Struggling to tame your task list? Learn the 4 Ds.

Much of what you can do to improve your productivity comes back to filtering the tasks that you complete (or don’t compete). Getting insanely productive requires a strictly strategic method of assessing tasks and only doing the work that you should be doing.

One of the stronger filters that you can put in place is called The 4 Ds. (I didn’t invent this, yet I can’t recall the original source.)

The 4 Ds are:

  1. Delete
  2. Defer
  3. Delegate
  4. Do

The order of the 4 Ds is important. This filter always runs top-down. The goal is to filter out all but the most essential tasks. This means that you only ever do what you really have to do. Before a task “lands in your lap” there are three steps that the task must pass.


The first filter asks if the task can simply be ignored. Many tasks don’t actually need to be completed. We all waste inordinate amounts of time on stuff that simply does to need to be done.

The first filter is: Can this task be deleted?

If the task can be deleted, do so and forget about it. If not move onto the next filter.


This filter asks if the task can be put off until later. Many tasks are not as urgent as first thought. Even the tasks that you think will only take a moment have the capacity to interrupt your productive time.

The second filter is: Can this task be deferred?

If the task can be deferred, then put a reminder in your calendar to review the task when it is appropriate. If the task cannot be deferred, move onto the next filter.


This filter asks if someone else can complete the task. As a business owner you no doubt do work that can be done by someone else. This filter seeks to remove tasks from your task list that someone else can complete for you. Now, this does mean that you need a team. If you do not have anyone working for you then please consider employing a virtual assistant. You will be amazed how much more productive you will become when you get out of the way.

The third filter is: Can this task be completed by someone else?

If the task can be delegated, assign it to someone else. If you need to be made aware of the task’s progress or completion, ensure that a suitable system is in place for such communications. Otherwise, just set and forget. Some tasks you don’t even need to worry about if you know someone else is doing the work.

If the task cannot be delegated, move onto the final step.


If you’ve been very strategic through the previous 3 filters, very few ad hoc tasks should get to this point.

Any tasks that get to this point, need action, and sometimes they need urgent action. It is important to remain strategic even now. Very few tasks are so important that they must absolutely, positively be done right now.

Now that you have determined that you have to complete the task, and that’s it’s urgent enough that it needs completion today, there’s nothing left but to do it. That said, be sensible about this. Don’t throw your entire day into jeopardy. Ask yourself one more question: is this task really so important and urgent that it cannot wait?

Take a look at your current task list. Run those tasks through The 4Ds.

2017-05-15T08:34:25+00:00 By |Categories: Other|