A perfectionist's guide to delegation

The stress caused by an ever growing to-do list, coupled with the fear of producing anything less than perfect often leads to procrastination. The result is an even bigger to-do list and more anxiety. The only way out? Delegation.

Some of the most frustrating articles for an already exhausted perfectionist failing at delegation are ones that try to make delegation sound effortless. It’s not. Worse is someone asking you to ‘get a grip over your perfectionism’ as if it is a disease that requires healing.

Effective delegation requires clearly defined objectives. It thrives on processes that are easy to understand and replicate. And that is not all. For novices, learning to delegate takes time, effort and courage. But this struggle is temporary. Trying to do everything yourself, alternatively, takes a toll on your health and relationships. It robs you of the time and energy to enjoy the mini milestones you have worked so hard for. It slows you down.

Be aware of your limiting beliefs

One of the things I found most effective when learning to delegate was to be constantly aware of three limiting beliefs that make delegation painfully difficult:

  1. The only perfect way is my way. Someone else will never be able to do it better than me. With that in mind, there was no way I could delegate a task to someone without micromanaging and making their life miserable.

  2. Now is the only perfect time. It made me live in a false sense of urgency making me believe that things needed to be done at their earliest and I just didn’t have enough time to teach someone how to do it or to do it all over again if they made a mistake.

  3. I’ll eventually have to redo it. This one gained strength after I had a few bad experiences with delegation (most of which were the result of my own inability to delegate well).

Once I was aware of these limiting beliefs, it was not difficult to push back the voices in my head telling me to ‘do it myself’. I was ready to dive into the delegation process itself.

The next five steps help gain the clarity that is essential to delegating tasks. I recommend you follow them through without assuming you have it all sorted.

Identify your objectives

List down your core objectives for the year (or month or quarter). Make sure these are specific, measurable, realistic and time-bound objectives so you know exactly when to measure performance and how to know if you have done well.

An example of a bad objective would be to ‘Increase subscriber base’. You can turn it into an effective objective by adding a measure of performance and time, ‘Add 5,000 new subscribers to our database by June 2017.’

Compile a task-and-idea bomb

Jot down all the tasks you have to perform and random ideas you want to implement. I use post-it notes but you can try using apps like Evernote or Trello, or just another word document. Don’t stop even for a moment to categorise or link them to the objectives you identified earlier. Just jot them all down; from the most significant (developing a curriculum for a training) to the most trivial (replying to XYZ’s e-mail) of tasks.

This step is more of a catharsis for me. It helps me clear my mind of all the clutter before I proceed.

Categorise the tasks in your task-and-idea bomb

Divide the tasks you’ve jotted down into broad categories. Don’t worry about the sequence of tasks under each category just yet.