Delegating Tasks to Maximize Productivity
“If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.” We’ve all heard those words dozens of times. If we’re being honest, we’ve muttered them under our breath a time or two. In a lot of settings, it’s absolutely true that completing a task yourself is the only way to be sure that it’s done the right way.
But what’s the idiom for when you have a thousand things to do, and you’re the only one you trust to do them? What cute saying applies when you’re drowning in administrative tasks?
No lawyer went to law school to make a dozen weekly runs to Staples, the post office, and the bank. We didn’t kill ourselves to pass the bar exam so that we could stuff envelopes all day. We entered the legal industry so that we could think our way around corners, get creative; help people. But we can’t do those things if we don’t get out of our own way.
One of the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to maximize your time management by learning to delegate tasks to others and learn to trust their judgment. Yes, it’s scary to let go of the reins and put the work in the hands of somebody else. But for the sake of your own productivity/sanity, it’s a skill that you will have to master.
So what are some things that you can do to ensure that the delegated task gets performed completely and properly?
Clearly define what needs to be done.
If the delegatee has only a generalized idea of what the task involves, you will invariably end up redoing the entire thing at least once. Not only does this defeat the timesaving appeal of delegating in the first place, it will also cost you time and productivity in the long run.
Explain why the task needs to be performed.
It’s a lot easier to perform a task properly and completely when you know what the end result needs to look like. Having five people do five jobs without knowing why is like getting dressed in the dark; the task will be completed, but it will also look silly.
Trust your delegatee.
Even if you have to force yourself to trust your delegatee, trust your delegatee. If you don’t, you’re likely to micromanage, which simultaneously (i) takes up two people’s time to do one task and (ii) drives your delegatee crazy. There might be mistakes, and the task might be done differently than the way you would do it. But it will get done, and you won’t have to do it. Mission accomplished.
Give a deadline.
By leaving the timeline open, you invite rushing or procrastination. It’s extremely rare for people to be naturally adept at pacing themselves. Be clear from the beginning about when you want the task to be completed. Your delegatee will thank you.
Be cautiously and constructively generous with feedback.
You want to be on the same page with your delegatee, but not at the risk of crushing his or her spirit. An overconfident delegatee is inevitably going to make brazen mistakes in the same way that a broken spirit is going to waste your time with unnecessary questions. Gauge the delegatee’s ability to take constructive criticism, and give it to them to the extent that they can take it. That way, the next time you’ll both be that much more efficient.
Delegating can be scary.
It takes trust, confidence and reliability. But by delegating the tasks that you don’t want to do, you can free your time and energy for the things that you do want to do. Don’t be an errand-running, envelope-stuffing, burned-out, ineffectual crazy person. Be a lawyer. Do the things that lawyers do.
Jared Pierce hung his own shingle right out of law school and has spent every minute since then discovering the joys and difficulties of chasing success. Anyone who has ever met Jared will tell you h