Delegation may make you nervous, especially if you're used to doing things on your own, but you can't be a team of one forever. By delegating some of your responsibilities to a trusted third party, you'll be able to spend more time on the things that require your expertise and build a more sustainable process—for yourself, your team, and your business.
Of course, delegation can come at a cost, especially if you don't have a big team to rely on. But affordable delegation is a real thing. Let's take a look at how to make it work.
Before you delegate
If you start delegating tasks without a plan, you'll waste time and money. So before you jump in, make sure you've followed these steps.
1. Review your task list
If you're thinking about delegating, it's likely because you're overwhelmed by the number of items on your to-do list every day. The first step is to review all your tasks and answer some questions about them. What do you:
Love doing but could use a little help with?
Hate doing but can't delegate to someone else?*
Feel neutral about?
Categorizing your list will help you figure out what you should keep doing (the things you love and don't need help with) and what you should delegate (the things you hate and can delegate).
Notice that I put a star next to "Hate doing but can't delegate to someone else." Why? Because you can delegate almost anything—not necessarily all of anything, but some of anything. And that brings us to the next step.
2. Think small
It's easy to think in comprehensive solutions when it comes to delegation. Try to get out of that mindset: absolutes don't leave room for finding the small ways you can outsource. For example, if you serve as the sales team for your business, you might not be able to or feel comfortable delegating the entire process. But you can start by delegating lead gen.
Start by breaking tasks down into the smallest steps. You really can't get too granular here—the smaller the steps, the more likely it is you'll find something you can delegate. You might even find that those steps are the parts of the task that aren't ideal for you anyway.
3. Create and document processes
One last step: before you ask someone to do something you normally do, make sure you've documented your process for that task. If your instructions are clear, it'll be like you did it.
Of course, that doesn't mean the person you delegate to should do it exactly how you do it forever—in an ideal world, they'll improve on your process, making it even more of a success. But they need a starting point, and starting with a documented process is the most effective way to be sure they're completing the task you had in mind.
How to delegate without breaking the bank
Once you have a clear understanding of the types of things you can delegate—and you're ready with your documentation—you need to figure out who to delegate to.
1. Delegate within your team
Delegation is often associated with outsourcing, which, of course, means paying more. But what about delegating within your team? Offering a bonus or overtime is generally cheaper than hiring a freelancer or continuing to tackle the job yourself. You can also ask a team member to deprioritize something else in order to focus on the task you need them to work on.
You can delegate effectively by putting the group at the center of all tasks. I recommend explaining to all team members that individual actions affect the team at large. You can remind the work hogs that overextending could result in burnout, delays, and missed learning opportunities for other members of the team. Meanwhile, you can express to the work dodgers that the team depends on individual efforts.
You should assess team members' skills and current workloads and assign tasks accordingly. You can allow team members some flexibility to claim projects. Discuss the workload as a group, and let team members divide the work evenly among the group. Be transparent about goals and expectations from the start.
Everyone has the common goal of growing the business, and delegation will help accomplish that. It will also help grow the careers of your team members as they work on new projects and develop new skills.
2. Work with another business to afford a solution
Freelancers and contractors are often open to different types of arrangements—for example, if you can offer them more work, they might be able to reduce their rates for you. Or they might offer you a discount if you refer another client.
Of course, you might not have enough to delegate to make this happen. If that's the case, see if you can partner with another business who also needs to outsource some tasks. If you're a local business, ask other local business owners if they'd like to go in on it with you. If your business is mostly online, search for other small businesses in your industry and reach out to see if they're interested.
If you're new to contract work, start by reading these 6 tips for making the most of contract work for both freelancers and clients.
3. Use automation software
Most tasks require a human touch. But it's possible you're spending time on things every day that would be done quicker—and better—if a computer took care of them. Automation software like Zapier can help take care of the repetitive tasks you do every day. Then you can delegate the human stuff to actual humans.
In order to automate some of your tasks, you need to first be able to recognize when a task should be automated. Here's Zapier's take on when you know it's time to automate a task.
Delegate non-work tasks
Sometimes it's personal tasks that end up being the mental burden, and those might be the ones you need to delegate. In fact, we delegate more than we think when it comes to home life. Whenever you pick up takeout instead of eating in, you're delegating your cooking duties. Whenever you get your groceries delivered, you're delegating grocery shopping. We even delegate decision-making when we let Netflix pick our next recommended movie for us.
You can delegate personal tasks in the same three ways you delegate work tasks.
Delegate within your team. In this case, your team is your roommate, partner, or kids. Have them take care of things you normally would.
Work with another business to afford a solution. For example, maybe you want to delegate your cleaning, but you can't afford a cleaning service on your own. See if any neighbors want to go in on it with you and maybe you can get a discount.
Use automation software. Check out how to automate busywork in your personal life.
Cutting down on your personal tasks will also have a positive impact on your work life. You'll be less stressed and less distracted, which means you should be able to be more productive at work. It's a happy cycle.