My latest business challenge has been figuring out how to manage an ever-growing workload. It hasn’t been the easiest task, and delegation has been my best way of getting it all under control. At first, though, figuring out what to delegate and when was a bit overwhelming, so after getting a pretty good start, I thought I’d share how I did it and how it’s working out so far.
Divide and Conquer
To get started breaking down what needed to be done so that I could effectively delegate or outsource certain responsibilities, I first had to figure out what I did all day. (Oddly enough, this wasn’t exactly easy, at least not at first.) How do you name all the things that have to get done in a business each day?
To get a handle on it, I started at the top. What did I do immediately after coming into the office each day? From there, it would be easier to move through my day and week.
- First, I generally did a quick check of my email to see if there were any time-sensitive to-dos or messages waiting for me, but there was nothing there to delegate, really, at least not at this point.
- After that, I went to my Backpack account, where I keep all my recurring to-dos. (I have a template that houses a weekly checklist sorted by day that I simply copy each Monday for the new week.) Within my checklist, I had a variety of tasks. Some of them had to do with things like planning and accountability, others had to do with my writing, but most of them were administrative in nature (prime territory for delegation).
- At some point each day, I had to go back to my email box to sort through any new appointments and book guests for my radio show, magazine interviews, and podcast, which meant adding data to my calendar, as well as other locations to keep my content production schedule running smoothly.
- I also needed to sort through pitches and press releases each day, figure out who I wanted to book, and coordinate interviews.
- Then there came the actual production of content, which included things like editing down recordings and transcribing some of the interviews.
On and on, I went through my days, figuring out all the steps required to do every job I do. I noted each task on a separate index card and then divided them into groups based on context (grouping scheduling/booking tasks together, editing and publication tasks together, lead generation tasks together, and so on).
Once I had all the roles and responsibilities divided, I could decide what would be most beneficial to outsource or delegate at this point, but that required me to break things down a little more.
Focus on Highest and Best Use
To keep everything in perspective, I had to think in terms of “highest and best use.” There were certain tasks that were absolutely the most important things for me to be doing in my business. They weren’t the urgent fires. They weren’t the tasks that needed to somehow get done by someone at some point. They were those tasks that directly generated income or interest in my business, and there were only a few of them. Those few tasks were my “highest and best use” tasks, and I knew that they should have the majority of my attention each day.
In an ideal setup, I would only focus on those tasks 100 percent of the time. Of course, perfection was out of the question, but I could at least organize my workload, as well as the workloads of those who work alongside me, to focus on our individual highest and best use tasks as much as possible.
Obviously, the administrative tasks were not my highest and best use activities. I could quickly eliminate around 25 percent of my workload by delegating those to someone who charged 25 percent of what I made, so that had to be the top priority.
Organize and Execute
I decided to start with getting help in two main areas — scheduling and editing/transcription, but before I could do that, I had to organize all the tools and resources and develop a specific system around each role. That included things like:
- Setting up a branded email address for my scheduling assistant.
- Creating an email signature to clarify to guests her role within my organization.
- Creating canned email responses within that assistant’s email account to communicate in a consistent way with guests
- Creating a step-by-step checklist of “how-tos” that outlined each and every task the assistant had to do.
Once I had all that in place, the rest was pretty easy. Each time I got a new appointment confirmation email, for instance, I simply forwarded it to the new scheduling assistant with the following action in the subject line, “[Book].” There are only five or six actions that my scheduling assistant takes care of each day, and I start each email type with one of those actions so that she immediately knows what to do.
Until I know she has the hang of it, I’m saving all of the emails I send to her in a separate folder. Once a day, I’m running through them and making sure that nothing is fallen through the cracks. There have been a few hiccups, but nothing earth-shattering, and I’ve already seen a major reduction in admin time each day.
What steps do you take to make your outsourcing and delegation as painless as possible?
Photo by Flickr user Wonderlane, licensed under CC BY 2.0.