Time Management: Utilizing a Processing Method like the 4 D’s (Tip #5)

In my last post on this subject, I suggested that you batch process eMail at specific times of the day instead of leaving your eMail up all day.

The key to this process is utilizing an effective “scanning and processing” method. Allow me to introduce you to a Microsoft concept called the 4 D’s.

How many times have you opened, reviewed, and closed the same e-mail message over and over? Some of those messages are getting lots of attention but very little action. It is better to handle each eMail message only once before taking action — which means you have to make a decision as to what to do with it and where to put it.

Under the 4 D’s model, you have four choices: 1. Dump it 2. Do it 3. Delegate it 4. Defer it

Dump it

Generally you can dump about half of all the eMail you receive. Dumping could mean physically deleting eMail, or it could mean just leaving it where it is (marked as read) and not going back to it.

Do it (in less than two minutes)

If you can’t DUMP it, then decide, “What specific action do I need to take?” and “Can I DO IT in less than two minutes?” If you can, just DO IT. There is no point in filing an eMail or closing an eMail if you can complete it in less than 2 minutes.

Try it out — see how much mail you can process in less than 2 minutes. You will be extremely surprised and happy with the results. You could file the message, you could respond to the message, or you could make a phone call. You can probably handle about one third of your eMail messages in less than two minutes.

Delegate it

If you can’t DELETE IT or DO IT in two minutes or less, can you DELEGATE IT? If you can delegate it, do it right away. You should be able to compose and send the delegating message in about two minutes.

Defer it

If you cannot DUMP IT, DO IT in less than two minutes, or DELEGATE IT – the action required is truly something that only you can accomplish and it will take more than two minutes, then you need to DEFER IT and deal with it later, because this is your dedicated eMail processing time.

Depending on how it stacks up against all the other items on your to-do list, you’ll probably find that about 10 percent of your eMail messages have to be deferred.

There are two things you can do to defer a message:

1) turn it into an actionable task (on a To-Do List or Task List in Outlook) that will need to be scheduled, OR

2) for more immediate items (within the week), turn it into an appointment in your Calendar.

When you’re using Outlook, you can DEFER eMails with actions by turning the eMail into a task on your Task List (simply right-click on the eMail message and drag it into your Outlook Task List, where you can move or copy it to).

Name the task to clearly state what action is required so that you don’t have to reopen the eMail message, and assign a due date. If you are disciplined with the above approach (the 5th D) – you will find the result to be a clearly defined list of actions in your task list that you can prioritize and schedule to complete within your Calendar, plus a Calendar that includes some potentially urgent items but also planned items from earlier in the week.

We’ve trained hundreds of people on this method and managers who receive hundreds of eMails a day find this method very effective – give it a try!

Joanne Spalton, Senior Consultant