How do you feel about the word delegation? What other words instantly come up? For some, words like “Smart” and “Efficient” come up. For others, words like “Lazy” or “Loss of control” come up. That’s because some individuals feel that delegating means their ultimate doom, as they give the reins over to less-capable individuals. Others have come to learn that, when done right, delegating is an essential part of succeeding and of maintaining mental health. This is true in career pursuits, as well as in running a family and managing a household. If you worry that when you delegate, your employees/peers/children/spouse will just go off and secretly botch the job, research from the National Health Institute has shown that’s not true. Delegating actually encourages those to whom you delegate to ask for your advice and feedback. So it helps everyone around you become stronger, and it improves communication.
One study found that people are particularly likely to delegate a task when its outcome affects more people than themselves, ScienceDirect reported. So, for example, deciding how to invest a sum of money that’s meant to become a college fund one day for your child, or which hotel to choose for the entire office to stay at for the next out-of-town convention. Deciding something that will have an impact on even one single person beyond yourself causes a lot of stress. And yet, if you fail to delegate, you probably take that stress on, all alone, all of the time. And then, when others aren’t happy with the hotel/restaurant/investment fund/new hire you selected, you feel resentment. You probably even think things like, “If they wanted the job done a certain way, they should have done it themselves.” But maybe you didn’t give them the chance…Here are signs you don’t delegate enough in your work and life.
You are the complaint department
Some days it feels like you are a human suggestion box. Everyone continuously comes to you to complain about an interpersonal issue with a colleague/sibling/friend/neighbor. You’re drowning in criticism about how everything is handled. Nothing seems good enough for anybody. You often are in awe of the petty matters you must deal with, like writing notes to put on the fridge reminding people not to eat others’ food or reminding your children to be quiet when the other is napping. Whatever the problem is, you have to fix it for others, when they’re very capable of fixing it for themselves. But, if you tend to have an “I handle everything around here” attitude, people will also assume you’re the one to go to with all complaints.
Tiny tasks drag you down
You’re always frustrated by how much of your time is taken up by menial, boring administrative tasks like ordering printer toner or color coordinating everyone else’s schedule or waiting on hold with a service provider. You wake up with big picture goals – ideas of those higher-level things you’d like to do that will really move your business or your life forward – and somehow, at 4pm, you find yourself still arguing with customer service over a credit card charge. These lower-level tasks are things you can delegate. If you own a business, you can delegate to an assistant or intern. If it’s about managing a household, you can delegate to your spouse or one of your older children.
People beg for tasks
People literally beg you to give them something to do. Your children want to be more involved in the household duties. Your teenager has asked, many times, to do the grocery shopping trip for the house but you won’t let her, for fear that she’ll forget something. So you let grocery shopping eat up two hours of your day, all to make sure the proper mustard is purchased. If you run a business, you have employees who ask for bigger challenges, and who want to do something beyond answer the phones. But you won’t let them, for fear they’ll do it wrong.
Everyone is highly dependent on you
Whether it’s your employees or your children, people in your life are highly dependent on you. They come to you, interrupting whatever important thing you are doing, to have you do something very simple for them – something they should be able to do themselves. They panic over making small choices. It feels like someone is always either knocking on your door or emailing or calling, needing help with something. This is what happens when you don’t delegate: you don’t teach others to be self-sufficient, so their instinct is to run to you about every little thing. You create this dynamic by not delegating.
You do things you don’t know how to do
You find yourself doing things that you have no idea how to do, like trying to fix a plumbing issue or do the bookkeeping. These are things people go to school for. There are trained professionals you can hire. But you are so insistent on “saving money” that you do it yourself. What ultimately winds up happening is it doesn’t get fixed, or it gets worse, and you have to pay someone in the end. Perhaps there are some things you can learn to do by looking it up on YouTube. But if that’s what you’re doing – YouTubing it – then you can certainly ask an employee or one of your family members to do that, while you move onto bigger things.
You have no alone time. Ever.
You never, ever have time for yourself. Not for a bath. Not for a jog. Not to meditate. Not to have coffee with a friend. The time for these things is eaten up by helping others with things they should be able to handle themselves. Maybe you do make time for yourself, but you spend it worrying that everything is falling apart while you aren’t there to micro-manage. You go on a vacation, but spend the entire time FaceTiming with your assistant to see how things are going. You’re texting with your kids constantly to get updates on every little thing happening at home.
Even when you delegate, you don’t
You may say you delegate, but what actually happens? You hover over the person, watching their every move, giving feedback at every step, and eventually stepping in and doing it for them. When you delegate, you cannot trust that the other person will make the right calls. So instead of taking the time you meant to carve out for yourself to do higher-level tasks, you just supervise this lower-level task. At that point, you may as well have done it yourself. It’s important to remember that anyone running a successful empire delegates. And, yes, at one point, their assistants/employees made mistakes. It’s okay. It didn’t break them.
There’s a lot of dead weight around you
If you take a moment to look around, there are a lot of people doing absolutely nothing around you. You’re balancing the phone on your chin while cleaning dishes with one hand and throwing a ball to your hyper-active dog with the other. Meanwhile, your teenagers are sitting on the couch texting and chewing gum. Have one of them wash the dishes and the other one throw the ball for the dog. If you have a business, you’re fixing the scanner while inputting data into an Excel sheet while proofreading the marketing materials. And your employees are sitting around chatting and laughing.
You’re falling behind on everything
You have many big-picture tasks that have been regularly pushed back. You know there are those major things that, if you could just do them, they would move your business to the next level. Maybe it’s as simple as sitting down with a website developer to redo your website to attract more clients. But you never have the time because you’re doing the menial tasks of your employees and interns. Your business has stagnated because you will not give up control of the small stuff to make room for the big stuff. Does it really matter if the smaller stuff is done perfectly (by you) if that means you never get to advance?
You are the only ball of stress
You are a ball of stress. You feel like every inch of your skin is tingling. You can feel all of the nerves in your body. People constantly tell you that you need to relax, and you need to delegate. And you can sense that it’s just you – everyone else around you is chilling. Of course they are. You don’t give them anything to do and you take everything on yourself. You have accumulated all of the stress that comes with all of the tiny tasks around your home/office, rather than dispersing that among several people. You’re carrying one massive weight alone instead of letting others split it up into small pieces.