Wednesday, January 27, 2010

When Life Doesn't Work: Delegate!

You may not need this advice.

But I needed it. Every day.

When things weren't going well, when we were stuck, when the lessons were impossible, when I felt like throwing furniture out a window, I needed someone to ask me this question.

Is there something here that you should not be doing? Could someone else do part of it, or do it better? Should you delegate to others? Should you pay someone to do this?

Once I felt responsible for getting a job done, I usually felt that I had to do it myself. I had many reasons for this, all sensible and sound and well-furnished with logic. But I didn't consider it this way: I was responsible for getting it done, not for doing it myself.

It was best for me to concentrate on those tasks and activities that only I could do. Once I had completed those, I should turn to the tasks that I could do best. This was the highest use of my time and energy. The rest could be delegated, either to my children or to a service or to a product or to a machine or to a person I paid.

The result? More time to do those things for which I was irreplaceable. More time for me to rest and take care of myself. Less burnout, less stress, less compromise on what really mattered.

Even though we were on a budget and I had to choose my expenditures carefully, I found that with a little creativity, I had a lot of options for delegating. And it was not only better for me, but better for the entire family. Freeing up my time meant I had more to spend on solving problems, brainstorming for solutions and creative ideas, and building character and depth into my children. It meant I had more time for my own personal growth, which ultimately was the one thing I needed, far more than good ideas and problem-solving skills.

The lesson I learned? I can't do it all. I can't do all the things I think I should be able to do. I can't do all the things I want to do. But if I choose carefully, and delegate the rest, I can do the things that matter most. And that helps to build a life worth living.

Are you doing things that someone else could do? How could you delegate them? What might you find more time to do or do better -- if you delegated more?


  1. I am in the midst of learning this lesson myself. We have 4 children ages 13 down to 1, with a new little one due in June. In the past, I have always tried to do everything myself, but as our children are growing older and my husband is working from home now, I try to encourage everyone to work as a team to complete those tasks no one wants to do, like dishes or putting laundry away. This cuts down the time it takes to complete the task, and the guilt I used to feel about taking time for myself hasn't reared its ugly head in a while.

  2. I recently learned that there were things I was doing that just didn't need to get done at all. Or I was doing things the hard way. Sometimes it is difficult to get rid of that perfectionistic nature and just do what needs to be done and leave it at that. Our kids are more important than doing "stuff", right?!

  3. Yes, what Jen (above) says has worked well for me, too. Working as a team helps everyone's attitude and breaks mundane tasks down into manageable pieces. Because we home school, I often find myself doing mundane jobs (in-between tutoring) that I COULD delegate to the children; however, I too often feel guilty adding more onto their already-full plates during school hours. After school hours, we all have about 1-2 hours of free time, Mom begins supper and they do menial, daily chores like tidy work spaces, fold laundry, set the table, feed their pets, or help with food prep. (Rarely is this time used for any real cleaning.)

    That's our ebb and flow, for better or worse. I'm learning to just make peace with it and working together at the same times seems to work for us. However, I do think that I should think more carefully about menial jobs that I do during school hours that could be delegated later in the day, and use those freed up "spare moments" of the school day and work on small school-related jobs that only Mom can do - and no one else. Perhaps my paperwork and related research would dwindle instead of keep piling up around me.

    Good post! And thanks!

  4. I have a hard time in this area. Thanks for the post.


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