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05 May

Delegate more (and enable yourself to focus on your chore)


Date: 2010-05-05 10:50 Comments: 0 st

For most people there are times when we during a longer stretch of time have had a heavier workload than we are comfortable with.

If you are the manager or leader of a company, an organization or some kind of group, it might be that you don’t have the time to perform all the tasks which are dependent upon you in particular to perform them (you having the position that you do).

If you have coworkers, it’s natural to think “I need to delegate more”. But, at least speaking for myself, it’s not always easy to see how to make that happen.

Get yourself an overview

A first step might be getting a grip on what you are actually doing, that is to say, what your different tasks are and what they consist of. When we are in the midst of things, it’s easy not to see the forest for all the trees, or rather, we can’t distinguish one tree from another since they all appear to be one, big green agglomeration – a forest.

So, during the course of a few days, write down all the tasks you perform on a sheet of paper which you keep with you at all time or in a document on your computer. Don’t make it so detailed that it becomes a burden, but be content with just writing for example “Conversation with X regarding…”, “Wrote a document on…” and so on.

If you are in the habit of keeping your to-do-tasks in one designated place and described in such detail that each task can be performed in just one go, you can easily get yourself an overview of your average workday by looking at tasks which have been completed and checked off somewhat recently.

Finding the candidates


Go through the overview of all the tasks you usually perform and tag those which are potential “candidates” for being delegated to someone else.
They might be:

  • Frequently recurring tasks – Things you do pretty much the same way every time and at frequent and equally spaced intervals. If you have described the steps of how to complete the task thoroughly, you make it easy for the person who will be doing it instead of you from now on to learn how to do it (or rather, to learn how you have done it so far).
  • Tasks you are tired of doing – But isn’t it a bit cynical to just pass what you have grown tired of on to someone else? In my experience, the people around me are often more different from me than I tend to assume. What I find dull and boring, might be inspiring to someone else. Variation is a common human need and a task that has become routine for me might be a new and welcomed element of variation for the person I will delegate it to.
  • Tasks someone else might do better – OK, so you’re the one who has been responsible for this task thus far, but lets be honest, are you really the one person in the organization that would be most successful in dealing with the task? Would it benefit your and the company’s striving towards the vision if a certain coworker got to take on the task instead from now on?
  • Tasks someone else might see as a challenge – To delegate might also be a way to encourage a coworker who has shown initiative and drive. You won’t lead or manage this organization forever, so you need to start cultivating the competence needed when you decide to leave.
  • Tasks where your key-competence is not utilized – This organization needs you because you have certain qualities and qualifications which are particularly important and valuable to the organization. If those qualities are put to practice more, more value is brought to the business (and to you personally). If you are more occupied with other things, less time is spent doing what you do best.
  • Tasks which you have been in charge of forever, which you enjoy doing and know precisely how to do – Try delegating one of your “babies”, an assignment you care for. They might be exciting and challenging for some of your coworkers as well. They may be able to find solutions more original and innovative than you have (since you may have become blind to other opportunities and possibilities than those you originally saw). In other words, kill your darlings.
  • Tasks which you figure “Well, that’s so complicated I better do it myself” - What you once learned, you can teach others. That way you make more time to learn something new, something that inspires you.

Task or result?

Should you delegate a detailed task or a desired result? As I see it, giving direct commands doesn’t necessarily serve it’s purpose and the future is not necessarily to only delegate all the responsibility to accomplish certain results, since again, all people are different. Some people are more comfortable with vivid and detailed “orders”, while others want to be delegated the trust to solve a problem in a way that suits her/him best.
?I have been in wonder over why I for a long time had “bike-messenger” as one of my dream jobs. Probably due to the beauty of having many, short, and well-defined tasks every day, where it is completely clear to me when I have completed a task and if I’ve succeeded or not.

Be specific

One thing is for certain. The more specific you are when you describe what has to be done (in terms of task or outcome), the easier and the “better” it will ultimately be done. It’s just like in your own life; if you got to-do-tasks which are vaguely formulated, it is easy to procrastinate them since you are not sure where to start.

Define, for example:

  • What needs to be done or what result has to be achieved
  • What background information the person you have delegated to need to have
  • What kind of material he/she need from you in order to complete the task
  • When it has to be completed
  • What the restrictions are, that is, how much can it cost, what the time-limits are, which people in the organization who also may be involved, etc

Use your “waiting for”-list

Do follow-ups on the tasks you’ve delegated using your “waiting for”-list. Write down on your list what tasks you’ve delegated to whom and when it should be completed. Once a week, skim through the list and think about what things you are waiting for, and consider if now is the right time to get back to the one responsible for getting it done and see how they are getting along.

Even if you dropped the task “forever” and you don’t expect the person in question to get back to you with anything, let the delegated task remain on your “waiting for”-list for a few weeks and get in touch with the one responsible for it a couple of times to check in and see if he/she have any questions regarding the task.

Enjoy that you don’t have to

Every time you do a follow-up, take the opportunity to enjoy that it’s no longer you who do the task, but that you now can pay attention to things that interest you more instead.

How do you do it?

How do you manage delegating in a smooth and efficient manner, making it easier for you to focus on the tasks most important to you?

You are most welcome to leave a comment below.
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