This month in my coaching programme, we’re looking at the important issue of time management. So much of the battle for balance depends on nailing this old chestnut. After all, the biggest problem most of us face trying to successfully raise families while progressing in challenging careers, is having too much to do, and too little time – time to focus on our work, time to spend with our families and on home management, and time for ourselves.
I’ve talked about some of the ways you can tackle this in previous blogs and podcasts – the to do list, organisational skills, embracing the imperfect and prioritising. But this week, I’d like to focus on the essential tool of delegating.
It’s such a simple concept isn’t it? Got too much to do? Get someone else to do some of it! But unfortunately it’s rarely that straightforward. We all know we should do it, especially when we move into more senior career positions, and yet many of struggle. Sometimes it just seems quicker and easier to do a task we’ve done a hundred times ourselves rather than taking the time out to show someone else how to do it. Sometimes the perfectionists among us (see my blog on this here) can’t let go of a task we think that we can do best. Sometimes we’re just in the habit of doing everything and find it difficult to break away from that behaviour.
Whatever the reasons we may have had in the past for fudging the issue – when it comes to balancing a challenging career with family, we need to get real. Delegating is not only desirable – it’s absolutely crucial if we are to have manageable, fulfilling work and family lives. Fortunately, it’s a skill that can be learned and honed. If you’re not good at doing it now – you can be with a bit of effort and practice.
Here’s why you should go out of your way to delegate:
1. Delegating improves your productivity.
It’s a false economy to think that doing simple tasks yourself is quicker. You are thinking only of speed rather than productivity. What you should be doing is thinking about what more important task you could focus on while the delegated tasks are being completed (even if it takes the other person longer to do it). Spending time doing things that you are over-qualified to do and which you aren’t required to do, is not an efficient use of your time – however quickly you think you can do them.
2. Delegating enables you to exceed your limitations of time and capacity.
When you delegate straightforward tasks, you can concentrate on bigger, more wide-ranging issues which might have 20x the impact of the easier jobs. This means that your work becomes more about what you can effect rather than what you can actually physically do in the time available.
3. Delegating increases your value.
If you delegate the tasks that other people could do just as easily, you have more time to spend working in your zone of genius. Use your time to exploit your own unique combination of experience, expertise and creativity. Other people cannot do the things you do when operating like this – hence you become more valuable and indispensable to your employer.
4. Delegating is an essential leadership skill.
Whether you find it easy to do or not, delegating is one of the most important leadership skills. Leaders are not squandering precious time on worker-bee tasks, they are adding value with their unique talents and guidance. If you want to progress in your career and move into a leadership position, you need to demonstrate that you have the ability to sort and redistribute team tasks for maximum efficiency as well as allowing those junior to you to learn and gain experience.
5. Delegating leaves you time for what matters.
As the Roman philosopher Seneca said:
“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”
By doing simple things you should not be doing, you are taking away precious time from the things you should be doing. Delegating enables you to spend your time wisely, on the things that matter to you. It’s the way you get everything done – without personally spending all of your time doing it.
6. Delegating helps you avoid overwhelm and burnout.
You can manage a challenging career with raising a family without delegating but there’s a high price to pay in the form of overwhelm and maybe even burnout. You are a human, not superwoman and there are only so many hours in the day. Overwhelm is a real risk for working mums (It’s one of the pitfalls of working motherhood – see my blog post on the subject here). The competing demands of a senior role at work with family life and home management are many. Being able to delegate the things you really don’t need to be doing yourself means you can retain essential time for self-care, and for keeping yourself healthy, sane and energised.
Now you know you should be doing it, but do you know how? For tips and a strategy on how to delegate to make the best use of your time and achieve balance – tune into the Babyproof podcast.