The Productivity Institute

Personal Productivity Solutions to Leverage Your Impact


Delegation Dilemma

By: Dr. Donald E. Wetmore

We all have 24 hours in each day, 7 days each week. (You probably knew that anyway.) If you multiply that out and if my math is correct, and I suspect it is because I’ve done the calculation a few times before, that totals 168 hours in a week. But then we have to subtract out time for sleep. Let’s use 8 hours per night, 7 nights per week (I know that might be high for a lot of people and maybe low for others, but we do spend about a third of our week dead), or a total of 56 hours. Subtract that 56 hours from 168 and now we’re down to only 112 hours per week to accomplish all we wish to do.

If we chose to do everything ourselves, we will limit our potential because we are always hitting our heads on a ceiling of 112 hours. But what if we could plug into someone else’s time stream? What if we could get others to do things for us? Wouldn’t that increase our results? You bet. And all I’m talking about here is the concept of delegation.

Delegation is when you plug into someone else’s time stream when you don’t have the time or the expertise to do something, thereby increasing your own results.

Many feel they do not have the opportunity to delegate. “After all, I have no staff at work. I am the staff!” some will tell me. Yet, we are all delegators. Most have mail delivered to their homes. Any of us could go to the post office, rent our own postal box, and then each day take a trip to the post office to retrieve our mail. But most of us have made the decision that that is not the best use of our time so we have the letter carrier deliver our mail.

Maybe you went out for lunch yesterday at Burger King. You got a hamburger, fries, and a drink and paid $5 for that meal. How many people were involved in the production of that lunch to your plate? Probably hundreds, if not thousands. Someone had to plant the wheat to make the bread, someone had to pick the tomato to make the ketchup, and someone had to drill the oil out of the ground to power the delivery truck to your local Burger King. And if you paid $5 for this meal, everyone in this chain had to share in that $5, perhaps in fractions of a penny.

And I’m not trying to stretch delegation to some unreasonable application. This is exactly how the world worked up until about two hundred years age. All throughout the history of the world, if you wanted something, you had to produce it yourself. You wanted food? You didn’t pop over to your favorite restaurant. You had to grow it or kill it yourself. You wanted housing? You didn’t visit with your local real estate person. You went into the woods and cleared the land and built it.

In fact, if you look at the development of individual personal wealth from whenever they began to keep track up and through about 200 years ago, people 200 years ago were not a whole lot better off financially than their ancestors. And then from about 200 years ago to present times, individual economic wealth shot up through the roof because the Industrial Revolution permitted companies to mass-produce inexpensive products for the marketplace. This required payment of relatively good wages to workers so that they could afford to buy these products, so companies could make profits and produce more products.

If you and I had to do everything ourselves, create our food, clothing, housing, transportation, education, etc, the average person would probably lose 95% of what they have now or retain a mere 5% of what they have achieved.

So the question is not whether or not you delegate. We all delegate in ways that you perhaps had not considered. The better question to ask is, “How far do you want to go with it?” because delegation is the key to open the door to great success as we are forever hitting our heads against that ceiling of 112 hours available to us each week.

And now the “Delegation Dilemma.” The hardest part about delegation is not finding places to delegate. It’s simply letting go. We take great pride in doing things ourselves, don’t we? “If you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself,” we say often. That’s a nice thought and it would be a practical practice if we had unlimited amounts of time, but we don’t.

The starting point for delegation for me is each night in Daily Planning. As I look ahead to my next day and review all that I have to do and want to do, I look at each item and ask myself, “Is this the best use of my time?” If it is, I’ll plan to personally attack it. If not, I’ll try to figure out a way to delegate it and multiply my day tomorrow through the leverage of delegation.

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Dr. Donald E. Wetmore

Certified Executive Coach, Consultant and Trainer
Author, “Organizing Your Life” and “The Productivity Handbook”
Productivity Institute
Personal Productivity Solutions to Leverage Your Impact
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Stratford, CT 06615
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