Thursday, October 4, 2012

Four Ds for Decision-Making

I recently read an article from Microsoft that dealt with better managing ones email/inbox. When I read the fourth tip, I felt it was applicable to much more than just email but to almost any query/request that crosses ones desk. So here goes. The "Four Ds for Decision-Making" model (4 Ds) is a valuable tool for processing email, helping you to quickly decide what action to take with each item and how to remove it from your Inbox.  This inbox can be part of your email system or that tray sitting on top of your desk (you remember them, don’t you?)  Anyway, as you read on, think of the inbox in the broader context.

Decide what to do with each and every message

How many times have you opened, reviewed, and closed the same email message or conversation? Those messages are getting lots of attention but very little action. It is better to handle each email message only once before taking action—which means you have to decide what to do with it and where to put it. With the 4 Ds model, you have four choices:
1.                Delete it
2.                Do it
3.                Delegate it
4.                Defer it

Delete it

Generally, you can delete about half of all the email you get. But some of you shudder when you hear the phrase "delete email." You're hesitant to delete messages for fear that you might need them at some point. That's understandable, but ask yourself honestly: What percentage of information that you keep do you actually use?
If you do use a large percentage of what you keep, your method is working. But many of us keep a lot more than we use. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you decide what to delete:
·                          Does the message relate to a meaningful objective you're currently working on? If not, you    can probably delete it. Why keep information that doesn't relate to your main focus?
·                          Does the message contain information you can find elsewhere? If so, delete it.
·                          Does the message contain information that you will refer to within the next six months? If not, delete it.
·                          Does the message contain information that you're required to keep? If not, delete it.

Do it (in less than two minutes)

If you can't delete the email messages, ask yourself, "What specific action do I need to take?" and "Can I do it in less than two minutes?" If you can, just do it. 
There is no point in filing an email or closing an email if you can complete the associated task in less than two minutes. Try it out—see how much mail you can process in less than two minutes. I think you will be extremely surprised and happy with the results. You could file the message, you could respond to the message, or you could make a phone call. You can probably handle about one-third of your email messages in less than two minutes.

Delegate it

If you can't delete it or do it in two minutes or less, can you forward the email to an appropriate team member who can take care of the task?
If you can delegate it (forward it to another team member to handle), do so right away. You should be able to compose and send the delegating message in about two minutes. After you have forwarded the message, delete the original message or move it into your email reference system.

Defer it

If you cannot delete it, do it in less than two minutes, or delegate it, the action required is something that only you can accomplish and that will take more than two minutes. Because this is your dedicated email processing time, you need to defer it and deal with it after you are done processing your email. You’ll probably find that about 20 percent of your email messages have to be deferred.
There are two things you can do to defer a message: Turn it into an actionable task, or turn it into an appointment. You can defer emails that require action by putting them in to a Task or To-Xdo list, or putting then into a calendar for future reference and/or action.

Use the 4 Ds model every day

Using the 4 Ds model on a daily basis makes it easier to handle a large quantity of email. Our experience shows that, on average, people can process about 100 email messages an hour. If you receive 40 to 100 messages per day, all you need is one hour of uninterrupted email processing time to get through your Inbox. Our statistics show that of the email you receive:
·                          Fifty percent can be deleted or filed.
·                          Thirty percent can be delegated or completed in less than two minutes.
·                          Twenty percent can be deferred to your Task List or Calendar to complete later.
Of course, if you have a backlog of hundreds of messages, it will take time to get to the point where your daily routine keeps you up to date. It's important to get that backlog down, so I would suggest setting blocks of time aside to work through it. Then, you can really enjoy processing your messages every day using the 4 Ds.

Based on the article from Microsoft at Work:  Empty your Inbox: 4 ways to take control of your email”
By Sally McGhee   9/26/12