How to Delegate and Decline for Better Time Management

Are you busy? The following anonymous quote may echo what you are thinking: Beware of the barrenness of a busy life. So how do you go from a busy, frazzled life to a productive and fulfilling one? You begin by implementing appropriate tools and creating helpful habits. Let’s get started.

Determination
Did you know that you can choose to declutter your schedule? That’s right. Organizing time starts with making choices. I hear you say, “But I don’t have choices!” Let’s see what we can do to change that perception. Each day we make dozens of selections from what we wear to what we eat to how we drive to work. Let’s widen this view of options:

  1. Instead of spending three hours preparing the perfect 30-minute free presentation, I can take one hour to make the same presentation good but not perfect.
  2. Instead of spending tens hours finding the perfect recipes for a four course dinner, shopping, and then preparing the food for a group of close friends, I can buy good frozen lasagna, bag salad, garlic bread, and make my favorite dessert.

What created the change? Goals. Let’s take the same scenarios and list the corresponding goal:

    1. My goal is to work smarter, not harder to gain money. Therefore, I want to spend an appropriate amount depending on the importance of a task. A 30-minute free presentation for 20 people isn’t as significant as a four-hour paid presentation for 100 people. As such, I need to allocate my time accordingly.
    2. My goal is to have a good time with some great friends. The food isn’t as important as the time spent together. I am more likely to be frazzled and not enjoy the evening if I have spent many hours trying to make everything perfect.

The first and most important step to gain time in your day is to determine your goals. Don’t stop reading and don’t get overwhelmed. First decide the major areas of your life, such as family, self/personal, professional, spiritual, health, fun, finances, relationships, community, etc. Then define a big picture goal in each area, followed by one or more specific activities which will contribute to the overall big picture goal. Remember, you can change these whenever you want. Just write something down so that you have a starting place for organizing your time.

Delegation
Okay, do you have your goals in mind? You will need them in order to implement the next tool which is delegation. I can hear you say, “But I don’t have anyone to delegate to.” or “I don’t know how to delegate.” Permit me to equip you for the job.

The Who of Delegation: Anyone who makes less money per hour than you do is someone to whom you can delegate. In addition, children (your own or others) make great task completers. In fact, expecting children to contribute to a household creates responsible adults. In addition, because of today’s busy society, there is a whole industry of people called personal assistants or personal concierges who run errands and carry out chores for others.

The How of Delegation: First, you need to choose a task to delegate. Don’t think about anything but what task could be replicated if a person is properly trained. Only after you decide on the task, can you choose the appropriate person. Next state the objective. In some cases you may need to communicate the procedure, give specific instructions, or demonstrate, in many cases, you do not. Only participate as much as necessary. I am not advocating that you abdicate responsibility entirely. Asking a ten-year-old to do the laundry without any other instructions is probably not wise. Demonstrating, then having the child do the laundry with you, and then supervising as needed for a few times will produce better results. However, asking an administrative assistant to secure a rental care for you and then telling her who to call (beyond a preferred provider), exactly what questions to ask, and how to compare prices, will not only waste time, but will also be an exercise in frustration for the admin. Remember to inspect and praise the work done by the delegate. And yes, sometimes correction or retraining will be necessary. But effort up front will gain time in the end.

In scenario two above, another way to have a great time with friends without running yourself ragged would be to have everyone bring something to share. Yes, this is delegation!

Remember, delegation extends results from what you can do to what you can control. You can gain hours in your day by delegating.busy

Declination
One of the shortest words is also one of the hardest to say: NO. In order to use this word effectively, you must know your goals. The word NO should be used when you are asked to participate in something that doesn’t complement your goals. In scenario one above, if I want to work smarter to earn money, then saying NO when someone calls me to give a free presentation is appropriate. Yes, it is possible that I might get a paying client from the engagement, but there is no guarantee. In addition to creating the presentation, there is the travel time, set up time, etc. Is all of that time worth “the possibility of a client” when I could take the same amount of time and create a product to sell? NO!

Time to learn two techniques for creating the declination habit:

  • Develop a stock answer to give anyone who asks for your time. For example, “Can I get back to you in a couple of days; I need to check my calendar before I commit to something new?” Practice this stock answer until it rolls off your tongue easily whenever anyone asks you to do something. If the person won’t allow the “consideration time” then your immediate answer is NO.
  • Make a policy to drop one activity before adding a new one. If someone wants you to be on a committee but you don’t have another activity to drop, then you can’t say “yes” to the new committee. By the way, if your schedule is already way too full, then you may need to drop two activities for each new one you acquire.

Learn declination skills by embracing the following words from Anne Lamott: I live by the truth that “No” is a complete sentence.

To recap, the three ways to gain more time in your day are to:

  1. Determine your personal and professional goals.
  2. Delegate as many tasks as possible.
  3. Decline tasks and opportunities that do not complement your goals.

No more delays, it’s time to get started gaining time!