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Delegate Your Time Sinks and Reclaim Your Day

Delegate Your Time Sinks and Reclaim Your Day

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    What’s the number one most effective way to make more time in your day? Get other people to do the things you’d normally be doing. Many people complain that there aren’t enough hours in the day when the problem is simply that there are too many tasks in their day that could easily be given away to someone else.

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    You Can Afford It

    Even if hiring someone (probably a virtual assistant) to help out doesn’t seem cost effective upfront, it will be with a little smart planning. By giving away the low-level tasks that take up lots of time and provide few returns, you have more time to spend on high-level, high-reward tasks that will not just pay for the assistance but make it profitable to have one. If you do this right, you’ll still be doing less work — high-reward tasks make more profit in much less time.

    It’s Hard to Give the Work Away

    One problem many people have with delegation is that it’s difficult to pass on work to others. It’s easy to talk yourself into thinking that you’re the only one who can do the job right and that nobody else can be trusted to produce the results that you can. Just recognize that it’s naturally difficult to pass things on and start with the small stuff. Let yourself build up to being comfortable with your assistant — at least you’ll be using up fewer hours and costing yourself less money to begin with!

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    Don’t Pay to Delegate What You Can Eliminate

    If you are trying to palm a task off on someone else, consider whether there’s a way to completely eliminate it in the first place. If it doesn’t need to be done, you don’t need to be losing money by having someone else do it. What seems to be a given necessity isn’t always one. There may be an automated system that can be put in place as a replacement, or it’s often simply the case that many admin tasks that take up your day aren’t necessary to begin with. Always look to eliminate before you delegate.

    Ensure the Job Gets Done Right

    One thing that no amount of delegation will eliminate is the need to check that the job is done properly. If checking the job takes as long as doing the job, just do the job yourself. There are three things you can do to ensure quality work gets done.

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    Hire carefully: check each individual you consider as closely as you can. When you choose the best of the bunch, put them on a trial period and monitor their work more closely than you normally would for a while. If they are not what you expected them to be, it’s better to give them the boot now rather than later; hiring assistance is time consuming but letting the problem lie will cost you dearly the longer it goes on.

    Give good instructions
    : be clear and concise with your instructions. Be concise enough that the clarity of the instructions aren’t compromised and clear enough that the assistant can have no doubt about what is being asked of them. Ask for deliverables — “research topic X” is nowhere near as good a request as asking for a report on topic X that contains sections on Y and Z. They’ll know what to research, which aspects of the topic to focus on and how to present the information to you. Always provide deadlines, and always provide the narrowest statement possible — being vague will do you no favors.

    Give good feedback
    : while you should never hire someone incompetent to start with, there’s always room for improvement. Don’t expect that improvement to come without the right encouragement and feedback. Tell them what they’re doing wrong and how they could improve on that — and equally important, tell them what they’re doing right, or they won’t know whether or not to keep doing it.

    In most cases, that combination will ensure you get good results from your assistant and can even whip an underqualified individual into shape pretty quickly.

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    Good luck with delegation. It can be tough and scary, but you’ll wish you’d done it earlier when you have a few more hours in the day.

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    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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