The 4D Reset Framework


What can we do when we are overloaded and becoming overwhelmed? Simon examines and applies the 4D reset framework that he uses when coaching leaders and teams that have stalled due to workload. Simon outlines and describes the 4D categories of Dump, Delay, Delegate and Do. He then provides practical guidance and encouragement about how leaders can use this tool as a structured reset and refresh point.


A really simple framework that I love to use when I’m feeling a little bit frazzled, overloaded, or overwhelmed, when I’m working as a coach with school and system leaders who are on the wrong side of a lot of good work, sometimes, we need an approach to pause, to stop, and to reset, to create a little bit more bandwidth and to start to get moving again and we feel like that we can actually make some serious progress. Well, I often use a simple 4D reset process. The four D’s are really simple. Number one, what do we need to dump? Number two, what do we need to delay? Number three, where might there be opportunities to delegate? The fourth D, what are we going to do?

When you do this framework, what it’s going to do is give you a moment to pause and just open up the possibility that perhaps just grinding through, extending your hours, expecting more from yourself is not the best pathway to make progress through what you’re facing right now. Put a 10-minute timer on your phone or a stopwatch and give yourself at least a moment to pause and consider maybe there might be a way to attack this with a different approach. Start working through the buckets. Open up your calendar. What might there be here that we could dump?

I’m not saying that there’s no benefit at all in these things, but are there meetings that you’re on a reoccurring attendance at, where you think, “Actually, I could pull out of that and ask for the minutes or ask for the action items?” Are there things where you’re over functioning for other people and perhaps you just need to pull out of that and let them own it? Where are some things that you could dump to create new margin for yourself at this stage? The delay is to say, “Look, there’s some good things here, but maybe it’s the wrong season.” Humans are terrific at doing things in sequence, but we struggle when we overload the number of things we’re doing in parallel.

Whether it’s on your own work plate, your team’s work plate, or across your organisation, it’s okay at certain pinch points to say, “The right move here is to delay, strategic delay, thoughtful delay, and consider when it might be a better opportunity to move forward in that work.” Have a look at the things that are on your own plate personally across the team and consider where might be a more fruitful time to pick up this work again and confidently consider what it would look like to delay. When you consider this, I always like to reflect on how does it make you feel. Often, I feel and leaders I’m working with say something like, “Oh, I wish I could do that.”
We have to sit there for a moment and ask, “Well, why is it that we’re not giving ourselves that?” Indeed, it may well be the wisest move. We’ve got to delay some things, again, creating some new bandwidth. Three, where do we need to delegate? Now, obviously, none of us just want to take the pressure on us and push it down and put additional pressure on those in our teams, but where might this pressure you’re feeling be actually used as an opportunity, as a trigger point to say, “Yeah, let this person, this group, take a little bit more. I think they’re up for it. It would be good for their own development. There’s an opportunity here?”

Start to consider which of the certain tasks might someone be able to plan and run a certain professional learning session that you were going to run. Might someone be able to facilitate certain team meetings, some of the compliance and system requirements that you’re dancing through and navigating? Whilst, of course, you want to take those on or you don’t want to push them to other people, might that actually be for that person a real opportunity to more experience and understand some of the things that you’ve often protected them from, that actually now is a great opportunity for them to take some of that load, not just because it will free things up for you, because it’s crucial for their own development to understand some of those elements?

Where could you delegate? And then of course, what will you then commit to doing? What are the essential things that you need to do over the coming two to four weeks? What are the things that only you can do, or that are really uniquely yours to push forward? As you bring these into focus, often you can start to highlight, where am I adding most value? What are the things that can’t be dumped, delegated, or delayed because they’re actually essential work at this time that we need to progress ourselves? This 4D framework is deceptively simple. In 10 minutes, as an individual, you can often open up new bandwidth and margin and find yourself in motion again.

You can do this on your own, but I also like doing this as a team, starting to think collectively. When the load is too much, rather than just looking at each other and thinking, “Let’s just push through,” asking these as open questions can actually help everyone across your team think about potentially collectively dumping, delaying, delegating, and then of course, getting unbelievably clear and resolute about the essential things that you will do. All of us on a regular cadence are going to feel that sense of overwhelm. We are going to be on the wrong side of a lot of good work.

Whilst our natural instinct is often to hold it all and to seek to grind it out, often, there’s a better path, a more effective path, both for impact and for your own sustainability. So, why don’t you have a go of the 4D reset framework? A simple tool that busy leaders can use to get new momentum and clarity and focus. Hey, let me know how it goes for you and whether you gained some new insights and unlocked new progress by creating a little bit more margin in your work and your flow this month.

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