Managing your activities effectively allows you to enjoy your work more and have time to devote to those things that are important to you – whether they're related to your practice or not. One of the best ways to manage your activities is by learning how to delegate effectively.
Excuses for not delegating
If you're thinking that it takes longer to explain the project (and then correct it later) than it does to just do it yourself, you're probably right – in the short run. But if the task is one that truly should be delegated, the overall return on your time is well worth it.
If you’re a solo, your excuse for not delegating is usually that you don’t have anyone working for you, or you can’t afford to hire an assistant. But merely because you’re a ‘true’ solo doesn’t mean that you can’t delegate.
If you don’t delegate because you secretly like being too busy, bragging about how much work you have to do and how late you stay at the office every night, there must be a reason. Ask yourself, “What’s the payoff?” What are you getting out of not delegating? Is the payoff worth it? If not, and you’re truly sick and tired of killing yourself, you can learn to delegate.
Deciding what to delegate - know yourself and know your practice.
The following questions will help you determine whether a particular task should be delegated:
- Is this the highest use of my time?
- Does it need to be done?
- Is it my strength?
- Is it at the core of what I get paid for?
- Is it one of my core priorities?
- Does it serve my goals?
- Does it require my individual participation, my personal touch, skills or expertise?
- Is this something I can teach others to do?
- Is it something that is done repeatedly in my practice?
- Do I enjoy doing it? (if so, why – is there a higher value activity that gives the same payoff?)
- Is this a task that goes to the heart of what I do as a lawyer?
- Does it go to the heart of how I bring in business?
- Do I have the requisite expertise to complete this task effectively?
Focus your energy on the tasks that further your core values, are the most profitable and require your personal participation. If you don't have the expertise, it's more costly in the long run to try to do it yourself. After all, you lament about clients who try to be 'do it yourself' lawyers - don't make the same mistake in your practice by trying to perform tasks for which you aren't qualified. Know when to hire a professional.
Who should you delegate to?
To delegate well, you’ll need to know the strengths and weaknesses of those to whom you’re delegating, whether they are staff or individuals outside of your practice. If you’re a solo, that will likely mean doing some research to find some qualified people or companies to whom you can outsource tasks. Ask for referrals and don’t forget to check references.
Delegating to someone else doesn't mean that you have to spend a lot of money. But remember that the 'cost' of doing something yourself is often higher than what you would pay someone else to do it. Delegating frees you up to perform more high value activities.
You don’t have to actually hire an employee or make a long term commitment to start delegating. Delegation can be as simple as having someone else (like a virtual assistant) type documents or answer the telephone for you at certain times of the day or certain days of the week – or even delegating voice mail to pick up your calls at certain times.
You can also 'delegate' to technology, such as using a digital dictation service, creating automated email messages or using case management software to track deadlines, tasks, etc.
Steps to effective delegation
Haphazard delegation is bound to fail. To successfully delegate:
- Give clear, comprehensive instructions
- Ensure that you’ve been understood
- Set a definite deadline and establish priority
- Check in
- Evaluate and share the outcome
In the next Do Something! post, we’ll examine these components in more detail.