4 Ds System

The 4 Ds System of time management is a strategy that deals with deciding on whether or not a task or project is worth your time. You decide on one of four actions (4 Ds) with the system and hope to clear things out of your to-do list.

The 4 Ds that are part of the system are:

  1. Do - Act now and finish it.
  2. Drop - Delete it and don't get back to it.
  3. Defer - Push this task and decide on it later.
  4. Delegate - Assign the task to someone else.

Placing the task in one of the categories listed above will help you manage your time efficiently.

Why does it work?

  1. Simple to follow and implement.
  2. Reduces procrastination.
  3. Helps with prioritization

How does it work?

  1. Write down all the tasks on your plate the night before.
  2. If a task will not take long and is easier than deferring or delegating, then do it immediately. E.g., answering an email, returning a phone call.
  3. If a task doesn't need to be done right away, push it for a future date or add it to a batch of tasks that you need to decide on the execution. E.g., researching a new feature idea, new proactive measures arising out of brainstorming sessions.
  4. When someone else is a better fit in handling a task, then delegate it to them. E.g., filing your taxes can be outsourced to your accountant, paying someone to handle travel plans.
  5. When a task no longer adds value or becomes irrelevant, you can delete them from both your list and/or your schedule. E.g., Unproductive redundant meetings, making lunch plans.
  6. Review new tasks in the "defer" batch at the end of the day and decide to schedule or not based on convenience and importance.

The 4 Ds System in action

Samir is a project manager with an IT firm, and through the workday, he wears multiple hats to accomplish his goals. Over the years, he noticed that he was wasting a lot of time implementing complex productivity practices, yet his efficiency was lacking.

So he decided to try something as simple as the 4 Ds System. He started by listing all the tasks he could remember and then went through the 4 Ds process.

He had a few emails that he had to respond to that would take him less than 2 minutes, so he immediately went through them. He also had a few important but quick calls to respond to, so he finished those.

The tasks where he felt someone else would be a better executor, he assigned those tasks to them. He also delayed tasks that he felt would take him a while to execute, and he put undecided tasks into a batch for future consideration.

Finally, he deleted tasks like scheduling lunch, messaging one of his colleagues, etc., because he felt they were no longer relevant or essential.

With this new approach, Samir could get through many essential tasks and felt accomplished at the end of every day.

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