The 4 Ds
I used to be one of those people who loved a list. I got a kick out of buying a new notebook and devising clever new systems for my to-do lists – different coloured pens for different types of tasks, new ways to prioritise jobs with marks in the margins, creative ways of ticking off completed tasks…
…that is until I realised that all of this activity was partly just a distraction from actually doing some of the things on the list that I didn’t want to do…
I know from my clients that it’s not just me. People laugh when I describe those unpopular tasks which we keep moving from one “to-do” list to the next. Writing a new list might give you a sense of satisfaction, but sometimes it pays to consider whether in the time it took to put together, you could have done a big chunk of the stuff on the list instead!
I learnt this neat model from the great team at Notion when I asked them to help me to launch a training programme for coaches. As a result, I ditched my to-do list. Actually, if I’m honest, painfully weaning myself off them would actually be a better way to describe it. I realised a to-do list gave me a sense of being organised, but without being a very efficient way of actually making sure I prioritised my time on the right things. I’m far from perfect, but I have found the 4Ds is a great way to take a moment to think about your thinking – instead of just ploughing through your to-do list regardless.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by how much you have to do, try this right now. Look at your to-do list. Take the first item and do one of the 4 Ds with it. This means either:
1. DO it now. Yep. Right Now. You will then have only thought about it once and only touched the piece of paper or opened up the email one time. This can save you hours. Otherwise you have to remember to remember it, which takes up valuable thinking time you can invest elsewhere.
2. DIARISE it. Don’t put the action on a to-do list. Put an appointment in your diary to do it. This helps you to schedule time really well – you can plan your important thinking tasks for when you know you have time to do them, or perhaps for a time of day when you have noticed those types of tasks take you less time to do. Diarising tasks means that you are also appreciating you can’t do something else at the same time . . .multi-tasking is a myth. Our small human brains simply can’t manage two conscious activities at once.
3. DELEGATE it. Do it straight away. Give the task to someone whose strengths it plays to most closely and who will do it without you having to chase them. Be clear on what you want the person to do. Get into the habit of asking once and ensuring there are clear consequences when you have to ask twice. (By ‘consequences’, I don’t mean being fired. A challenging conversation using some ‘Top Right Questions’ will mean you keep the people you took the time to recruit and simply get them to be more effective at executing the plan.)
4. DITCH it. Yes, you read that one right. Be realistic. If something is not important enough to you, and you will probably put it off until it is too late, then ditch it now, before you have invested any more energy on it. If you aren’t going to remember to send back the feedback request and don’t really have much to say then just delete or bin the request now – maybe sending a brief explanation if you feel you need to. Even if you do send a quick note of apology it will mean you spend far less time on it than you will if you half-carry it around in your head or keep writing it down on a new to-do list when you know in your heart of hearts you aren’t going to do it.
That’s it. Simple, effective. Based on sound research and proven by many of my clients to work. What’s not to like?
To download our 4Ds activity to try it yourself, please click here:
It’s Not Bloody Rocket Science…