Working from home might have seemed to some like a work-life balance dream before 2020. Reality has proven to be different: One survey from Indeed published in March 2021 found that 67% of respondents felt burnout worsened during the pandemic. Now, as employees around the country are summoned back to the office, stress levels are sure to rise with another rapid shift in the way we work. To keep stress levels in check and avoid burnout, managers must focus on one essential skill above all others: delegation.
Maybe you’ve struggled to delegate in the past because you’re afraid to relinquish control or because you don’t want to burden your colleagues. Whatever the reason, failure to delegate can stress us out more and cause significant bottlenecks that hold companies back. Even the hardest workers have limited capacity, and when they reach their limits, they must be able to allocate their work productively.
Delegation isn’t just for key leadership, either. No matter where you are in the corporate hierarchy, your ability to become the best version of yourself depends on your ability to find the time and space to hone your strengths and passions. Delegating the work you find frustrating or painful will also help alleviate stress and reduce the potential for burnout, provided you do it in the right way.
Not all delegation is good delegation. When it goes wrong, tasks you try to hand off can easily boomerang right back onto your to-do list. The following tips can help you delegate productively and efficiently.
Invent your roles and responsibilities
Too much has changed since the onset of the pandemic to return to life as normal at the office now. Maybe your organization laid off a portion of its workforce or downsized an entire department, like event marketing, due to its temporary irrelevance. Whatever the case, every employee must acknowledge the company’s evolution and how it has impacted their roles. Take stock of your current responsibilities compared to your old ones and note how they’ve changed.
Then, think critically about which of these tasks you genuinely feel you are the best equipped to perform. Did work get hastily pushed onto your plate for the sake of speed in a rapid shift? Is there someone at the company who might be better at certain tasks, or enjoy them more? You can’t answer these questions without first creating a complete index of your roles and responsibilities and acknowledging how they’ve changed over the past year and a half.
Map it out in a chart
Once you have your duties laid out in front of you, visualize them in a chart. Mapping out your tasks can help you get more specific about what you need to delegate. Group tasks into four quadrants: The top left is for the tasks you’re best at and love doing, the top right is for the ones you’re decent at and like doing, the bottom left is for the tasks you can do well but don’t enjoy, and the bottom right is for the ones you don’t enjoy and aren’t good at. Note how much time each task takes you.
Look at the tasks on the bottom half of your chart—the ones you don’t enjoy or aren’t good at—and add up how much time you would save by offloading them to someone who could do them more efficiently or would enjoy them more. Passing these tasks along can free up more of your time for what you are good at and look forward to doing.
This chart shouldn’t be a one-time exercise. Repeat it quarterly, and share it with your colleagues and managers. When all team members are keenly aware of one another’s strengths and weaknesses, the team can optimize tasks in a way that allows the entire organization to function better.
Voice new interests and aspirations
Maybe you’re a marketer who took up graphic design during the pandemic and have become quite adept. No one will know that you would welcome this kind of work unless you tell them. We’re all constantly evolving, and whenever you gain new interests, you should share those curiosities with the people around you.
Don’t wait for new opportunities to find you. Instead, volunteer for new tasks and projects to see whether they strike your fancy. When you do find something you want to pursue, refer back to your chart to see where you can make room by delegating other tasks to people who might be better suited.
As you work through these steps, remember: If there’s one guaranteed way to sabotage delegation, it’s to rush the handoff. Even a task you find elementary could be complicated and confusing to someone who’s never done it before, and it’s up to you to ensure that the next person is well-equipped to succeed in the role you’re handing off. Spend time training them and getting them up to speed, and they’re more likely to excel at the new responsibility—which means you’re less likely to see it back on your desk down the road. Delegation accomplished.