4 Ds of Time Management

The 4 Ds of Time Management, also called the 4 D’s of Productivity, is a common strategy for evaluating which tasks take priority. By categorizing tasks, you can easily decide which ones to do now, later, or never.

As a product manager, you probably have your hands in a long of projects, but time and resources are limited. To stay on top of them, plenty of different strategies exist to help managers prioritize tasks, decide which ones to delegate, and even which ones are unnecessary. The 4Ds are one such set of strategies.

This article will discuss the 4 Ds and how to apply them to your workflow.

What are the 4 Ds?

The 4 Ds—Delete, Delegate, Defer, and Do—help product managers categorize tasks into different priorities. This way, managers can streamline decision-making and increase productivity by acting strategically and efficiently.

The 4 Ds were first introduced in The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewitt. By using the 4 Ds of time management, you can better discern whether a task is worth completing, delaying, passing off, or ignoring. 

As an organizational strategy, the 4D’s speed up your decision-making process when it comes to prioritizing tasks and managing a large workload. Here’s a breakdown of each of the 4 categories.


“Do” tasks are straightforward—they’re urgent and need executing immediately. A product manager should focus their attention on any tasks that need “Doing” and work on them one at a time. These tasks are generally ones that require prompt responses, and/or can only be addressed by you as a project manager. Addressing it immediately prevents issues further down the line.


If a task is not time-sensitive, then it can be deferred or delayed to a later time, after all, the “Do” jobs have been accomplished. A deferred task is not a critical priority, so it may be moved down a to-do list. Make sure to set yourself a reminder to revisit the task later. This will remove the pressure to complete this task right away, while still keeping it on your plate.


When tasks don’t require your specific know-how, or when you have other team members with the relevant skills, you can choose to delegate the job to someone else. Reassigning a task frees you up for other priorities and ensures the task will be still completed on time.


These are unimportant, unnecessary, and otherwise extraneous tasks that require no action. Delete tasks can be anything from unnecessary meetings to cold emails from outside companies that pop up in your inbox. By deleting or dropping irrelevant tasks, you make your to-do list more manageable and concentrate on other more important matters.

Why is the 4 Ds Strategy Important?

Applying the 4 Ds to your workflow allows you to streamline tasks, so you work more efficiently. Plus, it helps keep all projects and people moving in the right direction by prioritizing and reassigning as necessary. By using the 4 Ds, your time management will become more efficient and streamlined.

The 4 Ds also cultivate prompt critical thinking in order to decide whether to act on something by yourself now or later, or not at all. This is a vital skill as a product manager who can often be working on several projects at once with various departments.

Applying the 4 Ds to Workflow

With a number of responsibilities and limited time, the 4 Ds will help you prioritize tasks accordingly. Take, for example, a to-do list such as this one:

  • Respond to non-critical email from CEO
  • Attend annual team meeting
  • Edit instruction book for a product launch
  • Answer email from a sales rep

By applying the 4 Ds quickly, you can reorganize your to-do list as such:

  • DO: Attend the annual team meeting. This requires your presence for any necessary decisions and updates regarding team progress.
  • DELAY: Responding to a non-critical email. Since the email is non-critical, you can defer your response until the meeting is over—just make sure not to leave it too long.
  • DELEGATE: Edit copy for a product launch. Choose someone suitable from the team who has demonstrated capable editing skills. You can always review the edited copy once your immediate priorities have been taken care of.
  • DELETE: Email from a sales rep. If it’s a communication from an irrelevant source, it does not require a response and can be removed from your inbox.

As you can see, this leaves you with a much more manageable list of tasks to handle. It may even free you up to take on backed-up obligations or prepare for upcoming work—allowing you more efficient use of your time.

4 Ds: A System for Improving Your Next Steps

It’s can be challenging to maximize productivity if you have a never-ending list of responsibilities. As a manager, a lot of tasks can fall onto your plate. To keep up with it all, try embracing the 4 Ds system. That way, you can improve your time management and prioritize better—making you more productive in the long run.