Start a 4 D’s list – what will you Delete, Delegate, Defer and Do?

“Argh, I just need more time!”. Yup, you may be right. Especially given what you are trying to achieve by yourself. But unless you have a seriously amazing magic wand none of the rest of us know about, you can’t exactly create more time than what’s been given to you. BUT…you can have the foresight to manage your time more effectively.

The 4D’s is a common time-management framework, especially when you feel there’s too much on your plate. Consciously placing your ‘task list’ into one of these 4D’s helps you manage your time and energy more effectively and ensures you focus on areas where you can make the most impact.

Delete (or drop):


Have you got a ‘stop doing’ list? Everyone who is an overachiever needs one of these!

What’s not going to make a squit of difference whether you do it or not (on the impact you’d like to make)?

Drop this stuff – get it off your to-do list. Your mind will already be clearer as a result.

Some examples might be: 

  • Is every meeting you’re attending a must-have or a nice-to-have?
  • A task that’s been on your list for the whole year (does anyone still need this thing?) Check-in with its status. Is the end goal still the same?
  • Something that’s going to take you hours to achieve, but you’ve figured out a different way/approach/angle to take which will get the same outcome.



Can someone else do something that you were planning on doing? Maybe they’d get some joy from doing this task, or it’s a growth opportunity.

Even if they may not ‘do it to your standard’, when is good enough simply good enough?

Would it make more of a difference to delegate something to someone else than keep it on your ‘not moving’ list?

Some examples might be: 

  • You’ve got to recruit new members to your team (asap!), but none of the panel interviewers have coinciding diary space for the interviews to take place any time soon. How about asking your team members to be on the panel interview instead (they’ll be the ones working with them anyway!).
  • You need to commission a piece of research that you want to get going, but you haven’t gotten around to even writing the  EOI yet (“but I’m the only one who knows what’s needed!”) Delegate to someone (who knows your area) to do a starter draft (and figure out the procurement process for you), which you can whip into shape in no time.



You can’t find anyone to help with this thing (‘Delegate’), and only you can do it, then defer it. It may be important but is it really urgent?

Does it have to be done now, or would it make more sense (e.g. given the existing capability and capacity) to defer this to later (or perhaps even ‘Delete’)? We’re in an ever-changing environment in our workplaces – you may find some things even become obsolete after time, people have moved on.

Some examples might be: 

  • Let’s give our team some more planning time to shape our work programme (delay its sign-off by another two months) – so we know that in a few months, we’re confident and realistic about the things we intend to achieve, and we’re clear about our roles in doing so. If we dive into action now, we’ll get stretched in unrealistic directions, which won’t serve us well in the longer term!
  • Is this task really urgent? Or would we get a better outcome that would serve others better if we first consult with x, y, and z to ensure we’re hitting the right notes in its delivery and communication?



Commit to these things, get them done, and take ownership of them.

Is your ‘Do’ list realistic, given your available time? (don’t forget all the parties, meetings, gatherings, and other stuff going on this side of Christmas!)

Try and prioritise your ‘Do’ list, so you’re only working on one thing at a time. Give yourself a mini celebration (even if it’s just a pat on your own back) every time you get through one of them.


I’d like to add a 5th “D” to this well-known 4D list…Declare!

Make sure to share with others what your intentions are. Communicate your process and what’s in each of your 4D quadrants. Explain why, especially if you may be letting someone down in your choices!

They might even be able to help you prioritise what’s on your plate or suggest others you can share your tasks with. And they’ll see the logic of your approach, and you’ll have communicated it clearly to them in a simple way.