There’s no denying that productive people know how to get things done—”getting things done” is pretty much the definition of productivity.
But it’s not the entire definition. At a certain point, if you want to become a productivity powerhouse, it stops being about how much you can get done. None of the world’s most productive people—the CEOs, the gamechangers, the productivity giants—are doing everything themselves. If you want to be truly productive, at some point, you need to learn how to delegate.
But delegating tasks? It’s really, really hard for a lot of people—especially successful people. A lot of the successful people out there have, should we say… control issues. They believe that no one can do things as well they can—whether it’s sending an email, leading a training, or closing a new client—and so they insist on managing every task in their business (and life), big or small, on their own.
It makes sense in theory; if you handle everything yourself, everything will get done—and it will get done without any mistakes. But in practice, trying to do everything yourself is a one-way ticket to burnout.
These control issues—the ones that are keeping you from getting things off your plate and focusing on the work that’s actually important to you—are the enemy of productivity, and as long as you hold on to them, you’ll never be able to level up and become your most productive, successful self.
But how do you let go of your control issues? How can you get tasks off your plate and trust they’re going to get done up to your standards? How do you find the right team so you can trust that things are getting done—and free up your headspace to focus on the more important things?
Control issues: the enemy of productivity
As we mentioned, control issues are the enemy of productivity.
There are so many things that need to get done in order to build a successful business, from the small (like managing administrative tasks or invoicing clients) to the huge (like pitching new business or developing new products). If you have to have your hand in every single aspect of your business, from the small to the big, it’s going to seriously hold you back from being as productive as you could be.
Think about it like this: there are only so many hours in a day. And if you’re spending all those hours focused on the small tasks, it doesn’t leave any time or energy for the big tasks—and it’s the big tasks that are going to take your business to the next level.
Doing everything yourself might feel productive, but it’s not actually productive because it’s not going to help you grow your business (in the words of Andrew Carnegie “No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself.”). If you want to really get things done, you need to get those small tasks off your plate and free up your time and energy to focus on the work that really matters.
And the way to do that?
There’s a reason the world’s most productive people speak so passionately about delegation (Tim Ferriss did an entire podcast episode on the topic, and everyone from Marie Forleo to Dave Asprey have spoken about the correlation between success and delegating tasks in your business)—and that’s because it works.
When you stop trying to do everything yourself and start focusing on the parts of your business/life that matter most, your productivity skyrockets—because instead of spending your time and energy on tasks that aren’t going to really have an impact, you’re spending that time and energy on the tasks that are going to take you to the next level.
Ok, so we all agree that delegation is a must. But how you let go of the control issues that are stopping you from delegating (and become a productivity powerhouse in the process)?
Figuring out where to start delegating
The first step to successfully letting go of your control issues and maximizing your productivity through delegating is figuring out what to delegate.
If you delegate the wrong things, not only is it not going to free up your time and energy to focus on more high-level tasks, but it can also end up causing a total mess in your business—and that mess will only reinforce your control issues (“See? I knew no one could do these tasks but me!”).
So, the first rule of thumb you need to keep in mind is to never start by delegating your “special sauce.”
What’s your special sauce?
It’s what makes you – you. And what makes your business—your business.
So, for example, let’s say you run a one-on-one coaching business. You don’t want to start by delegating your actual coaching sessions; your coaching sessions are the heart of your business and the reason your customers are paying to work with you. Hiring out the core of your business is not where you want to start.
(Now, there is an exception to that rule. As you get better with delegating, your business will grow—and as your business grows, you eventually may want to hire other people to work in the core areas of your business. So, using the coaching example, as your business grows and you take on more clients, you can eventually hire other coaches to work under you and start seeing clients on their own. But again, that’s not where you want to start. Think of that as Advanced Delegation—and that’s a post for another day).
So, you don’t want to start by hiring out your special sauce. So where do you want to start?
The best tasks to delegate are the ones that a) are taking up all your time, b) you don’t like doing, or c) you don’t like doing and take up all your time.
There are a few different ways you can identify these a, b, or c tasks—the tasks that are prime for delegating to other people. The first is to do a time inventory.
Use a time tracking tool (like Toggl or TimeDoctor) to track your time for an entire week. At the end of the week, take a good, hard look at how you’re spending your time—and what tasks are taking up your time that you can realistically pass off to someone else. Are you spending hours every week responding to comments on social media? Is a huge chunk of your day spent organizing your inbox? Is dealing with customer service issues keeping you from landing any new customers? Really analyze where your time is going, figure out the small tasks that are draining your time and energy, and put them on a list to delegate to someone else.
The other way to identify those time and energy draining tasks is by using the Eisenhower Box. With the Eisenhower Box (a productivity strategy developed by former president and total productivity powerhouse Dwight Eisenhower), you categorize all of your tasks into one of four categories: Urgent and Important, Not Urgent and Important, Urgent and Not Important, and Not Urgent and Not Important. The prime tasks for delegation? Urgent and Non Important; they’re the tasks that need to get done in a timely manner—but there’s no reason you need to be the person doing them.
Image via James Clear
Finding the right tools/people
Once you’ve figured out the tasks you want to start delegating, it’s time to find the people—or the tools—to delegate those tasks to.
The first step is to figure out whether you need to delegate the task to an actual person—or if there’s a tool that can just as easily manage the process.
So, for example, if you’re spending a ton of time managing your inbox and sorting through junk email, you don’t need to hire a person to do that for you — you can just use an email management tool (like SaneBox!) to whip that inbox into shape. If you’re wasting a lot of time and energy trying to schedule meetings and coordinate schedules, you can just use a calendar tool like Calendly to eliminate the back and forth.
There are definitely tasks that can be eliminated by using the right tools—but there are also tasks that you’re going to need to delegate to an actual person.
And this is where your control issues are probably going to start throwing a tantrum.
Hiring can be a really challenging process for a lot of entrepreneurs—it’s hard to trust someone to work in your business and to manage the tasks you’re used to managing yourself. But it’s also necessary if you want to maximize your productivity and take your business to the next level.
Luckily, it’s a lot easier to let go of your control issues and trust the people you’re delegating to if you hire the right people.
When you hire the right people for the job at hand—and see them doing a great job—it becomes much easier to loosen up and let them manage their tasks (while you spend your time and energy working on the more high-level stuff that’s going to grow your business). But how do you hire the right people?
There’s no magic formula, but there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re delegating the right tasks to the right people:
- Hire people who love to do the job you’re hiring for. While admin work might feel totally draining to you, there are people out there who LOVE being an assistant. Managing your finances might feel completely overwhelming to you, but for someone who’s jazzed on accounting, it’ll feel like a breeze. The point is, when you hire someone who really enjoys the tasks you’re hiring them for, they’re far more likely to do a good job (maybe even a better job than you!).
- Make attention to detail a priority. Attention to detail is one of the most important things you should look for when you’re hiring someone (no matter what tasks you’re going to be delegating to them). If someone lacks attention to detail, you’re going to spend a ton of time reviewing their work and fixing mistakes—and that can take more time than just doing the task yourself. Look for any red flags that a potential hire lacks attention to detail (like not following instructions during your application process or sending an email that’s riddled with typos).
- Take a test drive before you buy the car. Before you hire someone, have them work on a few sample projects so you can get a sense of what it’s like to work with them. This will give you the opportunity to evaluate their skills, see how they handle the tasks at hand, and figure out if it’s the right fit before you make a hire.
When you have the right people on your team, it becomes significantly easier to let go of control, delegate tasks, and trust they’re getting done—which will free up your time and energy to be more productive in a way that will truly have an impact on your business.
Perfection isn’t possible, so stop striving for it
Now look, we’re going to be honest with you—you’re probably not going to find a team that does things exactly the way you would do them. In fact, you’re probably not going to find someone who can perform at what you consider to be 100%. But that’s ok. When you’re deciding whether you should delegate the task, use the 70% rule—if there is a task that someone else can do 70% as well as you can, delegate it.
Will it be perfect? No. Will it be exactly the way you want it? Probably not. But it doesn’t need to be. If all the small tasks in your business are done 70% as well as you would do them yourself, that’s fine—because it frees up your time and energy to give 100% to the tasks that really matter.
Wrapping things up
If control issues are the enemy of productivity, then delegation is its ally—and now that you know exactly what to do to let go of your control issues and start delegating, you’re well on your way towards building the most productive business (and life) possible. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start delegating!