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The 4Ds of Productivity

28 July 2016

When was the last time you made a significant improvement to your time management habits? If your task list is extremely long and interspersed with items that have never really been important to you, you may be able to dramatically improve your personal productivity with a few changes.

I want to share with you today a simple framework / productivity tool that I shared in one of my business consulting training webinars with my clients recently, which may help you when it comes to organising and managing your task list.

The first thing you do is make a list of all the things that you need to do. This is a moving list, because there may be a few things that you didn’t achieve so you move them to the next day or the next week because that is how life works. But the first step is to have a list of everything that needs doing.

The Default Diary Tasks

Before you go further in prioritising that list though, you must first identify the core, non-negotiable items. What is it on your list that absolutely must be done, otherwise the consequences will be truly dire?

These items you need to add to what we call your “default diary”. That means simply going into your calendar and putting in a recurring item that happens every week for those items to happen. This is something I do personally and it works. If you do not put that time into your calendar, and you just leave it on your list, the chances are much more likely that it will slip.

And I would then hope that you are being held accountable through either calendar reminders or through your team reminding you.

The 4Ds Framework

Once you remove the non-negotiable activities, you are left with the tasks that you choose to do. And that is an important decision you make, because when you choose to do something, you are also choosing not to do something else.

There is a school of thought where people think it is best to create a list and then just crack on with that list item by item until the whole list is done.

However, I believe that after you make a list you need to be extremely selective in what you do from that list. It is not about hard work and doing everything. It is about knowing where to strike and what to focus on.

But the question is, how do you choose what to do and what not to do? That is where the 4Ds framework comes in, and which I have brought up in many business consulting training sessions before.

This framework is based around 4 ways that you can categorise any task you do:

  • You can Do the task yourself.
  • You can Delegate the task to someone else.
  • You can Defer the task to another time
  • You can Dump the task altogether.

The way you should work through this framework – and the 3 questions you should ask yourself of any task on your list – should be from the bottom up.

Question 1: Can I Dump This?

This is the first thing you should ask yourself of any item because it is too easy to fill your list with unimportant and irrelevant items that make it very difficult to see your other tasks.

Can you strike this task off your list? Is it there just because you like making long laundry lists? You might realise that this task is not actually adding value to your business and not helping you move forwards towards the goals in your business plan, so it should be removed from your headspace.

Question 2: Can I Defer This?

If you really cannot strike the task off your list, then you need to ask yourself if this task needs to be done right away or not.

Is this something that can wait until next week, next month, or next quarter? Will it actually help move company run better or move faster if it was done now?

If this is just a nice thing to have that will not make a significant difference whether you do it sooner rather than later, then you can and should defer it.

Question 3: Can I Delegate This?

Ok, so you really need to do this task today or this week, then you need to move up to the next step and ask yourself can somebody else do this?

Can you delegate this to a business partner or to a team member? Will someone else do this better than you, or will it empower someone else in your team to take on a role of greater responsibility in the business?

Learning how to delegate effectively is a really important part of team management. If you are constantly thinking that it is better for you to do things yourself because it will be faster, then that is another problem altogether which may involve a broken team model. It is nearly impossible to achieve sustainable growth without a capable team supporting you.

You then need to put aside the time in your diary for it, let it live and breathe and just get on with it.

But if you ask yourself those three questions first, you will find that your “Just Do It” list is not only a whole lot shorter but is filled with things that are actually moving your business forward.

This is a system that I personally use myself before I add anything to my to-do list. I know the value of my time and it is important that I make sure I spend that time on activities that are moving my business forward. Simultaneously, I am constantly raising my team members up with greater responsibilities and our businesses are in a state of constant growth.

Have you started using this system in your business? What is the best productivity/time management approach you have used successfully? Know of any other great ways to gain control of your task list? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

If you would like to discuss any of the points covered here, please feel free to request a free call below.

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