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Time management skills are essential both for managers and employees to ensure that everyone achieves what they need to in the working day. But it’s something that is becoming even more crucial in this age of instant communication. Deluges of work, personal emails and the distractions of social media all conspire against your need to operate effectively.

One of your best tools as a leader is the simple art of delegation. Of course, unlike a piece of software – or a simple alarm clock – delegation is a personal skill and requires a bit of practice to perfect. And it can be an acquired skill simply to ask for help. Let’s dig deeper.

Lifehack is a venture that aims to boost your productivity. Its CEO and founder Leon Ho, a successful software engineer, shares the insights that helped him successfully to complete more than 150 engineering projects by his mid-twenties.

To explain delegation, Ho uses the analogy of a broken washing machine. Rather than call out someone to fix it, the husband (no particular partner implied!) decides to try to fix it himself. He takes half a day, plus he needs to drive to the shops to buy tools and parts for the machine. Additionally, this requires his wife to drop the kids off at football practice and swimming lessons, something he was supposed to be doing. Yes, he does eventually fix it – but at what cost?

Ho’s point is that time management skills teach us to understand the value of our work. Something that ended up taking the whole day would have been fixed in a few minutes by a handyman, who also would have had the requisite tools and parts, as well as the experience and specialised knowledge necessary.

Similarly, in a work context, analyse what needs to be done and who is best placed to help you achieve it.

To summarise Ho’s thinking:

  • Don’t be busy for the sake of being busy: In his analogy, Ho’s point is that delegation would have preserved time for more meaningful activities, such as spending time with family and children. Ho points out, “New challenges often involve things that are outside of our experience and expertise, so covering all the bases ourselves is sometimes not feasible as it takes too much time to learn and do everything.”
  • There’s only one of you: Accept your limitations and the constraints of time – there are only so many hours in a working day. “While an overall goal may be meaningful, not all of the milestones needed to get there may be meaningful.” This is where delegation comes in. At its simplest, delegation is a way of leveraging outside resource to leave you free to pursue challenges of greater value to you and your organisation. Stress and burn-out are ultimately of no benefit to anyone.
  • Learn the Delegation Triangle: When you look at what you can and should delegate, tasks that can be delegated generally fall into one of three categories:
    – Tasks that you know how to do but don’t enjoy doing
    – Tasks that you shouldn’t do, even if you enjoy them, because they are not the best use of your time
    – Tasks that you can’t do – they need doing but you don’t have the requisite skills or experience to carry them out

When it comes to delegating tasks that you actually enjoy, he advises consoling yourself by focusing on the end goal, the milestones that you need your colleagues to achieve to get you there and to stay focused on your own deadlines.

At the other end of the spectrum, be wary of delegating tasks simply because you don’t enjoy them. What is making you avoid them? Do you lack focus or discipline? Is there a training need? You need to be honest with yourself so that the whole team is pulling together to achieve the common goal.

Check out our time management skills courses here.

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