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Natalia Rossingol

How to Use the 4 Ds of Time Management: A Quick Guide

Feeling always busy and overloaded, but not necessarily productive? Enter 4 Ds of time management to prioritize your tasks accordingly.

When you’re burdened with multiple tasks, it’s easy to lose motivation and even lead yourself to burnout. Very often, the problem is poor time control and lack of prioritization. The good news is that you can optimize your work by using an effective time management technique.

Below we will describe the 4 Ds of time management, also called the 4 Ds of productivity, - a time management strategy that simplifies the decision-making process and improves your time management.

What are the 4 Ds of time management?

The four Ds of time management is a task prioritization technique you can use to complete your tasks with maximum efficiency. This technique consists in classifying assignments into four groups based on their importance, which helps determine how you should deal with each of them.

We don’t know for sure who created the 4 Ds of time management. In her book “Career Comeback: Taking Charge of Your Career”, Jacquie Wise mentions that the concept was earlier described by a time management specialist Daniel Johnson.

This time management technique is based on the Eisenhower Matrix – a tool that helps you organize your tasks by importance and urgency, developed by the 34th President of the United States Dwight Eisenhower. 

So let’s take a closer look at this framework.

The 4 ds of the management template consists of the following elements:


It can be surprising but some of the tasks on our to-do list are not worth doing at all. In this case, you can feel free not to work on them. The problem is that it’s often hard to decide right away what tasks are unimportant.

To make sure you discard only unnecessary tasks, carefully review your routine.

What can be deleted:

  1. Meetings. They’re often a nightmare for both managers and teams. Some meetings are held for the sake of meetings or to create an illusion of discussion. Then they either bring no value or provoke unnecessary chaos. You don’t have to attend all the meetings, especially those that are not related to your job. Besides, meetings can always be made shorter. Develop an agenda to follow, and it will help cover all the important issues within a limited timeframe. Also, team members can communicate asynchronously, which would give them flexibility, not reducing productivity at the same time.
  2. Emails. There is no need to answer all emails coming to your inbox.
  3. Miscellaneous requests. You may not want to be rude, but sometimes, it’s better to say “no” to a request that you don’t feel will be impactful.

For whom it works best:

For freelancers who tend to take on too much work and then struggle to try to accomplish it on time.


Who said you need to do all the tasks by yourself? You can always delegate important tasks. So pick a person who’s the most skilled to accomplish the assignment and make sure that person is available.

For some people, delegating may be challenging. If you’re a perfectionist, you may have issues trusting other people to do a serious job. However, giving people a chance to take on more responsibility empowers them and lets them demonstrate different skills, like leadership and technical ones. 

What can be delegated:

  • Repetitive tasks, like invoicing.
  • Reporting – people can use ready-made templates.

For whom it work best:

For managers who can delegate less complex tasks to their subordinates.


You don't have to do all your tasks immediately. On your to-do list, are there any non-urgent tasks? If yes, do them later.

Delaying is not the same as procrastination. With procrastination, you avoid doing what’s necessary. While delaying, you know that you will get back to your task when it’s more convenient to you.

You can use this technique when, for example, you’re still working on another thing that got you in a state of flow – in this case, you should never interrupt yourself but rather let your mind work to the fullest.

You can also delay important tasks which you know will require more research and resources, which you cannot afford at the moment.

What can be delayed:

  • Deadlines. They are rarely a matter of life and death.
  • Requests. You can decide to provide assistance, but it doesn’t have to happen immediately.
  • Fake urgent tasks, like emails and social media. Some things seem urgent but are not such. Answering all messages as they come, you get distracted – and then, you have difficulty focusing on your initial task.

For whom it works best:

For the members of big teams, since they typically are in charge of many interrelated tasks, which, however, may not be urgent.  


This one is the simplest part of the 4ds time management technique – you just take on a task and do it. This concerns the most urgent tasks, like:

  • Scheduled work
  • Passing on information
  • Short tasks that take less than a couple of minutes.

To make the "do" part more efficient, you could use the "time-blocking" or "time-boxing" techniques.

For whom it works best:

For small teams who work on specific tasks.

The importance of 4 Ds of time management

Managers are typically overwhelmed with everyday tasks, as they have multiple responsibilities and play different managerial roles. They organize teams, make plans, control performance, and inspire people to produce the best results. This takes a lot of effort, and is time-consuming.

But time is not a renewable resource. This is why project managers should take a productive time management approach, and the 4 Ds of time management is one of the most efficient strategies.

4 Ds of time management pros and cons


The value of the 4 Ds is obvious. Prioritizing your tasks, you increase productivity, save resources, and consequently, produce better work results.


However, this technique is not perfect. Firstly, it requires you to make quick decisions, which can sometimes be wrong. Secondly, in some situations, you don’t have control over a particular task – for example, when your boss tells you to respond to all messages immediately or attend all the meetings, you don’t have much of a choice. 

How to apply the 4 Ds of time management

To classify your tasks into the 4 groups, use the two categories: urgency and importance. Think about what your goal is, and make a to-do list.

Then organize these tasks according to the following principle:

  • Do what’s urgent and important.
  • Delegate what’s urgent and less important.
  • Delay what’s non-urgent but important.
  • And delete what’s not urgent or important.

To make the time management process more effective and maintain focus, keep track of it in a journal – this would let you see if you spend your time with use.


The 4 Ds of project management is a great tool that can help you make sound decisions and achieve your goals with less effort. To use your time wisely, you don’t have to develop big strategies – just set priorities and work on your time management skills. It’s accessible, quick, and effective.

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