How to Delegate Work Tasks

Do you know how to delegate work? The benefit to everyone is huge if you do it well. So is the cost if you don’t, not least to yourself.

So, what’s your current ability? A good way to find out is to to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10.

This article will hopefully give you what you need to take it nearer to 10.

Why delegate work?

First and foremost, it’s to make more time for you. The essence of good time management is to do what matters. Master the art of delegation and you’ll spend much more of your time doing that.

Do you want to give others new opportunities? Learn how to delegate tasks and you allow people to develop themselves.

When you give them responsibility, you’re saying ‘I trust you’. You may find that this trust pays off as they introduce new ways of doing things.

Why you don’t delegate work

When you delegate, you set up a system -- always an effort to implement. This is the point at which people moan that ‘it’s quicker to do it yourself’.

Is it?

Do you need to be busy? This is a trap if you’re busy doing things that someone else could, or should, do. We can only think one thought at a time. You need time and thought to plan and execute the real work, not busy work.

‘No one else can do it’. This one may be true. Or not. The trick here is to take the time to decide if the task is one that only you can do, or if it’s best done by another.

Besides, the following ideas may help you tip the balance towards delegating more often than you have been doing up until now:

How to delegate work

  • Delegate quickly. If you want someone to do something for you, tell them as soon as possible. Other people have work to do as well, and may need to re-adjust priorities to fit in your request.
  • Build in a buffer. This allows you time to chase and process work before its actual deadline. For example, if your project deadline is Friday, ask for the delegated portion to be returned to you a week before.
  • Clarify what, when and why. Don’t concern yourself so much with how they do it (as long as it’s legal!) Clearly explain, in writing, what you want them to do and when you want it done by. ‘Next Monday’ is less effective than Monday 28th at 3pm.
  • Do it nicely. A spirit of respect, trust and support goes a long way here. People respond better. 'Please' and 'Thank you' are powerful phrases.
  • Check progress. Specific, focused updates enhance the quality of work and the likelihood of the deadline being met. Whoever you delegate work is more likely to keep it in mind.
  • Remind before the deadline. You reduce excuses when you prompt people a day or two before you want the work. Make sure the gap between the reminder and the deadline allows them time to do, and you to review if necessary.
  • Follow up fast. Missed deadline? Respond -- immediately. The longer you leave it, the cooler it gets and the less they think it matters. This is essential for good time management , whether at work or around the house.
  • Ignore excuses. Many people want to focus on ‘why’ they missed the deadline. What difference does that make to the project outcome? None. Instead, focus on the ‘when’. When will they get it done by?

How not to delegate tasks

There are people who are superb at delegating work, but still bad at delegating. Why? They don’t do any of the dirty work themselves. Set an example. A teacher who asks teenagers to pick up paper from the classroom floor at the end of the lesson will get a better response if he shows he’s willing to do it himself.

When not to delegate

Some things can’t be shared. Confidential work needs to be kept confidential. Work may genuinely be too complex -- if someone isn’t up to the task, it’s not fair on anyone to pass it on. Can they cope with the ‘thinking’ aspect of the work, or is it uniquely yours?

Final thoughts

We delegate tasks all the time, at work and at home. Practice and refine your ability to delegate and you’ll free up more time to do things that challenge, relax and excite you. 


So what do you think? Is it something you're good at or does the thought of doing it make you cringe?

Do you need to get a better balance in your life?

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