Why You Need to Delegate More


Do you live by the motto, “If you want a job done well, do it yourself?” And do you feel stressed out, rushed, or anxious a lot of the time?

Perhaps you’re worried about forgetting one of the many tasks on your mental list (you’ve not had time to sit down and commit it to paper). Or maybe you have a whole bunch of things that keep getting put off — like sorting out that niggling problem with your computer, or organizing your files — and you just know that this is eventually going to result in a crisis situation.

The truth is, you don’t need to do everything yourself. Good delegation is an important part of time management: it means figuring out which tasks you can hand over to other people, and passing them on in a timely fashion, so that your colleague (or family member) can get them done before a necessary deadline.

Delegating Frees You Up for Your Great Work
Taking care of every little task, whether that’s at work or at home, can make you feel productive — even when you’re not really accomplishing anything worthwhile.

You might be very efficient at entering data or doing the laundry, but is it really an effective use of your time?

By getting into the habit of delegating tasks to other people, you give yourself time for what really matters: your great work. That could be almost anything: a new vision for your company, a personal project like writing a book, or simply having more time to spend on nurturing your kids.

Delegating Empowers Others
If you insist on taking care of everything, then you’re not only failing to live up to your own potential — you’re also stopping other people from progressing.

At work, if you’re always the person who sends the e-newsletter to clients, you’re stopping your colleagues from learning something new. Perhaps you’ve got an under-used team member who’s sitting around bored, and who’d welcome the chance to take on a new task. (Plus, what happens if you’re off sick? What if you leave the company?)

The same applies at home: if you insist on doing all the cooking and the chores, you’re stopping your spouse and kids from developing useful life skills.

Why Aren’t You Delegating Enough?
Chances are, you agree with me that delegating is a good thing … in theory. But when it comes to putting it into practice, you’re almost certainly not delegating enough.

Why not?

  • #1: You Don’t Have Time to Train Someone
    If you’re already busy and stressed-out, it often feels easier to take care of a task yourself. Let’s say that writing and sending a short e-newsletter takes you an hour; it might take you two or three hours to go through the process in detail with a colleague.

    Try planning ahead: handle today’s newsletter yourself, but block out some time in your calendar to train a colleague on the process well in advance of next month’s newsletter.

  • #2: You Don’t Trust Them to Do a Good Job
    Maybe you’re convinced that your colleagues or kids won’t be able to produce sufficiently high-quality results. Be honest with yourself: have you even given them a chance before? If you have and you’ve been disappointed in the results, you can still delegate. You’ll probably need to try one of more of these:
    • Have a trial period: let them handle the task a few times, and assess the results.
    • Schedule in time to review and check their work: you may have to make a few adjustments, but it’ll still be quicker than handling the whole task yourself.
    • Lower your standards: maybe you’re putting too much time and energy into a task that really doesn’t need to be completed to perfection.
  • #3: You Need to Get a System in Place
    You might be struggling to delegate a particular task because there’s no real system for it. Maybe you don’t follow the same process each time — you just have a rough idea in your head of how it should work.

    Write down instructions for completing the task, step by step. Even if you don’t end up delegating it straight away, you’ll still have a useful reference document for your own purposes. This is especially useful for tasks that only crop up every few weeks (so they never become ingrained habits) or for ones where you constantly find yourself making mistakes or forgetting how you did something last time.

You don’t need to delegate everything all at once. Instead, each week, look for just one task that you could hand over to someone else. That might mean something as simple as showing a colleague how to change the toner and restack the paper in the photocopier, or teaching your kids to stack the dishwasher and turn it on. A few minutes of effort today could save you hours over the course of the next few months or years.

Let us know about your experiences with delegating (good or bad!) in the comments…

Written on 4/03/2012 by Ali Luke. Ali is a writer of fiction and non-fiction and a writing coach. She blogs about writing on her site, Aliventures.com, and has a free ebook “How to Find Time For Your Writing” available when you join her writing newsletter here. Photo Credit: Menage a Moi

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