Time Management

Use The D System To Get Organized And Reduce Clutter

By Gordon Bellows

There is a simple system, known as the D system, that can help you to be better organized and may also help to reduce clutter. This system can be used at home or at the office with regular mail, e-mail, and inboxes. It can also be used with voice mail messages. This effective system uses 6 D’s:

Do – Delegate – Decide – Delete – Dump – Document files

The goal with this system is to use one of the 6 D’s with every letter, memo, report, e-mail, newspaper, and magazine that enters your home or office. Select the D that is most applicable for each item before moving to the next item.


Do: If something only takes a few minutes to do, do it now. If you need to review and sign a memo, do it and return the item to the originator or send it to the next person on the routing list. If you need to reply to a voice mail message or an e-mail, do it now. By doing it while it’s fresh on your mind, it’ll be taken care of, plus you’ll save time by not having to shuffle papers or listen to the voice mail message again.

Delegate: If an item requires action, decide if it is best for you to take the action or if the task can be delegated. Entrust the task to the person most suitable for the responsibility. Make a call, use an interoffice routing envelope, send an e-mail, or whatever method is appropriate to inform the person to whom the task has been delegated.


Decide: If you are not able to read it or complete the task right away, decide which action file that item belongs in. Suggested files/bins include, “to be read,” “to be copied,” “to be faxed,” and so forth. It is essential to do whatever needs to be done with these items within a few days.

Magazines and newspapers should be read and then recycled before accumulating too many issues of the same publication. If there are articles or recipes you want to save, save only that part and not the entire publication. Create files to keep your clippings
organized. Also, review clippings once or twice each year to dump any that you no longer want.


Delete: If you keep getting items you don’t really want, do something to keep them from coming to you again. Don’t renew magazines you don’t read, opt-out of ezines or newsletters that you’re not interested in, and remove yourself from the routing list for things that don’t apply to you. If you get items you know you don’t want and you’re not able to remove yourself from the mailing list or subscriber list, then just toss it out as soon as you know what it is. Recycle as much as possible.


Dump: Throw it out; there is no need to save everything! We often put papers and memos aside and then forget about them. We might occasionally look through the stack and we usually end up putting the stack off to the side again. We still have the stack of papers and we just waste time each time we reshuffle the stack. If one of the other D’s doesn’t apply to an item, dump it!

Please recycle all paper, cardboard, and whatever else can be recycled instead of just dumping it. Some items may need to be shredded for personal or security reasons. Shredded papers make great garden mulch, but don’t remove any paper, shredded or not, from company premises without permission.

Document File

Document file: If there is no further action to be taken and the item can’t be thrown out, then the item should be placed in a document file. Documents that need to be kept include, but are not limited to; proof of ownership, signed contracts/agreements, financial and tax records, employee files, legal documents, and insurance policies. Some documents may be thrown out after five or seven years, while others may need to be kept indefinitely. It is best to get the specific time requirements from a qualified attorney or tax advisor. Documents to be saved can be placed in a “to be filed” file or basket, which is emptied once per week when each document is filed in its proper location.

A startling statistic is that 80 percent of the papers we file are never referenced again!

So, once you pick up an item, you should select the best D and take the necessary action before you pick up another item. This system can help you be better organized and help reduce clutter. You will no longer have to look at the same thing over and over when you take care of it right the first time.

Copyright © 2002, Gordon Bellows. All Rights Reserved.
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Gordon Bellows is an economic trend analyst and part-time writer.
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