Delegation: How to make more time for your talents

by Lisa Rothstein on 05/31/2010

“So much to do, so little time,” is a common complaint. But DaVincis have this problem in spades. A person with multiple talents often feels like he or she needs multiple lifetimes to do all we seem called to do. Others have to-do lists, we have a stack of projects. So time becomes an even more precious resource.

Knowing that, why should any more of it than absolutely necessary be taken up with activities you don’t like, are not good at and that take you longer than most people?

For me, this is cleaning. I love to cook, because 1.) it’s creative, 2.) it entertains others and 3.) eating is involved. Cleaning the house has none of those elements, and I’m really, really terrible at it. It may have to do with my upbringing. My mother, a schoolteacher, was much more concerned with what went on between the ears than the soap scum on the bathtub. Even now, when I go home to visit, the same almost-used-up bottle of shampoo still there on the side of the tub like an archaeological find. So I grew up to attend an Ivy League college, but in terms of keeping house, I remained strictly bush league.

The thing is, I love a clean, neat house. It helps me think straight and lessens the chaos of having so many ideas. I just don’t want to do what it takes to get it. And if I tried, it would take me hours to do just a so-so job and make me very, very grumpy. So it makes sense to delegate this task to an expert. That would be my husband. He actually enjoys cleaning and finds it relaxing (?!?!)

Believe it or not, there are actually thousands of people out there who enjoy doing things like organizing, bookkeeping, tax preparation, dealing with customer complaints, building web pages and, yes, cleaning your house.

Why should DaVincis delegate?

You owe it to yourself. Forcing yourself to beaver away at things you hate when you don’t have to is either martyrdom or just plain silly. It reminds me if the old joke: A patient is at the doctor’s office. “Doc, it hurts when I do this.” “So don’t do that,” says the doctor. “That’ll be $85.” If you’re beating you head against a wall, there is a simple solution.  Stop it. If you hate it, delegate it.

You owe it to the rest of us. The world needs your unique talent, not your generic drudge work. If your days are taken up with mundane tasks that anyone could do, that’s time you can’t get back that you’re not fulfilling your mission to honor and use your unique talents and share them with the world. And we all get cheated. DaVinci didn’t dig ditches. He didn’t even paint every little leaf or blade of grass in his own pictures. He allowed humself to delegate those less significant details to the apprentices in his studio, while he put his special talent toward Mona Lisa’s smile, where it counted.

You owe it to your helpers. By doing it all yourself, you’re actually taking work away from people who are ready, willing and able to do it a lot better than you. And you’re robbing people who want to support you of their chance to be of service. Delegation does good unto others, as well as to you.

Reasons we don’t delegate

We’re control freaks. No one else can do it as well as you can. Or you just don’t have the patience to train someone else. “By the time I tell them how to do it, I could just do it myself.”  This is usually not true. Plus, in order to delegate, if you have a system you can communicate to someone, you usually only have to give instructions once, and then the job is off your hands forever. Sounds like a good deal to me. And really,  how important is it that every “i” be dotted just the way you would have done it on less important tasks? Some things don’t deserve the effort to make them perfect.

Because we can. Sometimes it’s better to be so bad at something you just have to get help. This should be a mantra for DaVincis: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. We’re so smart and we can teach ourselves to do a lot of things competently that are not in our range of talents and passions. But seriously, do you really need to learn how to write code for your own website, or unravel all the mysteries of Quickbooks? Couldn’t that time be better used for other things?

We’re embarrassed. We think we should be able to do it all, and we’re ashamed of having to ask for help or delegate any part of our work. Sometimes we resist because we don’t even want our helpers to see what a mess we are. Are you one of those people who cleans the house before the cleaning person comes? Get over it. These people have seen a lot worse than you.

We can’t afford it. Can you afford not to delegate? If you can make $75 or $100 an hour or more doing what you’re a genius at, how does it make sense to slave away at something you could hire someone for $20 an hour to do? Plus, there are ways to get help for little or nothing. Offer to barter with a friend, or join a barter service on the internet. Hire a neighbor’s kid or a college student who really needs the money.  And virtual assistants these days can do pretty much anything from customer service to bookkeeping to web design, some for very low rates, and best of all you only pay for the time you use. You can find help online at odesk, guru, elance or AssistU. Or try my favorite method: just ask around on Twitter for a recommendation.

Activity: Write down everything you typically do that isn’t leisure. Divide these into three categories:

  1. Things you love, use your unique talents, things that you are great at and that only you can do.
  2. Things you can do well enough and don’t hate, or that you actually like, but that someone else could do if you let them
  3. Things you suck at, dislike, whine about and put off

Obviously, category 3 is the prime target for delegation. How many hours a week could you free up for your talents if you got them off your schedule? But also do consider category 2. Remember, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. What if you could offload some of these? How much more time could you then spend in Category 1? And how would it feel to spend more of your time doing your “genius” activities? How much more of a contribution could you make?

How do you feel about delegation? Got any success stories or resources to share? Please comment below.




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