What Are The 4 Ds Of Time Management?

If you’ve been reading other posts on Time Hack Hero, you’ve probably already realized that there is more than one way to manage your time more effectively and there are various elements to consider.

One of the most important elements of good time management is the ability to prioritize your tasks and your work. There are various effective techniques you can follow to do this. For example, in other posts, I have looked at the ABCDE Method, the Eisenhower Box and the Carver Matrix.

You’ve also got the 4 Ds of time management. Or “Time Management in 4D”, as I prefer to call it!

What are the Four Ds of time management?

Simply put, when you have a task you need to complete, you give yourself four options to deal with it. Those options are the 4 Ds:

  1. Do
  2. Delete
  3. Defer
  4. Delegate

This 4 Ds method is really just a “quick and dirty” version of the Eisenhower Box without the visual aid of a matrix in front of you and it follows the same protocol as the Inbox Zero method to manage and organize your email. However, it is worth running through in this manner as it is another way to look at it and could be particularly useful for people who want a decision-making framework they can use to make decisions on the spot, rather than placing tasks in a To-Do list and processing at that point.

Time Management in 4D

Here’s what the using the 4 Ds to prioritize your tasks and activities actually means in practice.


This just means taking in action immediately.

If the task is urgent and important and the consequences of not getting it done will negatively affect you or your business, you need to do it now.

If it is not urgent, but still quite important and you can get it done in less than a couple of minutes, do it. If it’s going to take longer than that, you move to the next of the 4 Ds.

If the task falls into the “do” category, then make sure you stay with it until it is done. Try to focus, avoid distraction and don’t try to do it while juggling something else. In case, you didn’t already know, multi-tasking is not an effective way to work.

Wait sign
Wait if you need to / Image by Kai Pilger


There will be some tasks that come your way that are important and need to be done, but you may not be in a position to deal with them straight away. Maybe you are currently focused on something else. Perhaps you need more information or resources in order to get it done. Or maybe you know the task will take you longer than a couple of minutes to complete.

If this is the case, you should defer and/or “diarize” the task. Schedule some time and/or take the next available opportunity to deal with it.

A word of warning though: don’t let deferring lead to procrastination. Block out time to do it and make a hard deadline.


There are going to be tasks that come your way that need to be done but not necessarily by you. So you should ask yourself a couple of questions.

Firstly, is the task actually responsibility?

Secondly, if it is your responsibility, is there an assistant, subordinate, team member or even someone higher up the chain that could or should do it for you?

This is an important question because time can be easily wasted on low-value tasks that do little to move you a step closer to your goals and on those tasks that maybe you shouldn’t be getting involved with in the first place.

Be careful here though and remember that delegation isn’t about dumping your crap on everyone else and there is quite a fine line between delegating something and relinquishing responsibility.

If you’re delegating a task, but it’s still something that you’re responsible for ultimately, then you need to ensure you follow up to check it has been completed by the person to whom it was delegated.

Delete key
Do ditch the duff deeds / Image by Alex Kuznetzov

Delete (Drop or De-commit)

We live in a world where there always somebody or something vying for attention and so we have to “triage” where we direct our own attention because there really isn’t enough time to deal with everything that comes our way, let alone deal with the stuff we actually want to dedicate our attention.

So you need to be ruthless with your time.

And sometimes that means dropping and deleting tasks from your To-Do list altogether.

If it’s you’re faced with something that is not worth your time, then simply delegate or delete. The decision as to whether or not a task is with doing will be based on all kinds of things, such as your job responsibilities, who benefits from you doing it, who suffers from you not doing it and can be quite subjective to an en extent. So, sometimes it’s going to be a bit of a judgment call on your part.

A good question to ask is, “Will this task or activity help me to move a step closer to the goal or required result?”

If the answer is a “no”, just ditch it and move on.

If you’re still not sure, you can always defer it, but do it with a decision-making deadline.

Time Hack Hero Takeaway

The underlying principles of time management and prioritizing your work are not complex.

They’re actually pretty simple and certainly no secret. But if there is a secret, it’s that all you have to do is take action.

Make a decision, process your task, move to the next one and repeat. If making decisions is hard for you, then applying the 4 Ds method should make things a bit easier for you.

You will find that being able to effectively prioritize and process your tasks more effectively will make you fr more efficient with your time. You’ll spend more of your time working on the stuff that matters, rather than wasting effort on the insignificant things.

To finish with a quick summary:

  • If it is important and urgent, do it now.
  • If you can’t do it now, schedule it for a time when you can.
  • If it’s not your job or there is someone else who can handle it, delegate to someone else.
  • If it is unimportant and does nothing to move you closer to your goals or improve your life, just drop it.

Before you go . . .

Are you struggling to get a grip on your time?


Featured image credit: Tom Swinnen

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