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3 Easy Ways to Get Tasks Off Your Plate (and Onto Someone Else’s)

You can streamline, combine, and massage tasks ad infinitum, but most of us will reach a point where there are simply too many things for one individual to do. At that point, you have a few options...
Written Jul 11, 2011, read 1722 times since then.
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You can streamline, combine, and massage tasks ad infinitum, but most of us will reach a point where there are simply too many things for one individual to do. At that point, you have a few options:

  1. reprioritize and remove some tasks from your list
  2. work around the clock to finish all your tasks
  3. share some of your tasks with others.

I typically recommend the third option.

Make a delegation list. Throughout the course of each day, you'll probably come across a number of tasks or duties that aren't necessarily a good use of your time, skills or expertise, or ones that you just never find the time to do. In addition, there are probably plenty of other tasks that you simply hate doing. Start writing all of these tasks down, and before you know it, you'll probably have a pretty lengthy list! Once you've captured most of the tasks you'd rather not do, start grouping them by type or category. Before you know it, you've created mini-job descriptions for the various areas that you need help with.

Document each task. Ideally, you want to be able to pass tasks along to someone else, without being peppered with "how do I do it?" questions all day long. In order to have that happen, you need to do two things - document the tasks, and train the person who will be doing them. For each task, take some time to write down every single step that goes into making it happen. The idea here is to remove the guesswork, and the more detailed you are, the more likely it is that someone will be able to effectively do that task for you. Create a step-by-step process for each task, and the end result should be a documented set of steps that are so clear, someone with little to no previous knowledge of the task should be able to pick it up and do it without trouble. Once you've written a process down, set it aside for a day. When you return to it, make sure every step is clear, and that no steps are missing. Only then is it ready to be offloaded to someone else.

Delegate effectively. Once you have created written processes for each of the tasks you'd like to take off your plate, then it's time to find people to delegate them to. You may choose to find one person to handle them all (perhaps a virtual assistant), or you may bring on an array of folks to help you (maybe a virtual assistant for some tasks, an in-person assistant for others, and an intern for the remainder). After you've brought on the right person or people to help you, make sure to take time to walk them through each of the tasks you've documented. Even though you've spent time writing the processes down, it's helpful to guide people through them, especially as they are getting started. For any tasks you've offloaded to someone else, you'll want to also set up a system so both you and they can keep track of what tasks have been delegated, who is responsible for each one, and the status of each. Without this, both you and they are liable to lose track of who's doing what, and when. Make a regular habit of going over these tasks with your delegatee(s) to keep everyone on the same page.

If you're used to doing everything yourself, I know the idea of giving away tasks to someone else can seem both liberating and terrifying. Being deliberate about delegating and creating documented systems and processes will help you and the person you're sharing tasks with to make the transition much easier, smoother, and more effective.
Professional Organizer 
San Francisco, California 
Joshua Zerkel

Joshua Zerkel is a Certified Professional Organizer® and the founder of www.CustomLivingSolutions.com. He specializes in helping entrepreneurs leverage technology so they can be more productive, organized, and get more of the right things done.

Learn more about the author, Joshua Zerkel.

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