4 Ds

This is just a short post about a general way to deal with mail that many time management philosophies espouse:

1.      If it isnt important, delete it.

2.      If it can be done in 2 minutes or less, do it.

3.      If it isnt for you or if you can, delegate it.

4.      If you need to do it, but it takes longer than 2 minutes (including reading), defer it.

If you need it as reference (even if you have decided to defer it), move it into a reference folder. [Note that this philosophy is particularly well described by Sally McGhee in the following article: http://www.microsoft.com/atwork/manageinfo/email.mspx]

For task management, the hard things have been:

A)    How do I defer it?

B)      What do I do with it once I defer it?

Whole time management systems are built around answering these two questions. In Outlook 12, we introduced date based flagging (alternatively known as task flagging) to help customers easily defer dealing with mail. The rest of the Outlook 12 task management system is designed to answer the second question, which is really: how do I manage all of these tasks that I have deferred?

Comments (7)

  1. Mark Lewis says:

    Isnt’ this essentially the Getting Things Done methodology as practiced by David Allen? The one aspect that I would like to see implemented in Outlook is the ability to associate items with projects and subprojects.

  2. JR Hughson says:

    It is, but I have to say I was just at one of his Roadmap seminars myself and he said that the actions list do not need to be linked back to the projects. I used to try very hard to keep them together and now I don’t. I just track actions in outlook task and projects in OneNote and it works really well.

  3. Tim says:

    I also wish Outlook would had a way to manage projects and subprojects. I’ve wanted that for years, and would think Microsoft would want it since most of them follow GTD. That’s definitely the single most important feature that I want and is requested constantly on GTD discussion groups. The closest thing we have now is the GTD plug-in and Mylifeorganized which syncs with Outlook.

  4. Anne says:

    The 4 D’s as described here comes from Sally McGhee’s book Take Back Your Life: Using Microsoft Outlook to Get Organized and Stay Organized. McGhee and Allen (founder of GTD) were business partners at one time and share intellectual property rights of the material. The distinction is that McGhee’s work is specifically focused on the use of MS Technologies whereas Allen works with whatever tool the user prefers (Notes, paper, whatever) Because McGhee is focused on Outlook, their work is more comprehensive when it comes to the use of Outlook as the preferred tool.

  5. Judy Gleeson, MVP Outlook says:

    The 4 D’s have been in over 12 books on time management and every course notes I have ever read on the topic. It’s derived from the 4 quadrants of time management from an urgency/importance matrix.

  6. Now that Beta2 is out, it seems like high time I explain how I use the new time management system in…

  7. Todd says:

    I agree that Outlook 12 should have some basic project management functionality, inncluding subtasks and successors. Not everyone wants to use or has a need to use MS Project to manage what would be considered "small" projects. Doesn’t Entourage (MS’s Outlook for Mac) have this same this functionality? It certainly doesn’t need to be full scale PM methologies like the Critical Path, but something that allows for better management of multiple related tasks.

    Secondly, who said Allen and McGhee were business partners and shared intellectual property? There is no mention of that in either of their books. In fact, both books copyright the respective books to their respective authors. There are some of the EXACT same things in both books/workshops, like the Workflow model and the 4Ds. So I guess the question here is: why isn’t one suing the other for copyright infringement?

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