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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

Delegating Work: What to Delegate and What Not to?

Delegating Work: What to Delegate and What Not to?
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Here’s a fact:

You might have heard a lot about the importance of delegating work. But if you’re a new leader or manager, it won’t be all fun and games.

Like everything in life, delegation isn’t a piece of cake unless done the right way.

You’re highly likely to face a lot of unexpected obstacles. And sadly, there’s no way around them. No circumstances in life are going to go easy on you just because you’re inexperienced.

Luckily, you can tackle these hindrances very easily if you’re smart enough to learn.

Learn from your mistakes, your surroundings, and this post!

Today, you’ll find an answer to one of the most frequently asked questions by new delegators:

What to delegate and what not to?

Believe it or not, this is one crucial step in the process of delegating work. So, read through this article to clarify all your confusion in this regard!

Tasks That You Should Always Delegate

When you’re just getting into delegation, it is quite common to feel like you’re delegating too much work. Inexperienced managers usually feel like they are over-burdening their employees, giving away their own tasks, or asking subordinates to do what’s not their job.

While all these concerns are 100% valid and should always be avoided, they can keep you from delegating the work that has to be distributed among your team.

This defeats the purpose of delegation even if you are well-aware of how to delegate tasks effectively.

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Here are some tasks that you should always delegate. However, reason with yourself according to the environment of your workplace to make the final decision.

1. Repetitive Tasks

Every office has a fair share of a few projects that are recurring and repetitive.

Now, these jobs are either the same every time or even with a slight variation, they require a similar work process and skillset. For example, auditing, budgeting, event planning, etc.

Such tasks have to be done every day, weekly, fortnightly, or monthly. The problem here is that even if these jobs are quick and easy, a manager is wasting time doing them.

You should always delegate projects like these so that you can save up a lot of your precious time in the long run.

Simultaneously, you can train your subordinates to perfection for jobs like these. With regular practice, your subordinates can begin to work on level 5 of delegation, which is where the employees can work independently.[1]

Whether or not you want to categorize annual projects in this category depends on how often the employees in your organization are promoted or replaced. If the same people will be around to do the job for 3 to 4 years at least, it is best to train them for it.

2. Time-Consuming Work

One of the most prominent features of delegation is that it helps save time. So, it is only right if you delegate the work that will take up too much of your time.

Instead of spending a week on one project, you should spend a few hours explaining the work to your subordinates and let them take charge.

This way, not only will you clear your own schedule, but it will also get the job done quicker. Since delegation is all about distributing work among a team, more people can work together on one project simultaneously. This will cut down a huge chunk of the work that goes into it.

What this means is that if there are tasks that are time-consuming but have a short deadline, you must always delegate them. It is an easy and fool-proof method to tick off big projects on your to-do list!

3. Projects That Boost Basic Skills

While delegating work, you shouldn’t forget that as a leader or manager, you also must encourage skills in your subordinates.

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Certain projects are too complicated for people that do not have the skills to do the job. However, some challenges are a healthy way to encourage your team to broaden their skillset.

If you don’t offer opportunities, your team will never grow. And that is a huge failure as a management leader.

4. Whatever Is Beyond Your Job Description

Every person in an organization has a defined job description. These are the duties that the person has to fulfill.

As a leader, you too will have a job description, and you don’t have to do anything beyond it unless there is no one else skilled enough to do it.

Ideally, anything that isn’t a part of your job description should be delegated. This isn’t done with selfish intentions. Instead, it is important to do so, or else you won’t have enough time to fulfill the tasks that are actually a part of your job.

Things that are out of your job description are generally tasks that can be done easily by your team. Even if they face difficulties, you should only offer help and assistance instead of taking on the entire job.

5. Interesting Tasks

Keeping the employees interested in what they do is one difficult job that a manager must do.

To keep the motivation levels high, you should delegate more fun work. Things that your employees will enjoy doing, let them.

So, for example, if you’ve noticed that your team enjoys outdoor tasks, assign them jobs that require work to be done outside your office building. Other interesting tasks include field research, event planning, etc.

6. Work That Your Subordinates Are More Skilled In

Just because you’re leading a group of people does not mean you have all the skills that they don’t have.

There may be something that your subordinates are way better at. For instance, you might not be very tech-oriented, but someone in your team could be.

So, jobs that require skills that someone in your team is better at should always be delegated. Do not take it personally or make it a matter of ego.

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Tasks You Should Never Delegate

Generally, once a manager gets comfortable with delegating work, all the concerns that were previously there vanish.

While that is a good thing, some leaders may begin to ignore those issues completely.

They may over-delegate and assign tasks that aren’t in the job description of the subordinates. Sometimes, managers delegate every single task and they are left behind with so much free time.[2]

To avoid this from happening, you should never delegate the tasks with the following nature. However, the final decision depends on the nature of the exact task and your workplace.

1. Work That Takes Long to Explain

Imagine spending 3 hours explaining something that you could’ve done in 30 minutes yourself.

That defeats the entire essence of delegation, doesn’t it?

So if something needs deep explanation and has a long instruction manual even though the task itself isn’t that elaborate, your best bet is to avoid delegating it. Similarly, if you think you can do a job quicker yourself, do it.

2. Confidential Jobs

Certain matters just cannot be put into the hand of the employees.

High priority and confidential jobs should never be delegated. These tasks are highly important so your expertise should come in handy. Moreover, assigning such jobs to the team can lead to a breach of privacy and other similar issues.

Decision-making tasks such as appraisals, employee hiring, and other similar things also fall in the same category.

3. Crisis-Management

Every organization has to plan for the worst-case scenario. Such decisions are of high importance. You cannot risk letting your team, which is generally less experienced than you, to make these choices.

You should plan and develop for the future of your organization yourself. The subordinates are just not in the position to do these jobs due to the lack of their exposure and level of responsibility.

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4. Boring Tasks

As mentioned previously, you have to keep the employees interested and highly motivated.

Boring tasks can demotivate employees. They take away the enthusiasm which eventually cuts down on the quality of the output produced.

Keep boring tasks to yourself. This is a sacrifice you’ll have to make to keep the morale of your team up.

5. Very Specific Work

This is only applicable to a work which is already broken down into a small task. There is little to no room for creativity, and the instructions are very detailed and exact.

Now, the expectations are to produce an output that is exactly what is being asked for. Since such tasks are too specific, only one person should do it.

If a project like this is delegated, there is a high chance of slight variation in the results caused by individual subordinates. Therefore, the best option is that you do tasks like these on your own.

The Bottom Line

In the end, it is up to you how you weigh each scenario.

There may be exceptions where you’ll have to against the aforementioned suggestions. But, for the most part, these are pretty universal.

So, start your journey of successfully delegating work by using these tips from today!

More Tips for Effective Delegation

Featured photo credit: Alex Kotliarskyi via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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