In one of our training courses, we offer instruction on using the Four Ds email management system with Outlook. With this system, you take one of the following actions on every email in your inbox:
- If it isn’t important, delete it right away.
- If it isn’t an item you need to handle yourself, delegate it.
- If it’s a task you can complete in two minutes or less, do it (send a reply, file the message, make a phone call, etc.).
- If you need to handle it, but reading the message and completing the task will take you longer than two minutes, defer it.
(There’s also a fifth option, but it doesn’t involve the letter D: If you need an item as reference — even if you have decided to defer it — move it into a reference folder.)
In our training, we show our clients’ employees how to apply the Four Ds using specific Outlook tools and features such as Conversation View, Quick Steps, rules, tags, categories and more.
Simply reading about a system will not cause a transformation. It takes training, practice and commitment.
The goal of this system is to reduce the number of times you touch each email message, and, of course, to help you keep your inbox tidy. But simply reading about a system will not cause a transformation. It takes training, practice and commitment.
The system has been around for about a decade, but it’s as useful today as it was when productivity expert Sally McGhee published it in her book Take Back Your Life: Using Microsoft Outlook to get Organized and Stay Organized — and maybe even more so, considering the current volume of email in the average corporate employee’s inbox.