To a lot of people, delegation can feel like a four-letter word. This is particularly true if you run your own business. It is yours, after all—how is anyone ever going to be able to do things better (or even as well) as you can do them yourself? And even if they could, why would you bother giving anything up that you can do yourself?
The idea that being a do-everything-yourself superhero is the best way to succeed in business is, quite frankly, a big fat lie.
Why is “busy” the new badge of honor?
Why do we think we have to keep our superhero cape on at all times, even when we’re desperately trying to swim upstream without a paddle?
Why are we so afraid to ask for help when we need it?
We’ve become so obsessed with the idea that just because we can do everything means that we should, and therefore we’ve been conned into thinking that shouldering every inch of the burden on our own is the only path to growing a business.
The simple truth is this: outsourcing doesn’t make you any less of a boss. In fact, being able to properly delegate tasks frees you up to focus on what’s really important, honing in on the things that will truly help you succeed. If you’re struggling with how to do it, though, you’re not alone!
The first step to getting help is to admit that you need help. The next step is to take a good look at your daily task list.
Step 1: It’s All About the Audit
Let’s be honest here—many workers don’t really know what they do all day. We’ve all experienced the panic of watching the clock tick at rapid speed to 5 o’clock in the evening and feel like we haven’t accomplished a single useful thing all day.
Taking back control of your life and your work requires that you figure out what you’re spending all this time on in the first place!
Start by listing off everything you do in a day. Do this every day for at least a week. I usually set a time on my phone for thirty minutes (or less) and when the timer goes off, I list everything that I did for that last half hour.
You can use a regular notebook or piece of paper and list off the times on the left-hand side, or use my handy-dandy template (which you can download at the bottom of this post).
You’ll want to log everything you do in a day here, not just professional tasks. Write down when you take the dog out, or when your mom calls and you talk to her for ten minutes, or when you make yourself a delicious avocado toast.
I know it sounds tedious, and it most certainly is. You may need to spend a few extra minutes remembering what all you did and writing it down. But those few minutes are going to pay off tenfold. Stick with me here and you’ll see.
Step 2: Love It, Hate It, Gotta Do It, Lose It
Once you’ve got a solid list of tasks, no matter how big, how small, how exciting, or how embarrassing they are, it’s time to put them into categories. This is when you may want to use an Excel file or a Word document with a table instead of using your pen and paper.
Assign each task to one of four categories:
- Things I Love
- Things I Hate
- Things That Are Necessary
- Things That Are Useless
I like to use colored highlighters to track which task goes where, and then use emojis to portray what each category makes me feel. The poop emoji is especially useful in this case. Although I just realized that poop is totally a necessary bodily function. Maybe I need to re-work the emojis here… TMI? I think not!
Be as strict as you possibly can here and really think about what’s absolutely necessary vs. unnecessary. There are a lot of things that you’re probably doing today that don’t contribute to your bottom line or don’t bring you joy. Put them in the Unnecessary column.
Also, don’t list the same task more than once, even if it’s something you do on a daily basis. For example, if you checked Instagram five times in a day, you don’t need to list it in your table twenty-five times (although you should seriously think about working as an Instagram social media manager or something if you’re not already!).
Step 3: Evaluate and Make a Plan
It should be obvious that anything that falls into “Things You Love” should be a keeper… for the most part. These are the things that you do on a regular basis that truly give you joy. You’re excited about doing them and it would do no good for you to hand them off. However, if you find that the only things in the “love” column are things that are not necessary to the growth of your business, you may need to find a new job or consider taking up a hobby.
The flip side is true of anything that falls into the “Things That Are Useless” classification. Chances are these are things that you started doing at some point because you thought they might bear fruit, but ultimately they’re a waste of your time. You may have gotten used to doing them, but are they really contributing to your bottom line? If not, kick ‘em to the curb and don’t look back.
What’s left is the meat of what we need to sort out. “Things That Are Necessary” are just that—unavoidable, but vital. “Things You Hate” are also vital, but probably stir deep contempt in you whenever you think about them. Here’s where we’ll need to make some strategic decisions.
Step 4: Let It Go
You have two options when it comes to removing necessary tasks you don’t enjoy or have time for from your plate: automation and delegation. For the fussy little bits like meeting reminders, travel updates, social media messages, and reports, your best bet is to automate. Quit wasting time on those things, and let a program or tool do the work! Some of our favorite automation tools are:
- For Project Management, Ticking Off To-Do Lists & Reporting: Asana (runners up: Basecamp, Trello)
- Travel & Itinerary Planning: TripIt
- Social Media: Buffer (runners up: Sprout Social, Hootsuite)
- Calendar Management: Google Calendar (with the help of tools like Calendly and Doodle)
If the task is something more substantial, however, this is where delegation really pays off. Having assistance with taking care of these tasks assures you that they’re getting done in a timely and professional manner without allowing them to take up valuable brain space.
Connecting with the right person for the tasks you need to delegate can truly revolutionize your workflows. And that’s the ultimate goal: To get all those little tasks off of your daily to-do list so you can focus on doing what you love.
Finding Your Helping Hand
There are a number of ways to hunt for outsourced help, so give yourself time to explore the options and find that perfect fit. Be prepared to do a short trial run to ensure that you can work well with a prospect, and give them the access they need to successfully execute the tasks they’re assigned. Set concrete and achievable goals and prioritize clear and regular communication.
As you move forward, make sure you’re providing feedback to keep the relationship beneficial for both of you. You always want to address if something goes wrong of course, but that shouldn’t be the only time you speak up. A good rule of thumb is to provide twice as much positive feedback as you do negative. Recognizing someone’s hard work and expressing appreciation goes a long way towards keeping everyone happy and productive!
While we can all understand the impulse to hoard control over our workflow, it may be time to admit that you’re selling yourself—and your business—short by refusing to ask for help. If you’re ready to see serious growth, it might be time to loosen your grip and let some things go so that you can open yourself up to achieve the things you really want in life.
Ready to delegate some of the work on your overflowing plate? Enter your email address to get a free chapter with more detail about this exercise, PLUS a template for the Panic Proof Life Audit that you can start right now.
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Jess Tyson, CEO & Director of Calm
Jess is the founder and proud Director of Calm at Don’t Panic Management. (And yes, she invented that title because that’s what you do when you’re the boss!) She wrote the book on how building a successful relationship with a virtual assistant can make all the difference in helping business owners get to the next level. Her life is often a whirlwind of wrangling her toddler, speaking at conferences (virtual and beyond!), researching productivity hacks, and meticulously making matches between overworked entrepreneurs and focused virtual assistants. Jess's first book, Panic Proof: How the Right Virtual Assistant Can Save Your Sanity and Grow Your Business is available now: panicproofbook.com
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