Time management is a skill any professional can improve upon. We all have situations where it seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day to adequately attend to our projects, commitments, or hobbies. We look at the clock some days and realize we didn’t accomplish many of the things we planned on doing. Luckily, there are proven ways to help you take charge of the day and become more productive. Let’s take a look at this strategy known as the four Ds of effective time management.
This is as simple as it suggests. Just act. David Allen in his productivity book titles, Getting Things Done, explained the two-minute rule. He said, “The rationale for the two-minute rule is that that’s more or less the point where it starts taking longer to store and track an item than to deal with it the first time it’s in your hands—in other words, it’s the efficiency cutoff.” There is so much you can do in just two minutes like write an email, pull up a report, making a quick phone call, etc. Now, if your task will take longer than two minutes and it is still a top priority, then work on it at least for 30 minutes or until you finish. Try not to work on anything else during this time and devote your energy to that specific task.
Delete is sometimes regarded by many people as the easiest of the four D’s to implement. The reason being that you do not have to do anything other than making the decision to either do the task or delete it. Many professionals recommend approaching this strategy through the lens of the Pareto Principle also known as the “80/20 Rule” which states that 80% of results should come from 20% of causes or activities. So, when it comes to certain tasks or activities, you have to ask yourself whether it will bring you the long-term result you are looking for. Some people may have difficulties deleting items from their to-do list which is why the next D can help with that.
Making decisions can be challenging. However, by deferring an item, it means you are saying “not right now” instead of “not ever.” These can range from a new project you plan on starting in the next week or two, or even a request from a co-worker that you must attend to by the end of the day. If you do intend to use this approach, be sure to remember to review your list of deferred items at the end of the day or week. At this point, you can make the decision to either do or delete. Keep in mind there is a fine line between deferring and procrastinating indefinitely.
If you are new to delegating items you might find it a bit uncomfortable when the results are a little different than if you were to complete it yourself. However, that does not mean you shouldn’t delegate as it could be a great way for you to leverage the day. If you want to perform this strategy effectively, create a playbook that breaks down the project step-by-step and detail what the final outcome should look like. Doing so will ensure that the result is not dependent on who is completing the task, but rather the quality of the checklist. Remember, smaller tasks that you might want to delegate will not need a checklist. You should think about whether your time will be better spent by delegating or doing. For example, you might be better off delegating the paying of a supplier and prioritizing a phone call with an unhappy customer.