Just about every time management book you read, will include advice that good managers must learn to delegate effectively. That’s great if you have a staff, but what if you are a one-person entrepreneur or work for a small organization where everyone has plenty to do.
Never fear. There are things you can do to operate efficiently.
The first thing you must do is to audit how you spend your time. Why are there so many meetings on your schedule, and do you need to be there for all of them? You should never attend a meeting where there is no defined agenda or where your presence is truly needed. Just say no to any other meetings. While some people complain about too much email, I’d rather receive an email update from someone than having to block off an hour on my calendar for a meeting.
You next need to audit your ‘to-do’ list. There’s a good chance that your list is amorphous of things that at one point were essential tasks that have now been replaced by others. The first thing you should do is to classify your task list into different categories. I recommend deciding which tasks are of significant priority and must be taken care of right away. This might include a report that your boss asked for or any other item that has a ‘must complete soon’ deadline. The next category is items that are important and not urgent. The final category is what David Allen calls, “Someday/Maybe” items.
I highly recommend that you read David Allen’s legendary book, “Getting Things Done” for excellent tips on managing your time. He is a big proponent of writing everything down on paper or in a ‘trusted system’ where you won’t forget things you need to do or think about.
Each day, I review my top priority items and select 3-5 things I will get done that day. I don’t overreact to email requests. Any of those items go on my list, and I will triage them into my established categories.
If you find that you are receiving many requests from your boss, don’t be afraid to ask which ones are the most important. Explain that you want to make sure you are meeting her expectations while still getting other important things done. You might even point out when other people might be better suited to take on a task that had previously been assigned to you.
I’ve also found that setting up meetings and telephone calls take up a lot of time. Sometimes it takes several emails or phone calls just to find a mutual time and place. If you can’t delegate this function to an administrative assistant you might want to consider an online scheduler like Calendly, Doodle, Free Busy or many of the other web based services. You plug in your availabilities into the system or give it access to your calendar, and others can see when it is possible to schedule something with you.
If you don’t already, block out times on your calendar for meetings and work. If you don’t set aside time to work, your schedule can quickly populate with meetings that will keep you from your priority items.
Finally, if your organization cannot afford to provide you with full or part-time administrative support, you might want to look into virtual assistants. These services will generally assign someone to you and to your tasks, and you pay an hourly or project rate. I’ve known people who have hired a virtual assistant to simply book their travel and hotel for meetings and are now relying on this person to take on much larger tasks. Virtual assistants can research a project for you, plan meetings or even conferences. I know of one service that will ghostwrite a book for you. You are indeed paying to hire this type of service, but when you compare that cost against the time you are spending on administrative tasks instead of doing work that will truly move your organization forward, it might be an expensive worth visiting.
Not having anyone to delegate projects to, or for administrative help, can become a problem unless you genuinely want to take control of your life.
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