The 4Ds are a tried and true method for helping to manage your to-do list and achieve your time management objectives.

It looks like it won’t be long until we are all back in the office (or thereabouts!) Back to our desk nic nacs, our office mugs and that jacket you forgot was still hung on the back of your chair. 

We will also all be walking back into our to-do lists. These to-do lists may have been furloughed with you, they may have gone home with you, or perhaps they will be totally re-written in the coming weeks. With any to-do list, it’s important not to let them become overwhelming because an overwhelming to-do list can be really damaging for our state of mind. 

Whether you have control over what lands on your to-do list or whether tasks are assigned to you, The 4D’s are a simple way to manage your workload and keep yourself on top.

Take your to do list (and 4 coloured pens if colour coding works for you) and put your tasks into one of these 4 categories:


1 – Do it: 

This is pretty self explanatory. If this task is time sensitive and can (or should) only be done by you then it merits a place high up on your to-do list. There is also a lot to be said for ‘quick wins’. If a task is quick and easy, or if you enjoy it, bump it up the list and get it done early to start your day with a quick win.


2 – Delegate it:

This one can be a real lifesaver and an opportunity in one. If a task is time-sensitive but you simply can’t fit it in, perhaps a member of your team could pick it up (in exchange for a cup or tea?). Depending on the task, this could be an opportunity for a more junior member of your team to learn and progress. If you can afford to spend some time showing a junior colleague how to achieve this task it could be a great way to teach and empower your colleague while also freeing up some time for yourself in the future. 

*Remember, being a leader is not about delegating the rubbish tasks to your team – it’s about who is best suited to the task and making sure work is split as fairly and appropriately as possible.*

Another important benefit of the ‘Delegate’ option is that it can highlight gaps in your team or processes. If you find yourself with lots of time-bound tasks and no way of completing them, you may need to automate some of these tasks –  or perhaps it’s now time for you to grow your team?


3 – Defer it:

Now, by deferring I don’t mean putting it off and off and off in the hopes that it falls off your list entirely. While that’s tempting, it’s simply not productive. Deferring in this instance means that when the task isn’t immediately time-sensitive you can afford to block out some time to deal with it – perhaps in a weeks time. I find a spot in my diary when I know I’ve got enough time to tackle the task and book it in as an appointment with myself. Assigning time to the task is a great way to free up some space in your mind, and it also stops you working late into the evening trying to battle your to-do list. 

I find another great tip for managing your workload, specifically for tasks that have been assigned to you, is to ask for a deadline. Too many of us will be asked to complete a task and say ‘sure!’ – only to give it a high priority spot on our to-do list. By asking for a REALISTIC deadline you can prioritise accordingly, and avoid your inbox becoming cluttered with ‘chase’ and ‘following up’ emails…


4 – Dump it:

 While this sounds like the best and easiest option, it is a really important process. There is very rarely a reason for simply striking a task off your to do list with no further action or thought. If a task doesn’t fit into any of the other options above, perhaps it is genuinely not worth doing. 

Ask yourself: What happens if you dump this task off your list? Am I actually just deferring it? Am I really just delegating it and hoping someone else will pick it up? Am I compromising my customer experience by dumping this action from my list? 

If you find that week after week, month after month you are dumping the same task off your to-do list, you should be asking ‘why is this on my to do list?’, ‘What is happening to this task when I dump it?’. Again, you may need to alter one of your processes to resolve this. 

The 4D system is a great way to help you manage your time in the office, but it can also help you in achieving your business goals.

For example, if you are considering expanding your team and struggling to justify the added expense, you could get your team to work to this method. This would highlight gaps and opportunities across your team.

If you are struggling with time – perhaps you find yourself at the office or online way past tea-time or at the weekends – being smart with your to-do list is the first step to creating the relationship with work that you want. 

Furthermore, if you are looking for ways to cut costs or perhaps trying to find the best way to invest in your business, this method will quickly highlight gaps in your processes or areas crying out for automation. 

There are lots of great tricks and tips out there for managing your time, team and money. At ActionCOACH we believe that with an open mind and a willingness to adapt and improve your business practices you too can achieve business success.


Click the link to find out more about our Business Coaching Services