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Published on May 29, 2020

Delegating Work: What to Delegate and What Not to?

Delegating Work: What to Delegate and What Not to?

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 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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