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The 4 Ds of Effective Time Management

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When 5pm rolls around, do you leave work feeling like you’ve accomplished a lot or like you spun your wheels all day? If you’re constantly feeling like you could be more productive, the 4 Ds might be the solution to your time management struggles.

Do

Just like it sounds, this is doing something. But it’s not simply doing anything. Strategic action is the key. Work on tasks that take two minutes or less. Sending an email, scheduling a meeting, etc. Anything that takes longer than two minutes, work on that alone for 30 minutes and then take a break. Never multi-task. The truth is, there’s really no such thing and that’s what leads to spinning your wheels all day.

Delete

This one actually brings a lot of joy with it. Ruthlessly delete emails you don’t need to respond to. Be equally as brutal with deleting tasks from your to do list. In some cases, you may need to circle back to the requester and explain why you’re not doing it, but if that takes less time and the task would have, deletion is still a good way to go.

Defer

Plenty of requests and emails come in that don’t require immediate action. File them for later attention so you can continue to focus on the task at hand. Whether you use a task tracking tool like Trello or Teamwork or simply have an “action” folder in your email doesn’t matter so long as you know to look at it later. Set a specific day and time during the week when you’ll review these items.

Delegate

Effective delegation takes time to master. Begin by writing down each step necessary in a project and a detailed outcome. This becomes a checklist for the person who will do the work and helps ensure the final result is exactly what you wanted. For smaller tasks, a checklist may not be necessary. What’s important to consider is if it will take you less time to effectively delegate the task than it would to do it yourself.

What all this really boils down to is making decisions about what to do, when, and how. By using the 4 Ds, you have a basis from which to make these decisions for each task and project. For more tips, check out David Allen’s book Get Things Done.

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