When you’re trying to live a full, productive and effective life, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to do it all yourself. Whether this means micro-managing at work, or dealing with every little thing at home, it can initially seem like a way to make sure things are done properly.
Before long, of course, you end up feeling frazzled. You’re spending a lot of time on low-level tasks, you’re overworked, and you don’t ever seem to get a chance to pursue activities that really excite you.
If you’re someone whose mantra is “if you want a job done well, do it yourself,” there are two crucial ways to reduce the burden: you need to eliminate and delegate.
The first, easiest, way to get rid of stuff that’s filling up your life is to eliminate it. If you start on your to-do list before breakfast and still have loads to do at bedtime, you’re trying to pack too much in.
Here are some good questions to ask yourself when considering what to eliminate. Work through the questions in order for each big commitment you have in your life; if you hit a “no” answer, stop reading and start thinking about whether you can eliminate it.
• Do I want to do this? If not, why am I doing it? Is it because I feel obliged? Can I remove or at least reduce my commitment?
• Does this need to be done? If not, why do I have it on my to-do list? Is it because someone has told me I should do it? (E.g. parent, society at large.)
• Am I learning anything from doing this? If I used to learn from this, and no longer do, is it time to move on?
• Would I feel at all sorry to give this up?
Many of us have great trouble saying “no” to people. If you’re asked to take on something that you don’t want to do, or don’t have time to do well, then learn to say “I’m sorry, I can’t commit to that at the moment.” If you’re pushed, simply repeat yourself, and add that “I won’t take on something where I know I don’t have the time to do a good job.”
If you really can’t think what you might eliminate, ask “what’s the worst that could happen if I gave this up?”
Some jobs do need to be done, however boring or tiresome they are. Perhaps you hate doing the dishes, or doing your taxes. Whether it’s a personal or work task, look for ways to delegate:
• Pass on low-level work tasks to junior colleagues (invest some initial time in teaching them how to do the job well – don’t just dump a task on them and expect them to figure it out).
• Teach your kids how to perform basic chores. You might consider offering a small amount of extra pocket money in exchange.
• Hire someone to clean your home once a week.
• Let your spouse or older kids take a turn at cooking. It may not be up to your gourmet/macrobiotic/frugal standards, but praise the results and the effort that went in.
• Pay an accountant to do your taxes for you (a good accountant will save you more than his/her fee).
• Outsource very simple and routine tasks, like data entry, to a virtual assistant firm or individual – R3R has a number of reviews of virtual assistant firms and sites.
If you manage a group of volunteers (eg. in a church or community setting), this is another good opportunity to delegate – especially as it’s likely that the group will consist of people with a number of very different skills. Get people to list what their areas of expertise are, and play to those strengths: for example, you might find that someone who’s worked in events management can organize the annual gala, whereas an English major might be just the person for writing the monthly newsletter.
Do you have any tips on how to effectively eliminate or delegate tasks? Are you someone who needs to “do it all”, or are you realistic about how much you can take on?