Women: Caretakers of the world
A TV commercial came out several years ago portraying a day in the life of modern woman. The camera followed a frazzled woman as she scurried here and there with everybody from her boss to her children demanding her time and yapping at her heels. Finally she paused for one breathless moment, just long enough for the camera to zoom in on her and the product she was holding in her hand. She looked exhausted, and with pained expression and pleading voice, she said something like the following: "With my hectic schedule, I rarely have time for myself anymore. So I take this for my irregularity."
Whether this commercial makes you laugh or cry depends on how much control you've managed to get over your own hectic schedule. Either way, who among us couldn't use more free time? More time to spend on that most important person in your life, you.
The answer? In a word: Delegate. Delegate on the job; delegate off the job. "Oh," but you say, "I can't do that because ______________."
Let's take a closer look at some of the ways we fill in that blank as well as some ways to leave it blank.
1. "Nobody else can do what I do." Once upon a time, you couldn't do what you do. You had to learn the skills you have now. And if you were able to learn them, undoubtedly somebody else can learn them too. Yes, it will take some time for you to train someone, but it's time well invested and will pay dividends to you down the road. So allow your staff to take over some tasks that needlessly take up your time.
Little things mean a lot. Seemingly small tasks can eat big holes in your time. For example, do you open and sort your own mail? Most of your mail can be handled by a competent secretary or assistant, leaving you free to concentrate on those few items that need your personal attention. The same goes for telephone callers and visitors. Have someone screen your calls and weed out and schedule your visitors.
2. "If I don't do it myself, it won't get done right." (Doesn't this one remind you of your mother?) It's often true that the first time someone attempts something new, it's not perfect. But (1) everything doesn't have to be perfect, and (2) with practice, people generally perform a given task better, if not perfect.
Maybe your staff could use some professional training. Not only will they gain new skills, but as a bonus, they'll feel more valued when they see that you and the company are willing to invest in them.
Again, delegate. Talk with your staff about their new responsibilities, and ask them to look into available training opportunities and get back to you. Or have your staff assistant (the one who handles your mail now) put aside or route pieces of mail offering pertinent information on the various types of training available: seminars, videos, periodicals, etc. Let your staff pick out what they like, and you make the final decision.
3. "My secretary is just a secretary." Just because your secretary sits and types all day long does not mean that's all that person can do or all that he or she wants to do. The same goes for the rest of your staff. Get to know your people and what they're really capable of. Maybe your secretary is artistic and could help design the visual aids for your next presentation. Maybe the bookkeeper likes to write.
Be on the lookout for the talents and interests of your staff. Grooming new talent helps you and your organization. And as a manager, it's really an important part of your job.
4. "I can't afford help." Few of us are in a position to have every distasteful chore done by somebody else while we command from on high. Pity really, but most of us have to prioritize and make do. That does not mean that you put yourself last on your list of priorities.
Make a "Don't want to do" list, and plan how to eliminate at least some of the items on it. Consider the occasional temporary help at work if your staff and your budget are already stretched thin. From clerical assistance to accounting, just about any kind of help you need is available on a temporary basis.
Call agencies that specialize in the kind of help you need. Look through directories of independent contractors for lists of freelancers who have the skills you want. Or maybe a part-timer is just what you need. Either way, it's much less expensive than hiring another full-time staffer. You don't have to pay them benefits, and there's a tax break.
Time is money. How much is your time worth? Not sure? Figure out your hourly wage if you don't know it already. You might want to add on a bit to that figure when calculating how much your "free" time is worth.
Remember, every time you spend your time on a task that you either don't want or don't need to do, it's costing you. When you look at it this way, maybe you'll decide you can't afford not to get help.
Find ways to make time for yourself. Whose life is it, anyway?
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