Insurance Marketing HQ

Follow the Four Ds to Maximize Email Productivity

Posted on May 20, 2010

Recently, my co-worker at Astonish Results, code-named “The Zenmaster” for his unflappability in leading the SEM department, shared a valuable acronym that returned some interesting results from Google’s image search.

The meaning relates to a critical component of office life in any industry…email.

DDDD stands for Delegate, Delete, Delay or Do. Whether plowing through a flooded inbox or one-offing as they come in, the four Ds force an immediate action, even if that action is not taking action until later.

Efficient inbox management skills are increasingly important in the insurance industry, as many agencies are just starting to dabble in email and online marketing. Very few people prefer slow service, so a quick reply “Do” can often mean the difference between a hot or cold lead.

Aside from the importance of an immediate “Do,” the four Ds are relevant because of the never-ending battle of being busy versus productive, a paradox discussed in depth by dozens of blogs and time management self-help sites. Furthermore, I love DDDD because it enhances the decisiveness in other areas of life and business.

Pontificators are already predicting the demise of email since Twitter, Skype, G-chat and Facebook IM are more efficient means of communication, but email is not going the way of the carrier pigeon quite yet.


  1. Nick’s right the 4 Ds not only work for email but for EVERY part of your life. And with everyone walking around with technology in pocketbooks, ears, cars, and pockets…. one is inundated with an inflow of new information. Apply the 4 Ds – Do it! Delegate it! Delay it! or Delete it!…. I assure you it will change your life.

  2. I completely agree! I used to have 200 emails in my inbox that had some action or another required. I’m consistantly around 30 now (depending on how often I’m able to get to email). DDDD baby!

  3. Hi Nick! This sounds great in theory, but I do feel like many people already practice this without even knowing it. If you choose to Delay It! more often than the other options, your productivity is not increasing. You can also choose to Do It! but do it in a half-youknowwhat way, and that isn’t winning you any prizes either. Maybe if you go through your inbox with an some idea of what percentage of emails to take each action on, and commit to Doing It! with your best effort you’ll achieve better results. What do you think?

  4. Thanks for the comment Shana. People do practice this unknowingly, but applying the Four D’s principle in a strategic way is where some fall short. If you’re choosing to delay an important email-based task simply because it’s tedious, then it will have the opposite effect and cut into productivity. But, if you’re at work and an email comes in about a sale at Dress Barn, that’s probably worth delaying.

    As far as the “Do It”, we all deal with 911s on occasion, the last-second requests for something critical requiring immediate attention. Also, as a manager, the “Delegate” option can be a huge time-saver. Choosing to pass tasks on to someone else right away is a much better option than letting it sit in the inbox, waiting for attention, and then ultimately sending it later on or rushing to get it done.

    Reading materials is another big one since I subscribe to many newsletters and RSS feeds. When reading material comes in that looks interesting but doesn’t trump the other work that needs to be done, the Four D’s can help assign a level of importance in the grand scheme. Sometimes it never gets read.

    Bottom line is, some days you’ll get a lot junk, others a lot of gold, so by going through the inbox and assigning a D to each individual email, I feel it can enhance productivity for what’s most important.

  5. All great points, Nick! Any tools out there that you can suggest to help implement the Four D’s in a more strategic manner? I love using filters and labels in gmail (or similar in other email clients).

    For example, all of my newsletter subscriptions automatically skip the inbox and are placed in a folder that I can check at lunch or during-haha-down time.

    I’m also a fan of “conversations” in gmail, which groups emails together in one stream rather than having lots of separate emails on the same topic. Even so, my email box can get cluttered and overwhelming. I try to apply labels for follow up and priority to each as well, just to keep everything somewhat organized.

    By the way, can you tell Google brainwashed me? After attending the Google Grants conference last year in Mountain View, I came back and the whole organization soon switched from Outlook to gmail. Free for Nonprofits, but well worth whatever amount they charge other companies, and they didn’t pay me to say that!

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