The Secret to Time Management? Delegate Almost Everything

Illustration by 123RF Stock Photo

Somebody recently asked me, “what do you mean by time management?

My answer is this: Time management is refusing to waste too much time on low-value, low-enjoyment activities.

There are two parts to it:

  1. Identify what you should, or want to be doing; and,
  2. Make time to do it (and do it).

What Time Management is

(In editing this post, I decided to pull up the summary at the end and repeat it here because this is the point I really want to make. The rest of the article is “how to”.)

You need to decide how you want to invest your time.

You need to maximize the time you spend on high value work and things you enjoy in life.

You also need strive to block, reduce, or eliminate the tedious and negative crap that will fill up your time (and your soul) if you don’t do something on purpose to prevent it.

That’s what time management is.

“Delegate almost everything”

When I got my first big management job, a mentor gave me some advice that was kind of world changing for me. He said, “delegate almost everything.”

What he offered in that simple statement was a way for me to realize that I shouldn’t get too caught up reacting to the work that came in, but that I should keep my mind and my plate clear to understand what even-more-important stuff I should be doing…

And by “delegating almost everything,” I was giving myself a chance to do the better stuff.

No one ever wishes for more low-value, tedious, busy-work. Most people agree they would be better at their job if they had more time to think.

The common fear of delegating is that it will take longer (it does in the moment), or that it will not come out right (it sometimes won’t). I recently wrote an article about how to delegate to remove those risks, develop people, and build value.

But today, I want to focus on the other part of the equation.

What else should you be doing?

Some people fail to delegate because as they step up a level, they can’t see what their new job is. So they continue to share in the work that their team is doing because they don’t know what else to do.

I talk about this in RISE  in the chapters on Delegate or Die, and The Level Dilemma.

Exercise #1

A wonderful thought exercise to figure out what you should be doing is this:

Imagine that you delegate 100 percent of the work you are doing right now. Yes, 100 percent. So you get to work the next day and you have absolutely nothing on your task list.

Then what would you do? What new, higher-level, value added stuff would you do?

You need to be able to answer this question. And then you need to do some of it!

Would you:

Article Continues Below
  • Think and plan more strategically?
  • Communicate better with your team?
  • Communicate better with your stakeholders?
  • Sell more?
  • Invent more?
  • Design more?
  • Develop a new process to be more efficient?
  • Build a better business plan?
  • Develop new relationships?
  • Solve a persistent question or issue?
  • Get support for a key decision?
  • Get better customer data?
  • Improve your team’s brand?
  • Build stronger partnerships?

Exercise #2

If you don’t know, and you can’t see what else you should be doing at your level, there are two groups of people you should talk to.

  1. Individuals: First have one-on-one meetings with the individuals in your organization. Ask them what is working and not working. I promise you will get an earful of issues and ideas that “if only management would work on” things would be better. This is how I always figured out what to do when starting a new job.
  2. Peers & Mentors: The second group of people you should talk to are peers and mentors who have more experience than you do at your job. They will help you see things you are missing, and point out blind spots you might have. I have also done this in every job I ever had.

Those two types of conversations helped me get smarter about what my job should be.

Don’t get stuck in your job description

Never depend solely on your job description to tell you what your job should be. Your job description is only really valid for a moment in time. As a leader, after that you are expected to figure out what the business needs as it evolves — and evolve what you contribute.

You need to determine the right, new, previously undefined things that are necessary to keep pace. You need to evolve your job into the job it needs to be as the business grows and changes.

So don’t get so caught up in the work you are doing right now, that you forget to think about what else is even more important, now and in the future.

That is often an “aha” I get in leadership workshops where we talk about Ruthless Priorities (another chapter in RISE). People realize that once they think about what is really important, those things are not on their task list at all.

Oops!

Strategic Time Management

You need to decide how you want to invest your time.

You need to maximize the time you spend on high value work and things you enjoy in life.

You also need strive to block, reduce, or eliminate the tedious and negative crap that will fill up your time (and your soul) if you don’t do something on purpose to prevent it.

That’s what time management is.

Good luck.

This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her latest book is Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work and LIKE Your Life.

Patty Azzarello is the founder and CEO of Azzarello Group. She's also an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/business advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35, and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk). You can find her at patty@azzarellogroup.com .

Topics