Get the Job You Love: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Delegating
There’s a time in every new business when you have to don at least a dozen hats. It’s perfectly normal and comes with the territory of owning your own company. “Chief cook and bottle washer,” as the saying goes.
Yet, most entrepreneurs aren’t very good at recognizing when it’s time to move out of this phase and spend their time more wisely. Most people claim it’s about budget, but digging a little deeper often reveals another culprit: a hesitancy and confusion about how and what to delegate.
For many, delegating is a thorny issue that gets tangled up in feelings of control and perfectionism and trust. However, figuring out how to delegate effectively and comfortably is one of the most important lessons that an entrepreneur can learn.
The first step is to take an honest look at how you’re spending your time. Here’s a quick exercise to get you started: Consider what you like (and don’t like) to do and what you need (and don’t need) to do. Follow these steps to break it down, and then understand what to do with your results.
Review Your Responsibilities
Take a blank piece of paper and divide it into quadrants with a pen. Label one of the vertical columns “Like to do” and label the other vertical “Don’t like to do.” Next, label one of the horizontal rows “Need to do” and the other “Don’t need to do.” You should be left with four boxes, each representing a different category:
Next, spend 15 minutes thinking about the activities that make up your job and sort them into each of the boxes. Remember, the “need to do” bucket doesn’t refer to whether your business needs this task to be done. It refers to whether you, personally, need to be the one to do it. For example, sending a monthly newsletter is important for my business, but it doesn’t require me to be the one doing the assembly and configuration.
Once you have your activities distributed, you can more easily take stock of which tasks you should be spending your time on and which ones are weighing you down.
Now, here’s how you should think about each of them.
Like To Do and Need To Do (a.k.a. “The Good Stuff”)
This category should be the bulk of your job and how you spend at least 60% of your time. The items in this bucket should clearly draw on your strengths and represent the unique contribution that you make to your business. The more time you spend on these tasks, the happier you are and the more your business prospers.
Don’t Like To Do and Need To Do (a.k.a. “The Necessary Evils”)
These tasks are the necessary evils that come along with the job. Perhaps it’s the financial reviews that you find more tedious than informative, or the new business pitching that’s draining rather than invigorating.
Unfortunately, there will always be unexciting parts of the job that you can’t get around or ignore, but you can reduce their impact as much as possible. You can minimize the time you dedicate to them, increase your efficiency on them through training or coaching, or perhaps make them more palatable by shifting your thinking (or rewarding yourself!). All in all though, this bucket shouldn’t represent more than 25% percent of your time. Otherwise, you’re likely to be unhappy at work.
Like To Do and Don’t Need To Do (a.k.a. “The Guilty Pleasures”)
There may be some tasks that you continue to hang on to, but—if you’re really honest with yourself—don’t actually need to be done by you. Perhaps you get great satisfaction from writing out the chalkboard menu at your café or from selecting gifts that will be sent to your clients. And no, the business wouldn’t suffer if you didn’t do them, but you personally might.
As long as doing these tasks don’t have a significant downside (they’re too time consuming, have unintended consequences, or really would be better done by someone else), then go for it. But remember that, like most guilty pleasures, it’s important to keep them in check—and they shouldn’t take up more than 20% of your time.
Don’t Like To Do and Don’t Need To Do (a.k.a. “A Waste of Time”)
This is the delegation sweet spot. Ideally, this bucket should be totally empty. If it’s not, it’s time to consider how to lose these tasks as quickly as possible by deleting, delegating, or automating them.
Here’s how to attack this list:
Then, give anything you decide to leave on your plate an expiration date or associated revenue goal. For example, “I will place our weekly orders for no longer than three more months” or, “once we’re making another $1,000 a month, I will find someone to manage social media.”
But, also do this with caution. After all, any time you spend on these tasks is time that you’re not spending building and growing the business. Each work hour represents an opportunity for progress, and you want to spend that time doing what’s best for you and the company—not staying in the weeds.
Remember, the opportunity of entrepreneurship is doing work that you love every day on your terms. Considering all the time and energy (not to mention money) you’re investing in your company, you deserve nothing less than your dream job.
Photo courtesy of Joi Ito.
About The Author
Adelaide Lancaster is an entrepreneur, consultant, speaker, and co-author of The Big Enough Company: Creating a business that works for you (Portfolio/Penguin). She is also the co-founder of In Good Company Workplaces, a first-of-its-kind community, learning center, and co-working space for women entrepreneurs in New York City. She is also a contributor to The Huffington Post and writes The Big Enough Company blog for Forbes.com. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, daughter, and son. You can follow her on Twitter here and here and on Facebook too.