The Four Ds of Time Management

The Four Ds of Time Management is a strategy that helps an individual discern whether a task or project is worth an investment of time. The four Ds comprise Do, Defer (Delay), Delegate, and Delete (Drop).

Understanding The Four Ds of Time Management 

Time management is important to any business, regardless of the industry or methodology concerned.

The internet and social media has created a workplace culture that encourages constant engagement.

In turn, this takes valuable time away from critical tasks that contribute to the bottom line.

Time management is particularly important for managerial staff who must sort through a multitude of demands and requests daily.

In fact, the ability of a manager to prioritize tasks ensures that initiatives, projects, and indeed organizations continue to move in the right direction.

The Four Ds of Time Management encourages individuals to use their time wisely by aligning tasks with personal or organizational goals.

It is a similar approach to the Eisenhower Box but without the visual aid of a matrix.

In business, it is said that time is money. How can individuals help businesses avoid losing this valuable resource?

The four categories of The Four Ds of Time Management

Before acting on a specific request, this framework encourages the individual to filter the request according to one of four categories:


These are tasks that take a few minutes to complete and therefore build momentum toward completing larger projects.

Examples include answering emails or returning an important client phone call.

Defer (Delay)

As the name suggests, these tasks are better off being temporarily paused. In other words, they don’t need to be completed right away and should be scheduled accordingly.

For example, a manager who has a meeting at the end of the month should not spend any time weeks beforehand organizing invites or creating an agenda.

The same can be said for emails that have just landed in an inbox. If they are not urgent, they can be addressed at another time.


The ability to delegate tasks to others is an often-overlooked skill of good time management.

Many choose not to delegate because of a perceived lack of control or resources.

But whatever the reason, the reality is that most tasks can be delegated to others.

Any task that has to be completed but is a waste of the individual’s skill or expertise should be delegated to someone else.

Delete (Drop)

Deleting tasks means being ruthless with task prioritization.

When faced with a demand or request, the individual should consider whether it matches their job description.

Furthermore, who would benefit or suffer from accepting or declining the job?

Remember that a given task should always move the individual  toward a desired outcome. 

Key takeaways

  • The Four Ds of Time Management helps an individual discern whether a task, demand, or request is worth an investment of their time.
  • The Four Ds of Time Management is particularly important for product managers who must ensure that tasks are aligned with personal or company goals and objectives.
  • The Four Ds of Time Management are do, defer, delegate, and delete. Each of the four categories encourages the individual to filter requests or tasks before acting on them.

Other Time Management Frameworks


Andy Grove, helped Intel become among the most valuable companies by 1997. In his years at Intel, he conceived a management and goal-setting system, called OKR, standing for “objectives and key results.” Venture capitalist and early investor in Google, John Doerr, systematized in the book “Measure What Matters.”

Lightning Decision Jam

The theory was developed by psychologist Edwin Locke who also has a background in motivation and leadership research. Locke’s goal-setting theory of motivation provides a framework for setting effective and motivating goals. Locke was able to demonstrate that goal setting was linked to performance.


Timeboxing is a simple yet powerful time-management technique for improving productivity. Timeboxing describes the process of proactively scheduling a block of time to spend on a task in the future. It was first described by author James Martin in a book about agile software development.


A SMART goal is any goal with a carefully planned, concise, and trackable objective. Be such a goal needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Bringing structure and trackability to goal setting increases the chances goals will be achieved, and it helps align the organization around those goals.

Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique was created by Italian business consultant Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system where work is performed in 25-minute intervals.

Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix is a tool that helps businesses prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance, named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, the matrix helps businesses and individuals differentiate between the urgent and important to prevent urgent things (seemingly useful in the short-term) cannibalize important things (critical for long-term success).

MoSCoW Method

Prioritization plays a crucial role in every business. In an ideal world, businesses have enough time and resources to complete every task within a project satisfactorily. The MoSCoW method is a task prioritization framework. It is most effective in situations where many tasks must be prioritized into an actionable to-do list. The framework is based on four main categories that give it the name: Must have (M), Should have (S), Could have (C), and Won’t have (W).

Action Priority Matrix

An action priority matrix is a productivity tool that helps businesses prioritize certain tasks and objectives over others. The matrix itself is represented by four quadrants on a typical cartesian graph. These quadrants are plotted against the effort required to complete a task (x-axis) and the impact (benefit) that each task brings once completed (y-axis). This matrix helps assess what projects need to be undertaken and the potential impact for each.


Affirmations, sometimes called positive affirmations, are the statements or phrases we repeat to ourselves to enforce positive thinking. In the process, they can be used to boost self-esteem, overcome anxiety, and defeat negative thought patterns.

Agile Project Management

Agile Management
Agile Project Management (AgilePM) seeks to bring order to chaotic corporate environments using several tools, techniques, and elements of the project lifecycle. Fundamentally, agile project management aims to deliver maximum value according to specific business priorities in the time and budget allocated. AgilePM is particularly useful in situations where the drive to deliver is greater than the perceived risk.

Four Ds of Time Management

The Four Ds of Time Management is a strategy that helps an individual discern whether a task or project is worth an investment of time. The four Ds comprise Do, Defer (Delay), Delegate, and Delete (Drop).

Read Next: Business AnalysisCompetitor Analysis, Continuous InnovationAgile MethodologyLean StartupBusiness Model InnovationProject Management.

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