When I published my thoughts about Stress, I mentioned how I failed to deliver a crucial feature after spending so much time in the past months. That critical point had led me to burnout and eventually caused me to switch jobs for a fresh start. One of the reasons I needed a fresh start was because I had accumulated quite an amount of features and initiatives within the company. Whenever we talked about implementing something new, publishing a new course, or initiating a new sales process, I was super excited to join and help. It didn’t matter if I already had too much on my shoulders. At one time, I was trying to publish an entire course while working full-time on software development. The whole story ended with failures on so many sides, as I wrote before. They discarded the big project I was working on, and they published that course with 10+ contributors in the end.
Why did I fail on so many initiatives? Was I trying to prove my worth by achieving everything—or was I thinking that only I could deliver the quality I was chasing in my work? I believe both questions are valid, and both yield true. My sense of achievement was distorted, and I was protecting my ego by thinking that if I could sit down and work towards my goal, the result will be just perfect. However, the main problem was hidden in the first question I asked: So many initiatives.
I promised to deliver too much, and I wasn’t willing to include others in my work. From time to time, they could help me, of course; but it never occurred to me that I could achieve better results by converting the notion of help to delegating certain work to others. There is a big difference between getting help and delegating. Getting help still entails micromanagement from your side because you own the outcome. Delegating, on the other hand, is letting go. It means that you trust others to get the work done, thus freeing you from the mental and physical burden of the task.
Artist: Gülfemin Buğu Tekcan — cosmodotart
When Gülfemin drew the dot-art for this post, my immediate reaction was confusion: How was this related to delegation? When I asked her about the motivation behind the drawing, she directed my attention to the pie. It’s a beautiful analogy connecting a leisure item such as the pie to a more serious notion: the workload. I could neither make that connection nor create beautiful art pieces—at least not in the short or mid-term. Thanks to Gülfemin, I have fantastic artwork in my articles. If I haven’t leveraged the power of delegation, my writings would have been flat without graphics. The disturbed perfectionist in me wouldn’t have let me publish text-only articles. So without Gülfemin’s fantastic work, I was going to be stuck at one point where I practice my drawing skills to make them on my own and then eventually give up.
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I read a book called Essentialism at the beginning of this year. According to the author George McKeown, one of the three pillars of Essentialism is this: “You can do anything, but not everything.”It’s such a short yet powerful sentence that goes hand in hand with the need for delegation. We, as human beings, are capable of doing almost anything—but we don’t have the resources to do everything by ourselves alone. We may lack the time, skills, or motivation required to start and finish specific tasks. The best option we have, if we want something to be done, is to delegate those tasks to others:
If you are starting a business or a project, there are many things you could delegate. “The fact of the matter is you are probably not the best designer, and content writer, and strategist, and accountant, and researcher, and analyst, etc.”You need other people’s expertise to make the work done.
If you are the person overseeing some part of work, like a manager, you should be comfortable with delegating most of the tasks, if not all. “The biggest problem most new bosses and leaders face is the inability to let go of their own work,”says Jayson Demers. That’s why, he explains, the priority for new managers is to learn to let go.
If you are an individual contributor to a project, you are probably part of a team. Once you set your priorities straight, you can set aside the tasks you don’t have time or motivation to do. Those tasks are perfect examples of delegation. What doesn’t interest you may be a passion for your teammate. If you delegate such tasks, it’s going to be a win-win situation for each of you.
Another type of delegation you can strive for is to escalate unknowns. When working on a task, not all knowledge might be readily available to you. Sometimes it makes sense to search for the information, but sometimes you can escalate them to someone who has more knowledge on the topic to get answers. A good leader will be there for you to provide answers because although they should spend time teaching you, they also know it’s worth it in the long term.
If we zoom out from work-specific examples, you can also delegate tasks in your home. If you are living with someone else, you should already have experienced this type of delegation. There is always some work needed to be done at home, and it’s quite a reason for heated discussions within the family. An apparent cause for such conflicts is faulty communication. The person you delegate the task to needs to know the full details of the work they need to do. A good signal of this is to ask them to rephrase what they need to do.
There are other types of delegation when there is some task that you need to pursue alone. When you use to-do lists or reminders, you are delegating the planning phase to a piece of paper. To achieve some peace of mind, I find this type of delegation incredibly useful. After delegating my thoughts to a piece of paper (or digitally, if you prefer), I can put more mental energy into what matters at that time.
The last example I’d like to give is the most I use when writing my articles: Delegating credibility. I see every article I publish as an individual entity—separate from each other and independent from my self-being. That’s why my pieces need to stand out on their own. By referencing well-known books, research from credible academic institutions, or topic experts, I’m delegating the credibility of my writings to a higher foundation.
This article turned out to be a practical one, rather than having theoretical foundations. The whole text is also based on my personal experiences, as I benefitted the most by delegating most of my work. Delegation helped me finish things in less time with more quality. It increased the fun I’m having as a nice side-effect. I also understood that delegation is not only for managers as the whole internet seems to agree upon it.We all face more than what we’re capable of doing, and the only way to achieve our goals is through continuous delegation of those things.
What types of tasks do you delegate to others? How comfortable are you when it comes to delegating something to your manager or your partner? Let me know in the comments.
Essentialism by George McKeown on Amazon
Delegation of Authority in Business by Amara Pope on Time Doctor
7 Strategies to Delegate Better and Getting More Done by Jayson Demers on Inc.
“Another common barrier to delegation is that it can take longer to teach someone else how to do a task than to just do it yourself.” from How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (and Why It’s Important) by Genevieve Conti on MeisterTask
“It is very important for managers to confirm that those to whom they’ve delegated responsibility have understood what they need to know; ask them to restate what has been said.” from Managers Must Delegate Effectively to Develop Employees by Sam Lloyd on SHRM. Although this quote is given explicitly for the workplaces, I believe communication is a meta that oversees both setups: Work and Home.
Somehow any article on delegation on the internet is for managers. You know what? Individuals should be good delegators even before they become managers—for sure in their workplaces and everyday lives.
It’s been a pain in the ass for me recently and this article is simply spot on :) To me, it is hard to delegate things to newbies without feeling the urgent need to follow up daily and be sure that they did the right thing. Though it’s a learning process for them to become autonomous eventually, it still kills me deep inside until “the things are getting done and completed” finally.