Time management is the art of using your time to best effect.
Given that you only have 24 hours per day, the same as everyone else, learning to use your time efficiently and effectively is a key career skill.
For junior members of staff, this is about ensuring that they are working on the right things.
For senior members of staff, this is still about ensuring that they are working on the right things. However, what about all the things that they are responsible for getting done that they don’t have time to do?
Many people fall into the trap of thinking you have to do everything alone. It is often when they burn out that they learn this isn’t right.
As the sole decision-maker as you are ultimately responsible for results, but you’re not responsible for getting everything done.
This is why delegation is a skill that many managers find so difficult.
Despite knowing that they need to delegate, they find it scary to have to take responsibility for the decisions and actions of others.
To progress, this is something that you have to master. This skill is also covered in our time management skills course!
Managing Stress Through Delegation
Not even the best managers on earth can do everything alone.
Putting everything on yourself can lead to you burning out and getting less than effective results from trying to do too much at once.
Studies suggest that stress levels in the workplace have risen by 20% in the last 3 decades.
The problem with this is that this rubs off on employees and will negatively affect your relationships with your team.
The best managers recognise they need to delegate for their own wellbeing but also, more importantly, to build strong employee/manager relationships and develop their team.
When / What Should You Delegate?
Fitting everything into an average workday means prioritising tasks.
It is about finding the balance in what you can do and have time to do and the quality of work you can produce.
Imagine this very common scenario:
There is a deadline on a report you promised, daily administrative tasks waiting to be done, and then an entirely new objective lands on your desk.
Ask yourself these questions:
Do you have time to complete everything?
No! As a manager, you will always have more things to do than you have time to complete. It is important that you understand this and get on top of your time management.
Is the quality going to be of a high standard if you do?
If you are short on time and rushed, the quality of the work you do is never going to be that high.
Is it necessary that you personally complete the tasks?
No! Your job as a manager is to maximise the output of your team, not to maximise your personal output.
Now ask yourself the following questions:
Who on your team could complete a task?
Unless it is a particularly complex task, it is very likely that someone on your team could complete the task.
How will it benefit them/you?
For more junior team members, delegating a more complex and senior task is a great opportunity for them to learn and grow.
What support can you give them?
For junior members of your team, taking on new tasks is a great opportunity, provided that you give them appropriate support. Remember, it does not need to be you providing the support. Perhaps one of your team could sit down with them one-to-one and help get them up to speed.
What Is Stopping You From Delegating?
It is an important question to ask yourself. Trying to do everything on your own can negatively impact everyone on your team.
Team morale can suffer when you are too busy to lead them and guide them properly.
Individuals that want to develop their career will get frustrated in having no new opportunities.
And while your workload gets bigger, you miss the important things. Who is doing well? Who needs more coaching? Who is ready to take the next step?
If you have a certain task you like to do, the chances are you are not learning or benefitting from it any more.
This is a good sign that it is probably time to hand the task over to someone else. But like a lot of managers, you will probably find it hard to let go.
See if any of these are familiar to you:
- You think you are responsible for everything – While it’s true you are the manager, being responsible for tasks doesn’t mean you have to do them all yourself.
Leading and supporting your team is a more important way to spend your time.
- You don’t trust anyone to do the job as well as you. A lot of managers have trouble relinquishing control over certain projects.
But how will you know who’s capable if you aren’t giving them the chance?
- You feel guilty about dumping work on other people. Good delegation is not about giving away tasks you just don’t want to do or for the sake of it.
A lot of thought should go into who you give certain jobs to, why, and what support you can provide them.
- You feel it will take more time to train someone than to do it yourself. The primary job of a manager is to develop and coach their team by keeping them engaged and motivated.
If you are training someone to do a task, that means they can help with it in future, and so this is an investment that will be paid back in future.
The Process of Delegation
No-one expects you to master the art of delegation overnight. But make a start by letting go when a task doesn’t require your personal attention.
Once you have considered who is best to complete a specific task, communicate the objectives clearly so that everyone understands the goal.
- What is the task? What are the deadlines? What are the expected results?
Take your time and be clear with your expectations and being clear about what you need them to deliver.
- Why have you chosen them? Why does the task need to be completed?
Let them know this is a training opportunity if you want this to be an ongoing project. Find out what support they might need or find helpful.
- How much authority do they have? How will you oversee it?
If you want to give them full control, let them know if they have decision-making responsibility.
For junior members of staff, be clear on the limits of their ability to make decisions. Don’t take this responsibility back at the first hurdle, but gently increase it as they show that they can make appropriate decisions.
- When do you expect to see results? When will you discuss how it went or how it is going?
Constant monitoring is a counter-productive use of your time.
Agree the timing of periodic progress reports (just as you would with tools that you use to help you monitor attendance or performance) or, for shorter tasks, be clear that you would like them to see the task through to completion with a review of how it went afterwards.
When you start to fall into a natural flow, you will become more comfortable delegating. You will also start to see the benefits as tasks that you would have had to do yourself start to be completed by your team, freeing up your time for other tasks.
Remember to keep tasks interesting and energising where possible. Pushing team members out of their comfort zone with jobs that engage them will show them that you value and trust them.
Letting go of the control can be daunting, but you will be more productive in delegating tasks and your team will really appreciate having a manager that trusts them.
Need more time management tips? Read our guide on Time Management for Projects here!