The 4 Ds of Time Management: What is it and How to Use

Author: Karolina Matyska

Have you gone through those days when you feel like you’ve completed nothing that you were expecting to achieve? Although a day shares 24 hours, it’s difficult to convert your hours of work into absolute productivity.

You may have explored many methods to improve, but it doesn’t feel like the right fit. The 4 D’s of time management can improve your perspective on productivity and really develop your timing and deadlines. 

Free eBook: Top techniques for how to best manage your time

Get your copy of the eBook and learn top time management techniques

Throughout this article, you’ll discover the definition of the 4 D’s of time management, its meaning and significance, and finally how to apply it to your projects.

What are the 4 D’s of time management?

The 4D’s in time management are: Delete, Delegate, Defer, and Do. It’s a good time management technique to categorize and prioritize tasks, helping to boost productivity and efficiency by focusing on the most important ones and avoiding overwhelm.

In our guide, you can see how the 4 D’s are similar to the Time management matrix.

the  4 ds of time management explanation chart

What’s the meaning of the 4 D’s of time management?

Before starting anything, you need to evaluate the task and/or action and decide in which category they should stay. What you’ll see is that with 4D your productivity will significantly rise and stabilize your work day-to-day.

Ultimately, this helps product managers not to be confronted with all the tasks at once. Instead, they can prioritize their time and make their day even more efficient for more important tasks that require your attention.

With the help of the 4 D’s of time management, you’re able to keep your productivity flowing, which greatly improves the expectancy of your project. With your properly prioritized tasks, there’s a much positive note towards delivering the service/product. 

1. Delete

This first action enables the project manager to eliminate any unimportant tasks and/or projects from your endless list. Anything that’s assigned to this category represents something that’s not worth your precious time.

Attending unnecessary meetings that won’t affect you and saying yes to every request is something that you can avoid to stay ahead of these unnecessary tasks.

2. Delegate

When there’s an important task to tackle, but you find yourself with something that can only be completed by yourself, this is the time to engage in the second act. 

Delegating a task means that you’re assigning that responsibility to someone else on your behalf. For example, reports are something essential to complete to document the progress of the project. 

This is something that you can ideally delegate to one of your team members while you’re dealing with time-sensitive matters.

3. Defer 

This third action aims to pause any task that was assigned to someone because it doesn’t need to be taken care of right away. 

This happens when there’s a priority task that needs everyone’s attention. However, this doesn’t mean that this task won’t be completed, instead, it will be revisited when there’s free time in the team’s pipeline. 

For example, you don’t have to read all of your e-mails right away. You can finish more important tasks and once you have free time you can read your pending e-mails.

4. Do 

The fourth action entails the completion of the tasks that you have available in your pipeline. These are normally urgent tasks that require your attention and must be completed as soon as possible. 

A perfect example is a scheduled task, such as a presentation, where you meet your deadline. If you don’t respect the tasks of this fourth category, the aftermath could be catastrophic. 

do delegate defer delete

Why are the 4 D’s important for time management?

The importance behind establishing the 4 D’s of time management stands on the filtration of tasks to help project managers. Every day they have to deal with multiple requests from various sources, which makes their job very difficult. 

That’s when the 4 D’s of time management enter the conversation and transform how everyday tasks are organized. Through the assignment of each task to a category, you’re able to keep everything organized and filtered, which means that the project can run smoothly throughout its process. 

What will happen is that the product manager won’t feel so overwhelmed due to the assignment of tasks. The main goal is that everyone will remain focused to work towards completing the tasks at hand, as well as the project itself.

At last, time management will be tamed, and consequently, you’ll reach the peak of your productivity.


Free eBook: Top techniques for how to best manage your time

Get your copy of the eBook and learn top time management techniques

How to use the 4 D’s of time management

Before getting started on any tasks whatsoever, you must take a look at your to-do list in a more whole-type of view. You can separate each element through a chart and insert every task into every category. Here’s an example of how you can apply the 4 D’s:

DelegateCreation of a report
DoMake a presentation
DeferRead your inbox
DeleteUnnecessary meetings

This is a great tool to optimize your time because you’ll be able to display what you have on your pipeline and have a clear view of what you prioritize. The rest of the tasks you can also delegate, delay, and even eliminate them. 

Looking for boosting your productivity? Find the best tips to save time in our post.

However, you must establish a goal before getting involved in anything. For example, what do you hope to achieve by taking advantage of this model? Once you find the answer to that question, you’ll have the green light to pursue the steps created for the 4 D’s of time management.

Assigning each task to its category seems challenging, but it’s essential for developing this method and your project’s progress. Remember that doing this difficult definition will save you immeasurable hours of work that you could use on your urgent and important tasks.

Once you’ve overcome that challenge, you’ll have the practice you need to follow through with the rest of the steps. You’ll find yourself and your team more organized and structured than you’ve ever seen before.

This great tool will help you fight the professional burnout and stress you might feel when you’re overwhelmed with tasks and organization.

Read also: How to get organized at work when overwhelmed.

4 ds of time management


With the end of this article, it’s important to retain that this could be recognized as a simple method, but its effectiveness can be astounding to some project managers. 

If you’re looking to improve your productivity and take control of your own time, the 4 D’s are an exceptional choice for you and your project’s life cycle progress. 

It’s crucial to understand that this method might not suit you, but you must evaluate your options first and consider a trial run of the 4 D’s. 

Once you have formed your opinions about it, you can decide what’s best for your specific case.

You might be interested in: