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Find more time: Learn to delegate

About a year ago I decided to step out of perfectionism and start actively looking for ways each and every week to delegate both at home and at work. It all sounds so obvious but to do more of what you want you need to accept that you don’t need to do everything yourself. Creating time in this way allows me to better fulfil my work and home vision and also frees me up to stretch myself in new and interesting ways.

Not a month goes by when I have a conversation with a woman that generally goes;

Her: “God I’m so busy, so much on

Me: “I’m sorry to her hear that. Is there anything you can delegate/share/ignore….?”

Her (look of absolute horror): “I’m not sure there is anything I can delegate” OR “I really can’t trust him/her/them to do it as well as me, so I’d rather get it done right the first time”.

Let’s look in a bit more detail about the two of the main ‘excuses’ people have given me about why they can’t delegate.

There is nothing I do that can be delegated. Well this can only be true if you are a dice inspector or a perfume Nose or some other hyper specialised job. For most of us if we left our jobs tomorrow we would be relatively easily replaced. Similarly, at home we feel we are indispensable but the reality lots of what we do could so easily be outsourced (ouch I know!), but obviously at a price of both money and our values.

If you fall into the ‘have nothing to delegate camp’ then can I suggest you follow my BSOM method to find tasks to delegate;

*Buckets: Do a brain dump of the tasks you do on an average week at work and at home. Once you have the tasks start putting them into Buckets of activities. Don’t think about the details of the tasks in the Bucket but rather the overall Bucket, for example; cleaning, cooking, meeting organisation, repetitive tasks, etc…

*Skills: Once you have your Buckets you now need to start thinking about the skills a person might need to do those things. Focus on the skills required and don’t get caught up in trying to envisage anyone you know actually doing the tasks at this stage.

*Outsourcing: Once you have a list of skills under each Bucket challenge yourself to think of people in your life who have the skills OR have the potential to develop those skills in relatively short period of time. The second part is really important, don’t discount the potential in your team. By team I mean both at work and at home, and by home I don’t just mean your partner but also your children.

*Match: The final step is to then challenge yourself to outsource at least one task in each Bucket to someone you have identified as having the skills/potential skills required to possibly complete the task. I suggest starting with something small and routine like hovering or emptying the dishwasher at home. At work it could be outsourcing organising the weekly team meeting to a colleague. Start small and grow from there.

I’m a perfectionist, or some more detailed excuse that is the same thingThere is nothing more damaging than knowing you should delegate but thinking you are the only person who can do a task because otherwise it won’t be done 100%. Given that someone else can pretty much do anything that you do it is important to tackle this self-limiting belief head on.

If you have identified some tasks to delegate using the BSOM method above and you are still unable to delegate then it’s time to do some Reverse Thinking. Ask yourself two key question;

  • If you had two, four or even six more hours unallocated per week what would you do with them?

  • Are any of those activities more important than any of the tasks you are currently doing?

By thinking about what you would do with more time, rather than focusing on things being perfect, you are allowing your brain to recognise that there are lots of things you would like to do with more time and that now is the time to delegate. Imagine if you delegate one hour per week of tasks to four people, you would have half a working day back each week to focus on things that inspire and interest you, that help you grow personally and professionally.

As part of this process of removing your perfectionist demon you also need to start getting comfortable with the “80% rule”. This is a rule I love and live by. If I think that someone else can do a task 80% as well as me then I try to delegate it. The reality is that they can probably do it as well as me already, but I’ve never given them the chance. If they truly can only do it 80% (or more) as well as me right now then I still delegate. Identifying and providing stretch opportunities is a key still of a good manager, both at work and at home.

By starting small you will then get used to delegating. The more you do it the more naturally it will come to you. You will start to accept it’s not a failure but a strength to be able to delegate well. Life is too short to not explore the ‘Gift of Trust’ as Richard Branson calls it. While you may ‘loose’ some time initially figuring out what tasks to delegate and how to effectively delegate you will gain exponential time as you learn to delegate more effectively.

How to delegate successfully

It is really important that when you do start to delegate that you give yourself the time to learn to do this well. Once you have identified what to delegate and to whom you can use my four-step process, ACOR, to make sure it is a success;

· Attention: Make sure you have the full attention of the person you are delegating to, especially important in the home setting. This may mean you have to take the person into a different room or location to make sure they are fully engaging with you.

· Communicate: Let them know what is being delegated, why it’s being delegated, what success looks like and timeframe of the outcome you expect. Especially in the case of non-routine longer tasks it is also important to agree a method of continuous communication and check-in points.

· Openness: Make sure you have given sufficient time to allow the person to ask any questions and iron out any concerns.

· Reinforce: End any conversation by recognising again the value of the tasks being done by the other person to you and the wider organisation/family.

The ACOR process means that the person fully understands what is being delegated, why and when it needs to be done by but most importantly they understand the value to you of them doing the task, which often leads to a higher quality outcome. Good luck delegating…

If you enjoyed this post please check out my blog here, including post focused on how to share the parenting load and when non-promotable work becomes a time trap.

All opinions are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.


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