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Top 10 Tips on How to Delegate

Delegation is one of the secrets of good time management. But many people are reluctant to delegate because it often seems more trouble than it’s worth. When people you are depending on forget important tasks or miss deadlines it can be more than frustrating - it can be positively damaging. So here’s my Top 10 Tips on how to delegate effectively. And if you have a tip which you think should be in the Top 10, then tell us about it in the Comments.

1) Ask yourself which parts of your work can only be done by you. Then aim to delegate as much of the rest as possible so that you are free to make the most of your own work.

2) Never delegate even the simplest task without saying when you want it completed by.

3) Where possible, get the person to set the deadline themselves. Make it clear that you expect them to keep to it.

4) Always put a follow-up reminder in your schedule or Task Diary to check that the work has been done. Everytime you fail to do this, you have lost control of that part of your work.

5) Always chase work immediately if it hasn’t been done by the time you requested it. If you don’t, they will think it’s not important.

6) Break down large tasks into stages and set deadlines for each. Spell out what should have been achieved at each deadline. Don’t say “Let me know in a week’s time how you’re getting on”. Instead say “Send me the draft for the first section by lunchtime Friday.”

7) Remember you can delegate upwards and sideways as well as downwards, and the same rules apply when you do.

8) When someone overruns a deadline don’t say “Why haven’t you done it?”. Instead say: “I’m not interested in why you haven’t done it. What I want to know is when you will have done it.”

9) Remember no one is going to give the work they are doing for you more importance than you give it. So if they think you don’t care about it, why should they?

10) Remember that people whose time management is bad tend to react to what is making the most noise at the time. The way to get them to give your work priority is to make more noise than the other calls on their time.

If anyone consistently fails to do the work you are asking them to do in spite of your keeping to these rules, then you should cease to use their services. You are not doing them any favours by ignoring their poor performance.

Reader Comments (5)

Mark, I think an additional tip comes straight from DIT basic principles. Most delegating should be done at the commitment level in my opinion. Delegating individual tasks requires so much of my time and effort that I resist doing it. Here's an example. I was committed to doing all the appointment scheduling for our family. Nearly every time a scheduled appointment came up, my dh would say that it was impossible to keep it. I would have to reschedule. An obvious solution was to have him schedule the appointments. It works beautifullly now as it's on his calendar and it fits his other commitments. If I had delegated this task to him just once (rather than at the commitment level), it would have been a hassle. I have to look up the number, tell him who to talk to, etc. Now that it's a commitment, he has the numbers he needs, understands the need for the appointments, knows my basic schedule, etc.

Another example (sorry these are all home-based as I am a homeschooling mother, author, and speaker) is my children doing chores. Delegating one task, like vacuuming, is a huge hassle. I have to worry that they're going to suck up toys and rug fringe, etc. Easier to do it myself! But if I delegate at the commitment level--kids learn to take over chores--I can then put systems in place to make that happen. Time is planned for training and also for review. Putting systems in place--another of your principles!

Certainly if you need an errand run and someone else is going out, that's a delegation that can happen at the task level. But I would be interested to know whether or not you agree that delegating should be done primarily at the commitment level or not.
July 18, 2008 at 15:35 | Unregistered CommenterMel
Hi, Mel

Yes, I entirely agree with you. It's much better to give someone the responsibility for something on a permanent basis than just to delegate tasks on a piecemeal basis.
July 18, 2008 at 16:18 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Excelent post, Mark. I wrote it down.
July 20, 2008 at 0:43 | Unregistered CommenterMiguel León
Good stuff. I especially like Tip 9. Nobody likes busy work!
August 11, 2008 at 8:14 | Unregistered CommenterTage
You have to express more your opinion to attract more readers, because just a video or plain text without any personal approach is not that valuable. But it is just form my point of view
February 16, 2010 at 22:35 | Unregistered CommenterAcedodods

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