To delegate is more than just a means to clear your desk for more important work – it’s also about creating systems and processes that build a reliable framework for your business to scale beyond your day-to-day management.
A task that you delegate should not be something that you need to repeatedly explain or constantly supervise. In the same vein, repetitive tasks that can easily be completed by someone else with basic training shouldn’t be on your to-do list.
If you want to free up time from tedious tasks, delegate effectively, scale your business and most importantly, spend more time doing what’s most important to you, follow these three steps:
Proper documentation forms the pieces that make up the puzzle. A task is a set of actions carried out a certain way – documenting those actions allows you to easily train people to execute that task, thus helping you delegate them.
Depending on your needs, it can a simple list of actions, a video tutorial or a series of drawings. It needs to be simple so people with less experience / know-how than you can understand it, and it should be detailed so that no steps are left out. Beyond that, you don’t need to make too complicated. This is what needs to be done, this is how you do it. Simple.
But here’s the thing with documentation – it’s boring, and it’s nearly impossible to motivate yourself to document a task you subconsciously know you shouldn’t be doing in the first place.
If you have trouble motivating yourself to write down these how-to guides, do what I do – start with actually executing the task in question yourself.
When you start a particular task (be it washing dishes, checking your email or editing articles), your mind automatically calculates the steps that need to be done to finish the task in hand, and the order they need to be done in.
So when you’re in that mode – where everything you need to add to the documentation is in your active consciousness – it becomes very easy to record those steps (this is why video tutorials work great, because you can easily walk people through the tasks while doing them at the same time).
So the next time you’re doing a repetitive task, stop and write down the steps required to complete that task from start to end. And don’t spend ages trying to refine it; a coherent, complete first draft is all you need to move to the next phase.
Once the documentation is ready, immediately assign the tasks to workers. Supervise and evaluate first attempts, provide feedback and iterate where necessary to upgrade the documentation. You’ll find that quite a bit of knowledge you may take for granted would need to be part of the documentation for your workers to complete their tasks effectively.
It’s important to quickly move from documentation to training while the process is still fresh – it helps you fill gaps and teaches you more about how to document other tasks in the future.
Remember to set standards on what constitutes a successfully task and then stick by those standards. You also need to balance the need for excellence against the need to get things done, but that’s for another article.
Train once, review first attempts, give feedback and iterate until they meet your standards and then move on to the next step.
Once you’ve trained your workers to do something, don’t look back. If you’ve hired the right people (competent, willing to learn, etc.) then you don’t need to look over their shoulders at every step. Liberate yourself from less important tasks and focus your time on more important ones.
However, you do need to implement feedback loops so that their performances can be regularly monitored and errors rectified. Repeated mistakes will simply mean either that your instructions aren’t clear enough or that you’ve hired the wrong people. Supervising the training phase and implementing it right after the documentation phase will ensure that the first scenario doesn’t happen.
The best time to start delegating your less important work was yesterday. The second best time is now. Start right away; and you’ll thank yourself later.