With my patients’ consent, I sometimes video my consultations for appraisal by fellow doctors.
After showing one such clip, I asked my colleagues, ‘What was the first thing you noticed?’ To my astonishment, they all agreed on the same thing – how tidy my desk was. Later, I dug out a video from my earliest days as a GP and was interested to see my desk overflowing with papers. What had changed? I puzzled over this, then remembered a seminar on time management I had attended some years previously. There I had heard about the ‘5 Ds’; a tool for managing stress at work. I must have absorbed the concept.
These ‘5 Ds’ represent the five possible responses to any piece of work, mail or personal or office problem. Do, dump and delegate are decisive, whereas defer and discuss require definite deadlines leading to completing actions. The categories may seem artificial initially, especially if you even hoard junk mail ‘just in case’. However, once you get used to selecting your course of action, you will find it is liberating and less stressful to make decisions and stick to them.
‘Do’ means what it says – sort it out, there and then – no prevarication, no time-wasting; a simple, complete process, whether it is sorting out a piece of paperwork, or launching yourself into a bungee jump. Job done.
‘Defer’ gives some breathing space while you await further information, or think about your best option. It is not an excuse to run away from your problem, or put it off indefinitely. After only a day or two, you must then ‘do, dump or delegate’ – that is, work out what the paperwork actually means to you, or listen to what your head thinks about jumping off a bridge attached to big rubber bands.
‘Dump’ simply means bin the paper, the action or whatever. Face the fact that you never want to bungee jump, not ever, and go and find something more interesting to do. This decision is final!
‘Delegate’ is a subject on which many books have been written. Can someone do the paperwork better than you, or is a teamwork approach possible? Can you ask your best mate to jump off the bridge instead? For this action to be complete, you must ensure that someone actually jumps.
‘Discuss’ means just that: not moaning because you are uncertain what to do, but seeking advice and sounding out ideas. The object is to clarify in your own mind what is expected of you before committing yourself to acting. If you have jumped off the bridge already it is too late to discuss it.
The ‘5 Ds’ reduce stress because they give you control over what you do, whatever your level in the workplace hierarchy. Used correctly, you should then be able to add a sixth – ‘de-stress’
These can be applied to work, home and anything else you choose. Each in itself is a form of action – even deferring or discussing will lead to doing, delegating or dumping.Image courtesy of TooFarNorth