4 Ds of Time Management - Definition and Detailed Overview

What are the 4 Ds of Time management? How do they apply in project management? Learn all you need to know about them in this blog.


What are the 4 Ds of Time Management?

The 4 Ds of time management, also known as the 4 Ds of productivity, are a way of deciding if a task is worth giving time to. The 4 Ds are 

  • Do, 
  • Defer (or Delay), 
  • Delegate, and 
  • Delete (or Drop). 

You can make use of these to make fast decisions on which task to act on immediately or to do at a later period. Alternatively, which to delegate to someone else and which ones to drop entirely.

Since most projects have a limited time, you can place the various tasks involved into one of the 4 Ds of time management. This way, the tasks are well prioritized and you can take up the most important ones.

Product managers, being loaded with a big set of tasks all the time, can make use of these 4 Ds to complete tasks on time. Let's understand more about each of these 4 Ds and see how they apply in practice in the below sections.

4 ds of time management

Understanding the 4 Ds of Time Management in Detail

1. Do

This, as is obvious, stands for the tasks you must do. Product managers need to get started on these tasks on a top priority basis and then do them one at a time.

Ideally, the tasks in this category shouldn't be too time-consuming in nature. They should be the ones which take only a few minutes to complete so that you can get done with them fast. This way, you'll be done with a large number of smaller tasks. In turn, this builds momentum towards completing bigger projects at faster speeds. Things such as answering a call or an email come in this category.

Also, when a task is urgent and important, you have to place it in this category and do it fast. If not done, it could affect your other tasks in a negative way. At the same time, if the task at hand is time consuming in nature, you'll have to see which of the other Ds is more suitable.

2. Defer/ Delay

These are tasks you can afford to do at a later time. Non-time-sensitive tasks which are still important and need to be done fall under this category.

Some tasks may arise suddenly and be important, but also don't need to be completed right away. For example, a new feature request. In such cases, you can pause the task for a while. However, you'll have to make sure to schedule it for a later period and get it done in due time. In other words, don't let deferring lead to procrastination of the task at hand. So, deal with it as soon as you get the opportunity to do so.

3. Delegate

These are tasks which you can afford to reassign to someone else and don't have to do them yourself. They may not require your particular skill set and there could even be someone more suited to complete them. This is quite an efficient time management strategy. Of course, you also need to make sure that the new person is capable of taking them up.

Any task which you need to complete, but at the same time is a waste of your own skill in a way, should be delegated. You need to be smart about not relinquishing responsibility in this process, though. Also, if someone else is working on it, make sure to review the task once it's done so that things are accurate.

4. Delete

Again, quite obvious from the word used, these are tasks which you can completely remove from the list of tasks you have. This D among the 4 Ds of time management encourages project managers to say 'No' to unnecessary tasks. This way, they can filter their to-do lists carefully and not end up wasting time.

All clutter work should be taken out of the way and more time given to core tasks which actually matter. Unproductive meetings, spam emails, and the like, which do not aid the project in any way come in this category. You'd have to be ruthless with prioritization to get this right, but it's surely effective.

Keep in mind that all the tasks you take up should be aligned with the end goal of the project. As such, all other tasks are unnecessary and should be dropped.

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