8 Strategies To Improve Your Delegation Skills (part 2)

While many of us recognize the potential of effective delegation skills, a lot of questions remain between understanding the concept and implementing it in practice.

We ask ourselves…

  • What can hand off when I need to do everything? 
  • Who can I find to delegate the tasks?
  • How on earth do I do it?!
woman delegating at work

If your brain asks similar questions when thinking about delegation, you’re in the right place.

You can listen to the episode above or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:   

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.

In Episode 169: 8 Strategies To Improve Your Delegation Skills, You’ll Discover… 

  • How to identify potential areas for delegation
  • What tasks to delegate and what ones to keep
  • Effective delegation skills
  • Strategies to delegate at work and at home

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Episode #169: 8 Strategies To Improve Your Delegation Skills, part 2 (Transcript) 

8 effective delegation skills for work and home

Today we’re diving into part two of all-things delegation – specifically how to improve your delegation skills.

As a quick reminder, in last week’s episode on how to delegate more effectively, (#168) we looked at what delegation is and the six main reasons why so many of us avoid it, from believing thoughts like, “I’m the only one who can do it right,” to “it will just be faster if I do it.” 

Then we explored the very real feelings of overwhelm that often come up around this topic, whether we’re thinking about how we can possibly get everything done on our list OR how to even figure out how to delegate some of the things when we can barely keep everything straight ourselves. 

Finally, we talked about the many reasons why it would be so beneficial to learn how to delegate, especially for those of us with ADHD brains and ADHD tendencies, whether at home, at work, or both. And hopefully, over the week your brain considered the possibility of delegation and what that might look like. If not, that’s no problem. There’s no rush.

But hopefully, we opened the door a little wider into what delegation might look like.

Improving Your Delegation Skills

Today we’re coving:

  • Knowing which tasks to delegate
  • Strategies to know what to hand off and what to hold onto
  • Tips to help you delegate more effectively
  • Specific approaches to delegating both at work and at home

So if you’ve gotten your brain on board, and your thoughts are open and receptive to the possibility of delegation, then this episode is filled with actions you can take to help you move toward that goal.

Deciding Which Tasks To Delegate

writing to do list in notebook

To begin, let’s talk about what to delegate in the first place.

  • What should we keep on our list?
  • What can we share with others?
  • What can we simply cross off the list entirely or move it to much later because it’s not actually a priority right now?

We are going to talk through several different approaches today, and I invite you to use the ones that make the most sense for you to help you evaluate the items on your list.

I encourage you to go in with an open mind. If your brain is anything like mine, it will almost always think, I need to do this; I can’t possibly hand it off. 

If this sounds familiar, ask yourself…

  • What if that’s not true?
  • What if delegation could be one of the most impactful things you could do?

Give yourself some time to think about each task. And anticipate your brain’s resistance, thinking it’s taking too long, that it’d be faster if you just did it all right now rather than going through this process.

Your brain will likely offer all of these thoughts. That’s okay. Treat your brain like a toddler having a tantrum and gently remind it why it’s helpful to go through these steps.

Now as we consider the different approaches to help us decide which tasks to delegate first start more broadly and then we’ll narrow in and get more specific.

1. Determine Which Tasks Are Essential And Exclusive To You

First and foremost, I’d invite you to look over your list of all the things you do whether at home or at work, and ask yourself:

What are the tasks that are both essential and exclusive to you?

There are going to be some tasks or projects that you’re the best person for.

The obstacle is that we tend to think everything is essential and exclusive. So we’re starting broadly, and I invite you to look at your list and identify what you see as essential and exclusive specifically to you.

This process can usually help us get at the low-hanging fruit and quickly identify the tasks that might get in the way of us doing these essential things or working toward our bigger goals.

So identify those non-negotiables that you need to do first.

For example:

In my business, I need to record my podcast. It would be very weird if I hired someone else to record their thoughts and post them as the I’m busy being awesome podcast!

I might do an interview or something at some time, but delegating the actual recording of the podcast is not something I’d do.

It wouldn’t be the same. However, there are other parts of the business, like creating beautiful pins for my blog to share on Pinterest and helping me with inbox management and managing my calendar, which are all things I can delegate.

2. Which Tasks Can Go To Someone Else?

This brings me to our second broad question:

What tasks can I give to someone else?

Again, if you’re anything like me, your brain might first tell you that there is not one single thing on your list that you can give up. But I promise you this is not true.

There are so many things that you might be good at, but other people can handle them just as easily, and by handing those things off, you lighten the load.

Or perhaps there are things that are more challenging for you or take you much longer than you’d like to spend. 

Delegation Skills Example (Business):

Email Newsletters:

Recently my assistant Nicole has been helping me with scheduling my weekly newsletters.

In the past I used to spend so much time scheduling them out. I would send them to myself, and I’d read them and reread them and I’d test the links and make sure everything works several times before I’d eventually schedule it.

This time was not well spent, because most of it was me spinning unnecessarily.

I realized it was so much easier to have Nicole help me with this because she has a lot of strengths when it comes to recognizing the details and checking all the boxes.

Podcast Blog Posts – that you’re reading now!:

Similarly, for those of you who like to follow along with the show notes for the podcast, you may have noticed somewhere around episode 140 they started looking super nice. There were bullet points and bolded statements and quotes pulled out of the text. It looked way more readable and user-friendly. 

I finally realized that formatting blog posts was not a strong suit of mine. I did not understand SEO and I had no intention of learning it. So I reached out to Yolanda who is a pro when it comes to all things web design and SEO knowledge and hired her.

That way, I’m effectively using my time and energy in the areas that are essential for me, and I’ve hired someone who is both super talented and genuinely enjoys doing the transcript formatting to do the transcripts. And for all of you who use the transcripts for further learning and reflecting on the information have beautifully formatted pages to look at. It’s a win-win-win.

Delegation Skills Example (Other Careers)

I realize that these are both business examples where I’ve hired people to help, but there are lots of different ways to approach this.

When I was a professor, I worked with teaching assistants in my classes.

They helped me with setting up my online course platforms, with scanning readings for class, and with grading discussion questions.

When I led conferences, I delegated different parts of the planning process to various colleagues and different teams on campus.

There are many ways that we can think about delegation when we open our mind to the possibility that we don’t have to do it all.

So again, if your brain immediately thinks, “I can’t hand anything off,” challenge it to think outside the box.

  • What if that’s not true?
  • What are the things that you genuinely do not enjoy doing?
  • What are the things that take much more time than you’d like?
  • What are the things that you find yourself procrastinating all the time?

The answers you find are the places to start.

And I especially want to emphasize the point about procrastination.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, if you have ADHD, you are going to procrastinate. That is literally part of having ADHD. So if it’s available to you – why not build in the scaffolding to help set yourself up for success by delegating the things you genuinely don’t enjoy – especially if you can delegate it to someone who does enjoy it?

Get The 10 Tips to Work With Your ADHD Brain Free Ebook. Click Here

3. Identify The Right Tasks For Delegation

Alright, so let’s dive in more specifically and talk about four specific factors to consider when delegating tasks whether you are at work, running a business, or at home. 

Step 1: Look at the size of the task 

First, I encourage you to look at the size of the task.

I know for myself, it’s easy to think, “it’s such a small thing, it will only take a minute.”

But when you have a huge list of these 2 minute tasks, they quickly add up, and they ultimately result in a whole lot of additional time, energy, and attention, which could be focused on your essential projects rather than these smaller things. 

Plus, many of us ADHD brains struggle with task switching and having all of these small tasks throughout the day creates a lot of unnecessary transitions between one thing and the next.

By delegating these things to a brain that has less obstacles when it comes to this executive function, you’re working with your brain to focus on the priority items you do best while ensuring the other tasks, which are also important, still get done. 

Step 2: Break down the project into steps

Rather than me thinking I need to be solely responsible for my podcast, when I break things down, I realize that’s not entirely the case.

When I break it down into steps…

  • Research
  • Writing
  • Recording
  • Editing
  • Uploading
  • Scheduling
  • Embedding the podcast onto the blog
  • Formatting the show notes
  • Creating images
  • SEO research

…I start seeing that there are areas where I’m not essential. 

When I break down the steps, it also helps my brain see what parts of the process I could get support, like Yolanda helping me with the show notes, creating beautiful pins for the page, and doing the SEO research. 

Now, I know that breaking down the steps of a project can be challenging for our brains. This is that obstacle with sequencing that makes it harder to see the trees within the forest. And if you want to really dive into this further, definitely come join us we’re busy being awesome


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One thing that I think is really helpful when it comes to looking at a big project and breaking down the steps is to imagine you’re creating a tutorial or a step-by-step workflow where you’re teaching everything to get you from point A to point Z. Capture every step so you could hand it over to someone else and they could complete it without asking additional questions. 

That’s one of the things I often ask my clients: if I was going to do this for you, and you weren’t here, what are all the steps I need to follow to ensure I do it right? Pretend like I’ve never done it before; what are all the steps involved?

As you work through the steps either in your mind or by literally doing them, you can write them down or screen record it if you’re doing it on your computer.

Once you have all of those areas clear for yourself, it’s so much easier to delegate smaller portions of a project rather than thinking you have to do either all of it or none of it. It helps us step away from that favorite all or nothing thinking that so many of us love.

In addition, by identifying the separate steps, it also helps you recognize the specific areas of a project you might want to procrastinate.

Delegation Example

Maybe you have a project that you always want to put off. You drag your feet and have absolutely ZERO desire to do it. But if you break down the steps and look at the individual components, maybe you find there’s only one or two things that you really dislike doing or that really challenge your executive functions, but the other parts you don’t mind doing at all.

By breaking down the steps and identifying your high procrastination zones, you can work with your brain by delegating those areas to someone who does enjoy that part of the work, which will free up space to focus on the parts you do enjoy or that come more naturally.

Step 3: Look at your level of expertise and how it relates to the task

The third area I wanted to mention is looking at your expertise and how it relates to the task.

For example, there may be some essential tasks that you can technically do, but it’s really beyond your level of expertise. It’s not what you’re trained to do. 

Again, this is like me trying to do SEO for my website. Can I design a website and make it work? You bet.

But am I doing it in a way that works well with Google’s search engine? Probably not. That’s beyond my area of expertise and is a beautiful space for me to delegate to someone who’s much more talented than I am in it.

Or on the flip side, if there’s something that you are uniquely qualified to do, and there are other tasks that you could ask a team member or your assistant to help out with, by delegating those projects you’re able to spend more time in your zone of genius doing that unique work that only you can do while your team is able to take some ownership over the work as well.

step 4: Look at your level of enjoyment 

The fourth reason is a really important one, and it’s one that I think we might overlook as superfluous or extra.

This is to look at your level of enjoyment around the task.

It is so key for those of us with ADHD. We literally have less dopamine in our brain.

It is harder for us to do tasks that are not engaging for our brain. It doesn’t mean it’s not possible, and we can’t do it, but it is more demanding.

If it’s possible to delegate the tasks that you genuinely do not enjoy or find incredibly depleting or boring, that’s going to allow you and your team to be much more efficient overall.

Example

Before I was diagnosed with ADHD, and I had no idea about any of this, I had a really hard time staying awake reading articles and grading papers.

There wasn’t enough stimulation for my brain, and even though I was standing up while reading and fidgeting with a pen and doing everything I could think of to stay awake, I would literally start nodding off even while standing.

When I was sitting, my husband would come down to my office and I’d be literally asleep with my head on the desk.

By delegating some of the grading to my TAs, that helped me reduce some demand on the work that really taxed my brain, which allowed me to have a little more energy to focus on prepping for classes and doing the research. 

So, if there are tasks that you genuinely do not enjoy or find incredibly tiresome or tedious, these are areas to look into delegation.

And not from the perspective of, “do this work for me, because I hate doing it” but rather, there are other brains that love doing that work. That is their zone of genius.

They’re great at the detail, at the copyediting, at organizing the inbox and getting your systems running smoothly.

When everybody can work in their strength zone as much as possible, everything can run that much smoother.

4. Find The Right Person To Delegate To

women colleagues at desk

Alright, so you’ve identified which tasks are your non-negotiables and which ones could delegate.

Now it’s time to find the right person to help you out.

Having effective delegation skills is a key part of this equation, and we want to make sure that…

  • Both people involved have a clear understanding of the end goal
  • Everybody benefits from this agreement, meaning perhaps you freeing up more time to focus on other areas and the person supporting you getting paid for their work 

For example

When I was in the final stages of publishing my manuscript, I was really fighting with that last detail work.

I was down to ensuring all the footnotes were properly formatted and creating an index of everything in the book. And even though that’s all there was left, it was physically painful for me to sit there and do them.

So I ended up applying for some grant money from the university to help me hire someone to help out with this.

This was a win-win for everyone. I had somebody working in their zone of genius on the copy editing and the indexing, I was able to pay them for their support, and I only had to go in at the end to make sure everything looked right.

I didn’t have to go through and do all of that tiny detail work that made my brain want to melt.

As we think about effective delegation and finding the right people to help, I want to offer a couple of important reminders to keep in mind.

5. Remember This: Delegation Flows In Different Directions 

Delegation can flow in different directions depending on the situation.

Some people assume that the only way we can delegate at work is if we have people working for us.

We think we can only delegate if we can pass tasks to your reports or those who you manage.

This is certainly an option; there are times when asking your team to help out with some extra tasks if they are free works great. However, that’s not the only option.

delegate laterally

Lateral delegation is essentially asking someone in a similar position to help you out.

Maybe at work you need to work on the slide deck and someone else needs to work the video portion of the presentation.

Both of you aren’t stoked about your respective roles since they hate video and you spin out thinking about tweaking the design of the slides. In a situation like this, maybe a lateral swap could work and you both end up in an area you prefer.

Or maybe at home, you’ve found that the workload is not evenly balanced, and you would like to even that out. So you decide to delegate laterally to your partner or your roommate asking for some additional support as you work toward that shared goal of a clean house or getting dinner on the table each night. 

Delegating Upwards

Finally, we can also delegate upwards.

I’ve found this one to be especially effective when it comes to prioritization.

If you’re navigating too many things on your list, and your boss or manager or higher-up keeps adding more, this can be a great time to get their input.

If they come to you with another project deadline, you could say something like,

“I want to make sure that I’m focused on the most important thing right now. Here are the things that I currently have on my list, what would you like me to focus on first, and what can I put on the back burner until that’s complete?” 

So again, remembering that delegation can flow in all different directions, helps us open our mind to finding the right person for the job.

6. Take Note Of Times When Delegation Works 

As you begin the practice of delegation, it’s also powerful to start making note of when you have experiences of effective delegation.

Start making note of those successes.

If you have an intern working for you, and they do a really good job in one area, make note of that. And check in with them when you have a similar opportunity to help them build up their experience. 

If you have someone on your team who loves design, and you have seen the beautiful slide decks that they create, make note of that.

If one of your kids doesn’t mind unloading the dishwasher, and the other likes pushing the swiffer around the floor in the kitchen, take note.

I’ve found that some of us might successfully delegate a task or find an effective solution, but then we forget, because working memory is a challenge.

And because we haven’t slowed down to make note, we constantly reinvent the wheel. We start again fresh every time. But when you slow down and make note of what works, you’re not starting up from zero. You’re starting from a template. 

7. Maintain A Good Open Dialogue With Everyone 

women talking on video call

Another key tip that’s easy to overlook is maintaining good communication and asking people what they like to do, or what they find comes easy to them.

When we can learn from people what they find to be easiest for them, it makes delegation and asking for support so much easier, and ultimately more enjoyable for everyone, because we can do our best to match people to their areas of strength.

For Example

On the days when I’ve actually planned ahead enough to cook dinner and have all the ingredients in the house, I don’t mind doing it.

I actually kind of like it. So I will happily make dinner while Ryan finishes up some work. Then after we eat, I’ll hang out and read while Ryan does clean up. It’s a lateral delegation that works for both of us. 

8. Utilize The Best Delegation Skills For ADHD at Work & Home

Alright, so we know why delegation is important, we’ve figured out what we can delegate, and we know who we’re delegating to.

What are some strategies to make delegation effective at work and at home?

Let’s face it, delegation isn’t simply telling someone to do something and handing it over without any explanation or support. Or at least, effective delegation doesn’t often look like this.

So let’s talk about how to do it, starting with roles at work.

Delegation Skills At Work 

If you’re delegating at work, it’s most impactful to focus on the skillsets and goals of people on your team. And as often as possible, put people in their areas of strength.

Building on that, it’s important to maintain an open line of communication.

Make sure the person you’re delegating work to knows exactly what the expectations are before they agree to the task. 

Saying this reminds me of an interaction I had as an undergraduate. One day my wind ensemble teacher asked me, “hey Paula, I have a favor for you.” And I said “sure no problem” before he even shared the favor.

He paused and looked at me, then said, “A piece of advice: don’t agree to something before you know what it is.”

That really stuck with me. I have no idea what he asked me to do that day, but that piece of advice stuck. 

When delegating, I encourage you to ensure the person you’re asking knows what’s involved and what they’re saying yes to.

It can be helpful to have a list of the key objectives or bullet points that they’d fulfill, as when things are written down, it’s less easy to forget.

At the same time, we want to make sure communication stays open if and when they have questions or need feedback as well.

When you have that two-way system it allows for a much better working relationship where everybody is heard. You can work on these projects together side by side without worry or fear of doing it wrong.

Instead, you can easily check in with one another and provide that feedback and support as needed.

In fact, establishing and nurturing this value of good communication with your team can help build autonomy with each person since they know they have the space to try things and can always check with you when they need it.

It also allows you to step back and not slip into micromanaging, which is easy to do when first learning how to delegate.

Delegation Skills at Home 

When we think about delegating at home, I think we can apply a lot of the same concepts.

Open communication, clear objectives, and working with people’s strengths and preferences are all great to take into account when delegating at home, too. 

For those in a financial position to do so, this might look like hiring support for housework or yard work. Or it might look like hiring someone to help out with child care or grocery shopping. Similarly, it could be a lateral swap or trade with a neighbor.

But of course, this isn’t always a possibility or even our preference. So how can we delegate to those in our household?

First: Create a list of everything that gets done each week. Don’t go into perfectionist fantasy here either. Rather, make sure the list is sustainable and one that you see as non-negotiable each week.

Second: Have a conversation. Do you and those in your household – whether partner, children, roommates, etc. – have the same expectations? We want to make sure everyone is in agreement and working toward the same goals and objectives.

Lastly: Once everyone is on the same page, then we can work on delegation and dividing up evenly what each person is willing and able to do each week so that one person isn’t solely responsible for the brunt of the work.

If you’re anything like me, the control enthusiast in you will want to make sure everything is done exactly as you would do it! This is where I’d encourage you to step back and remind yourself of the end goal.

Is the dishwasher unloaded and loaded even if they didn’t alternate the cups the way you like?

Are the groceries purchased and put away, even if they got smoked turkey instead of regular?

Again, some of these may be things you want to mention – I’m not sure – but I’ve personally found that when I step back and recognize the time saved and reduced demand on my day-to-day, those things are very minor details in the grand scheme of things.

Improving Your Delegation Skills: Let’s Recap

Whew! This was a lot. Thanks for deep diving into all things delegation with me over the past few weeks; I hope you’ve found it helpful.

This week I invite you to put into practice the strategies we talked about today.

To improve your delegation skills overall, get clarity on your essential tasks vs. what you can delegate to other people. And to help narrow that down, you can turn to the strategies we talked about today.

Once you’ve identified what you can delegate, then use the strategies we talked about today for delegating both at work and at home to help you share the load. 

And throughout all of it, I want to invite you to practice patience. Coming from a control enthusiast, I know how hard it is to release my grip on things at times, and it does take practice. So give yourself and those on your team time to make these adjustments.

In the long run, I’m quite certain you’ll be incredibly grateful to your past self for sticking it out and learning these skills for successful delegation.

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