Tame your Inbox with the 4 D’s

Do it, Delete it, Defer it, Delegate it

For every message in your Inbox:

  • If it isn’t important, delete it immediately.
  • If it can be done in two minutes or less, do it (reply, file, call, etc.).
  • If it isn’t for you or if you can, delegate (forward) it.
  • If you need to do it, but it takes longer than two minutes (including reading), defer (hold off on) it.

Delete it

Delete messages that you don’t need to read. If it is junk, delete it.

Do it: The 2-minute drill

It is amazing what can be done in two minutes. But if a message takes longer than two minutes to deal with, defer it. To get a sense of what two minutes feels like, try timing yourself.
Once you have dealt with the message, do one of the following:

  • Delete it if it is something of little consequence.
  • File it in one of your reference folders (for example, 1-Reference).

Delegate it

Sometimes you receive a message that is really meant for someone else to deal with. In these cases, reply and include the person to whom you are delegating the message on the To line. If you want to follow up later, flag it for yourself before sending. In your To-Do Bar, mark the task with the “@Waiting” category.

Defer it

Deferring a message means that you will come back to it later, when you have time.
Reasons to defer a message:

  • It cannot be dealt with in less than two minutes.
  • It will take a while to read.
  • It will require a carefully crafted response.
  • It requires additional action in another program (for example, “Need to add to <name> document”).