If I had a dollar for every excuse I’ve been told about why someone couldn’t delegate (or delegating wouldn’t work in x, y, z situation), I’d be a gazillionaire.
Ok, maybe not a gazillionaire. But at least a billionaire.
It’s true, delegating can be difficult. But it is a skill worth honing. Not only will it lighten your load and make you happier, but it empowers those you share a life with to contribute in meaningful ways.
Here are the most frequent “I can’t delegate” excuses I hear, and some tips for overcoming them.
Reason 1: Fear of (or Fatigue with) Blowback
When it comes to parental urgings to clean their room, some kids “just say no.” Husbands rarely jump up and down with joy at the opportunity to do the dishes or put laundry in the hamper. Anytime you get up the courage to ask someone to do something, you risk rejection. And let’s be honest, husbands and kids aren’t always great at giving a diplomatic reply, which can be exhausting and extra disheartening.
Solution: Invoke Recpirocity
Social scientists like Robert Cialdini have conducted studies that demonstrate we humans are hard-wired to return favors, pay back debts, and generally treat others as they treat us. Master sales people use reciprocity to get others to buy what they are selling all the time by making room in their ask for concessions, which in turn make another person feel obligated to return the “favor.” Try taking a page from a direct marketer’s book and lead with a HUGE ask. Then when the (inevitable) blowback arrives, reduce the scope of the ask as a concession. Maybe even think of two or three ways to make the scope smaller in the event of multiple “no’s.”
Reason 2: Fear That It Won’t Be Done Right
Sometimes there’s a compulsion to do it yourself and to do it perfectly. This is often the case when you are feeling most “out of control” in general, because it offers the illusion of being in control.
Solution: Interrupt Your Pattern
It’s hard to let go of something you do really well, but it can be a necessity if you are overburdened and stressed by your responsibilities. Learn to identify the signs that you need to let go of something (the biggest one being that voice in your head that seethes, “I have to do EVERYTHING around here…”). When you catch yourself thinking/muttering that, stop what you are doing and literally write down one thing you can delegate along with the amount of time you will save added up each week, month, and year. Think of those chunks of time when you’re tempted to “just do it myself.”
Reason 3: Fear That Others Will Judge Me Unfavorably
Doing it all is a way to try to assuage the guilt that comes from living a life that does not necessarily fit into a traditional mold. Whether you’re a CEO or a stay-at-home mom, not doing something that’s traditionally “Mom Territory” can open you up to criticism from others – or yourself.
Solution: Write Your Mission Statement
On a quiet evening, take out your journal and write a mission statement for yourself as a mom. When you take the time to get really clear on who you want to be, especially in light of your unique talents, it’s amazing how comparisons to others and the fear of being judged by others (against their standards) just melts away.
Reason 4: Fear It Will Not Get Done
Explicitly assigning a task is only the first step of the delegation process. Many, many moms end up doing tasks they have assigned to others because days, even weeks pass and nothing is done.
Solution: Stoke Competitive Fires
There’s something about competition that unlocks action in most people. If your family members are not following through, try turning their chores into a competition. The first one to finish their task (up to the stated standards) wins something. Ditto for the person who has done the most. Praise, recognition, and positive reinforcement are stronger behavioral modifiers than nagging or punishment.
Reason 5: Money Is An Issue
It’s hard to enlist the willing assistance of family members or outsiders when you don’t have money to pay for services, or if you’re feeling that your lack of a salaried job gives you no leverage when asking for help. On the flip side, it can be equally difficult paying an outsider to do the job that family members have more than enough skills to complete.
Solution: Make a Conscious Decision
Rather than weighing pros & cons silently in your head, shine a light on the issue in an honest conversation – with your partner, if applicable. Explicitly weigh the trade-offs. For example, would you rather take one family trip to Disney World—for say $5,000—or take that amount and spend $100 every week to get help with your chores so you have two or three more free hours each week to spend with your family? It comes down to prioritizing over the long term to decide how best to spend your time and money. You don’t have to break the bank to get extra help with chores or babysitting. Some employees who give excellent value for money include high school students, college students, and live-in au pairs who receive room and board in exchange for childcare.
Reason 6: I Could Just Do It Myself In the Time It Takes to Explain
This is usually true the first time you delegate a task. But if you view this over the long term, there is no comparison — delegating wins by a mile.
Solution: Break Teaching Down
Repetitive tasks are often more appropriate and more easily delegated, and on those tasks the time spent teaching can be shared over a number of repetitions. As a starting point, try dividing up the task at hand. For example, you wash, I’ll dry.
Reason 7: I Like Doing This
You may have a particular chore that you actually like doing, like I like laundry. But when you have too much on your plate, even those chores you relish should be delegated.
Solution: Try to keep the End Goal in Mind
The end goal of delegating is to offload some items from your plate that can be accomplished by someone else so that you have time to do more important things (e.g. snuggle with your daughter). When I’m crazed and yet insisting on folding laundry that my husband could easily do (just not as neatly), I repeat this mantra: “Feel the weight on your shoulders lighten as you let it go.” And I have retrained myself to smile in gratitude when I see shirts folded the “wrong way” in my drawers.
Do you struggle to delegate? What has worked for you?