Considering the number of day-to-day tasks every professional must accomplish, alongside their larger projects, the workload can be incredibly overwhelming. With wasted hours spent answering emails, organizing folders, coordinating schedules and completing small administrative tasks, project responsibilities can often be pushed off until the next day or even the next week! They might even be placed on the back burner indefinitely, with the impending deadline still looming. For many executives, or those with type-A personalities, the thought of delegating even the smallest of tasks to free up time is incomprehensible. However, practicing the art, yes, the art, of delegating, will not only free up time, but create a more efficient workflow pattern that ensures the quality and expediency of each project, no matter how small.
First, identify which projects another individual could complete, with or without direction. These tasks could include creating or updating an online personal calendar, scheduling meetings, proofreading documents, etc. While the delegator may want to look over the completed result, they do not have to expedite these tasks directly. Other projects might require a more hands-on approach. Take, for example a quarterly report that needs writing. While it would be difficult to delegate the entire task to someone else, a virtual assistant could easily conduct research or gather data. This project would not require any interpretation, nor would it negatively affect the final product, which would still be written by the delegator.
Successful delegation simply requires a selection of tasks to complete, then a thorough briefing to the individual picking up the extra work. While first-time delegators may feel as though giving a briefing is a waste of time, and that they could accomplish the work in that amount of time, consider the overview of procedures and expectations to be an investment. Once the staff member or virtual assistant knows the exact specifications and steps associated with their assignment, they can successfully complete the task and will require less direction on similar projects in the future. That being said, do not micromanage the assistant. Instead, be available to answer questions and give direction, but do not be overbearing.
Not only does delegation offer myriad benefits for the individual overwhelmed by work, but it also provides opportunities to other staff members to prove themselves at relatively low-risk tasks. By being thoughtful about which opportunities are delegated to other individuals, a project manager can ensure his or her staff’s development. This can be done by assigning projects that require specific skills to an employee who is either very strong in those areas, or would do well to cultivate those skills. As such, the project will be completed very well, either independently by the staff member or with some direction. Choosing opportunities to provide direction will ensure that the employee will require less direct management on future, similar projects, and will complete them more efficiently and satisfactorily.
Furthermore, delegating tasks to staff members can be a thoughtful way to develop their respective careers. With the increased responsibilities associated with these projects, not only will managers learn to trust their employees’ capabilities, but will also train them to work outside of their comfort levels. Delegating tasks will build the entire workplace’s skill level by pushing other team members’ creativity and leadership. It will also provide an opportunity for management to learn more about the goals and capabilities of their staff, and will allow everyone to develop more caring, trusting relationships with their colleagues.
For those who do not work at or manage an office environment, delegating tasks to a virtual assistant can also be a valuable tool to increase productivity. We’ve all heard the saying, “two heads are better than one.” This applies to the office as much as any other space, and perhaps even more so. By delegating tasks to a virtual assistant, an individual can get twice as much work done in the same amount of time. For challenging projects or assignments where the delegator has hit a dead end, a virtual assistant can approach the problem from a new perspective, and will likely offer new and valuable insights to the task.
Ultimately, delegating tasks is a skill that many are loath to acquire, but once the first few projects are successfully completed, they will wonder why they hadn’t done so sooner.