Use The 4 D's To Manage Your Email InBox

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty 0575737

Outlook InBoxIn order to cut down on the NOISE of so many messages in your InBox

  Use The 4 D's To Manage It

Decide what to do with each and every message. Know your company policy (4 years?) of how long to store messages for legal reasons. The technique:

  • Delete it - Generally you can delete half the email you get as not important at all after you read it. Will you need it for a project or in the next 6 months? Can you find the information elsewhere? Is it required to keep?
  • Do It (in less than two minutes) - Complete the task, respond to it, take an action, just do it
  • Delegate It - Forward it to the appropriate team member to complete the task, forward it then delete it or move it to a folder
  • Defer It - If more than two minutes is required, flag it, set up an appointment with it, set up a reminder to do it another time, put it in a Task Folder

Use the 4 D's technique every day to be very proactive and clean of clutter with your Email. If you are a pack rat like me take chunks of your email if you are fearful of deleting ANYTHING and offload to an external drive or upload to a cloud. But remember to delete periodically (4 years?? or whatever) to not save something outside your company retention period range.

Enjoy processing your messages daily using the 4 D's.

Comments (66)

mark Zubek

What a great topic, very useful tips for a very common issue. Thanks

Mar 31, 2012 12:16 AM
Gary Woltal
Keller Williams Realty - Flower Mound, TX
Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth

Thanks for all the additional comments and feedback appended to this topic, and I am very proud of many already implementing the 4 D's or planning to, or you have an effective way to manage your InBox. We all need to do something because the influx of new messages seems to just be growing by the day.

Mar 31, 2012 12:29 AM
Sandy Acevedo
951-290-8588 - Chino Hills, CA
RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale

Hi Gary, great advice and good tips. This is something that affects a lot of people, especially me. who think we have to keep things for a certain period of time and then translate that to everything we do. I keep emails way too long.

Mar 31, 2012 01:00 AM
Carla Harbert - Avon, OH
RE/MAX Omega: Lorain-Medina County Area

Good Morning Gary! Yes, easier said than done - for me anyway, lol. I tend to hang onto some emails, not knowing when I will have time to really read them & the next thing I know - boom! Over 1000 emails again, clogging up my box. I need to take a more pro-ative approach to this issue. Thanks for the reminder and tips. You are right on!

Mar 31, 2012 01:08 AM
Barbara S. Duncan
RE/MAX Advantage - Searcy, AR
GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR

I just deleted some email from the server.  Mine opens at both my computers unless it is deleted from the server.  The ones with huge pictures attached don't need to go to my older computer with the limited storage.

Mar 31, 2012 01:10 AM
Beth Paterson
Reverse Mortgages SIDAC, LLC, NMLS #1790592 - Saint Paul, MN
CRMP, NMLS #342859

Great advice and system, Gary!  I'll have to work on making some improvements to my system and do better at applying the 4 D's.  Thanks for sharing!

Mar 31, 2012 03:10 AM
Nancy Lamb
Home Smart LifeStyles - Fountain Hills, AZ
& Loving AZ Team-Fountain Hills AZ
Thanks, Gary. Your advice couldn't have come at a better time! I am Spring cleaning files and the out of control email inbox. Quick question...which cloud based system do you recommend?
Mar 31, 2012 04:16 AM
Gary Woltal
Keller Williams Realty - Flower Mound, TX
Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth

Nancy: Since I am a Mac user I would say iCloud but Dell and Microsoft have ones too. Just google them under cloud. Or brokers have storage too you can use on their drives. Shared drive space they call it.

Mar 31, 2012 04:17 AM
Connie Harvey
Pilkerton Realtors - Brentwood, TN
Realtor - Nashville TN Real Estate

Gary, love it. The 4 d's. I delete most of them but the flags are the ones that get me. Finding time to get to each of them.

Mar 31, 2012 05:46 AM
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Gary, guilty! I tend to keep emails for reading later especially newsletters, but never seem to get back to reading them. Good tips.

Mar 31, 2012 06:01 AM
Chris Lewis
Gracious Living Realty - Front Royal, VA
I want to SELL your home, not LIST it!

I try to do most of the 4 Ds, but delegating seems to be difficult! Thanks for a handy way of remembering to sort email before handling it.

Mar 31, 2012 06:55 AM
Toronto, ON

Hi Gary - Sometimes I find that it is necessary to keep messages a lot longer than four years.  Some people come back to me several years later to ask about particular transactions or issues.

Mar 31, 2012 12:14 PM
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

I like having 8,191 messages in there. You never know when you'll need them. We've been on gmail for almost two years, I've had a hard time adjusting to it and giving up Outlook.

Mar 31, 2012 12:15 PM
Eric Michael
Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI - Livonia, MI
Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519

You should look into using Gmail instead of outlook. You can use it on your phone and any other computers you want. It's not just based on the computer you're using. If that computer dies, you lose everything.

Mar 31, 2012 12:21 PM
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

Gary, I also have the rule that I respond to the email immediately instead of coming back to it which takes twice as much time.

Mar 31, 2012 04:08 PM
Jim Hale
Eugene Oregon's Best Home Search Website

Do delete, do delegate, do defer, do do.  Got it.

Apr 01, 2012 07:56 AM
Cheryl Ritchie
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Huntingtown, MD
Southern Maryland 301-980-7566
Four d's to get d job done is an easy one to remember. I like this! Delete, defer, delegate, do!
Apr 01, 2012 09:21 AM
Kevin A. Guttman-Author, ReverseMortgageSpecialist
NMLS #384936 - Colorado Springs, CO


I am going to try this and simplify my life!

Thanks for posting!


Apr 02, 2012 07:24 AM
Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807
HomeSmart - Chandler, AZ
Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor

Email is a really difficult thing to manage, especially when you get so many every day.  Perhaps using the 4 D's will help me manage the mess a little better.  Thanks for the suggestion.

Sep 02, 2013 04:11 PM
Mc Laughlin

Please help me , I have never had an email on my laptop help Mary thank you very much 👍👍👍

Aug 02, 2020 07:33 PM