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The 4 Ds of Time Management

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What are the 4 Ds of time management?

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Definition of the 4 Ds of time management

The 4 Ds of time management are four strategies designed to help project managers make quick decisions on which tasks to act on now, later, or never.

Product managers are constantly bombarded with dozens of tasks. Since time is limited, efficiency depends on their ability to prioritize.

The 4 Ds — delete, delegate, defer and do — make it easier for product managers to discern what tasks truly matter.

Put simply, the 4 Ds of time management can streamline the decision-making process and increase productivity by allocating resources strategically. 

How do product managers use the 4 Ds of time management technique?

Productivity starts with a well-organized schedule. The 4 Ds of time management strategy helps product managers schedule, postpone, or discard tasks by placing them in four categories: delete, delegate, defer, and do. 

“Delete” encourages product managers to learn to say “no” and carefully filter their to-do list. Product managers should delete clutter work — such as junk mails and non-vital meetings — to make room for core matters.

“Delegate” should include tasks that don’t require the specific know-how of a product manager. Reassigning work is one of the most efficient strategies of time management, as long as the new person-in-charge has the required skills to fulfill the requirement. 

“Defer” can be used by product managers to postpone tasks that are not-time sensitive. Whether it’s a new request or a project with an extended deadline, work that can be postponed in favor of immediate priorities should be. 

“Do” is as straightforward as it gets. Product managers need to start working on these tasks immediately and focus their attention on one at a time until they get them done.

What’s the difference between The Four D’s and The Rule of Four in time management?

The Four D’s of Time Management is sometimes confused with The Rule of Four in time management, however, the two are vastly different concepts.

While both can be used to help create a schedule that maximizes productivity, the rule of four is a much simpler time management concept compared to the Four D’s.

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What is the rule of 4 in time management?

The Rule of Four is a human-centric way of organizing your schedule, taking into account how your brain actually works.

The Rule of Four essentially dictates that the human brain cannot handle more than four hours of intense mental focus.It tells us that we should be scheduling our days around those three or four hours of complete mental focus, ideally coinciding with the hours we are most energetic. 

By using the rule of four for time management, you can improve both productivity and personal mental health levels.

You can do more with the time you have and can stop beating yourself up about a lack of productivity late in the day. 

On the other hand, The Four D’s of Time Management allow you to schedule your workday around the tasks that hold the most importance.

Example of time management for product teams: the good and bad

Bad example of time management: Regularly missed targets (or no targets at all!)

Missed deadlines are a glaringly obvious sign that your team isn’t managing their time correctly. Even those working with Agile methodologies need to abide by targets, even when that target is a vague timeframe to complete work within. 

Good example of time management: Working as a team to go above and beyond

Now imagine the exact opposite situation to the one above. Your team works well, they produce great work every time, and projects are completed on time. That’s a great sign that your time management practices are working well — and a perfect example of time management skills in action. 

Bad example of time management: Decreased productivity

If your teams are increasingly performing less work during sprints, it might be time to reassess your time management practices. It may be that your teams are spending far too much time on unimportant tasks that offer little value to the product or business.

Good example of time management: More tasks are accomplished in the same timeframes

Teams that can achieve more tasks during the same timeframe are clearly doing something right. If your team is taking on more work without a dip in quality, you know you have some great time management practices. 

Bad example of time management: Lower quality work

Your team may be getting everything done on time, but is it up to scratch? Teams can feel pressured to focus on timeframes and quantities rather than the quality of work.

abstract/prioritize emoji

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the 4 ds

General FAQ

What are the 4 Ds of time management?
The 4 Ds of time management are four categories — delete, delegate, defer and do — that help product managers prioritize tasks and increase productivity.
Who created the 4 Ds of time management?
The 4 Ds of time management process was initially outlined in the book *The Power of Focus* written by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewitt. They propose this approach to separate fake-urgent tasks from highly-important ones and regain time control.
How can the 4 Ds of time management help product teams?
With an ever-growing list of tasks, product teams need to cut through the clutter and prioritize. The 4 Ds of time management helps them do exactly that. By categorizing tasks into four main categories, product teams will increase productivity and ease their time management struggles.

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