delete them. When I first started out in my career, I used to write a weekly investment column for a local Chinese newspaper. After a whole year of writing, I did not get a single decent client. That task has now been relegated to my delete bin.

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Do Now

This is powerful! Since we can be prone to procrastinate, I have a rule for myself. If a task can be completed within 5 minutes, do it now! This alone will clear 50% of your unfinished tasks.


Those tasks which can be done quickly but are not urgent; delay them! I use a service called Nudgemail to remind me. If I want to revisit the task in one week, I simply send an email to One week later, Nudgemail will send me a reminder email.


For big tasks, it’s best to Divide them into manageable chunks and conquer them one by one. For instance I’d like to write a book, the first step is finding an experienced publisher and taking it from there. To find an experienced publisher, the first step is to talk to my friends who have published already and ask for their recommendations. Writing a book is a huge task, asking my friends for recommendations isn’t.


A businessman once shared with me the reason for his success. He focuses on three things he does very well and delegates the rest. This is profound insight! Take my book writing task for example, eventually that will be delegated to a ghost writer and even the task of finding the right ghostwriter will be delegated to the publisher.

If you follow the 5 Ds, I guarantee that you can get a lot done by doing very little.

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Michael Zhuang is principal of MZ Capital, a fee-only independent advisory firm based in Washington, DC.


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