Delegating: The one hack to get your ‘to do’ list done

I’ve heard it. You’ve heard it. Heck, I’ve said it.

Women, too often, have a hard time saying no.

Research tells us that women are socialized to help, to put others first, to never disappoint. So, we say ‘yes’ a lot. So much so we take on too much, and we end up overbooked, overstressed and overwhelmed. It limits our potential. And, it forces us to focus on checking the next thing off our ‘to do’ list, instead of doing work that will return real value.

With all that, the “Just say no” adage seem likes good advice to follow.

But, there’s a catch.

Saying no we risk letting go of good opportunities that can bring happiness or other advantages. Plus, let’s be real: there are things, people, work that must be done. ‘No’ is just not an option.

So, what to do?

The answer is simple: Delegate.

Delegating is an opportunity to get stuff off your plate. You save time and can direct your energy on activities that matter. Your productivity will increase as you get more done, faster than before.

Aside from these immediate benefits, there are longer-term effects.

Being able to delegate successfully can get managers and sponsors to perceive you as a credible leader. That’s because delegating is a much sought-after leadership skill. You’ll also see change in those helping you. By delegating you entrust someone to perform a task you once believed only you could do. Plus, when delegating right, you can create an in-it-together team spirit.

With all that said, it’s not always easy to delegate.

Here are 6 steps to help you start delegating successfully. These very much as strategies to use at work, but to experience the full power of delegating, think about your whole life – at home, and elsewhere in your life.

Assess your ‘to do’ list

Every day we do things that serve no real purpose. Maybe we think we have to do them, or we should do them. Or maybe, you’ve always done them so you’ve never thought twice about it. Take this time to consider all that you do in a given day, week, month and more. As you do, rate the value of your effort and the outcome. You’ll also want to consider any risks of it not getting done. Anything that is low value and low risk should be removed from our to do list – this is the best kind of delegating! Lastly, if there are things you can’t stop doing outright, consider if there is a different way to complete the task more efficiently, but still get the same results.

Where do you need help?

We all wish we could offload everything we have to do onto others. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. Instead, the aim is to strategically find ways others can help you do all you need to do. Taking the list you created in the first step, review it and consider which activities are always a struggle to get done.

If you’re too deep in your to do list, get some perspective by talking to others who wear the same hats that you do. Be curious about the activities they delegate and those they fully outsource. Also, ask how who they depend on for help and how it works for them.

Who’s equipped to do the work?

Now that you have clearer ideas on the activities and tasks that can be delegated to others, you can begin to consider who is best equipped to take them on. By this, I mean, who has the opportunity, the skill and/or the potential to complete the task well. Can someone on your team collect the data you’ll need to complete the monthly report? Can another parent carpool your child to their afterschool activity?

These examples are free of charge, but you can also delegate by outsourcing to a third-party. This requires considering your budget, and as you do consider the return of your investment in terms of time and energy.

Set others up for success

Before handing over your work, take time to set clear expectations and priorities. Also, take time to fully transfer your knowledge: discuss the process, contacts and any other details they’ll need to know to complete the task. If training is required, be sure to set up the time to do so without distraction. Plus, be available for questions the first or second time they have to complete the task.

You may be thinking: I don’t have time to train someone else. It’s a short-term cost that, if done right, will benefit you both in the longer term. In time, they’ll be able to take on the task fully and you won’t have to spend time re-doing their work.

Learn to let go

When we’ve done the same work time and time again, we come to believe our way is the only way. Not true. So, when you’ve delegated your task, set expectations and provided any required training, step away and let your helper do their thing. By gatekeeping, as it’s called, you not only create more work for yourself, you also communicate to your helper that you don’t trust them to get the job done.

Secondly, you’ll also need to let go of perfection. Sometimes good enough, really should be good enough. So, before taking time to perfect someone else’s work, ask yourself if it really matters. If it won’t add any more value, leave it be and move on.

Give and take feedback

A little gratitude can go a long way. So does feedback. Be sure to thank those who are helping you. This can be as simple as saying the words. You can take it to the next level by giving praise when a job is well done. And, when things have fallen short or they’ve gone awry, take time to consider the situation to provide constructive feedback that can help them next time.

You can use feedback, too. Delegating successfully takes practice, so check in with those you’re delegating to on how you handled the transition or if you could do anything better for next time. Plus, you’ll want to get their opinions and ideas on how to make the task (or its process) more efficient or enjoyable all around.

Delegating is a continual practice. So as things shift and evolve at work, at home or anywhere in between, reconsider where you really need help. Then, go through the steps listed above so you can create the room and focus you need to get it all done.

Do you have any tips to help others delegate more? Let me know in the comments below.


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