Do you want to reduce your hours at work? Do you wish to focus on more forward-looking activities? One of the best ways to give yourself more time is to address repetitive tasks. You may not realize how many things you do yourself, simply to be assured they get done. You may believe that if you try to delegate them, they will not get done right, or they may not get done at all. That may have even been your experience.
However, it is essential to get out of that mode of thinking. The value of your freedom is much greater than those tasks. I would like to demonstrate the right way to assign and delegate, so you can be confident someone else can perform your specific tasks for you correctly.
Potentially, the right people could be working for you right now, and could be very capable of doing the work correctly. You would need to apply the method in this article. You must trust them but still hold them accountable. It is not a leap of faith, because you will be involved in a manner that builds trust and confidence.
As I mentioned, there is a method that will start freeing you from these day to day routines. I will go over the basics and break them down. The steps are as follows:
4. Delegate and Train
5. Review and Assess
1. Identify the Tasks
Take a moment to think about what it is you do on a periodic basis, and make a list. Start with what you do daily, weekly, and monthly.
Everyone is different when it comes to thinking about their work from this perspective. Some may need to stay at home and ponder it, without getting distracted once they get to work. Others can try to step out of themselves and act like an observer, and watch themselves work.
When you have a decent list, and cannot think of any more tasks, go on to the next step. But you should try to address a good chunk of your repetitive tasks (like two-thirds to three-quarters of them!). Let’s call this task list the “Repetitive Task List”, or the “List”. If you are already using that name, call it what you want and make it your own.
2. Categorize the List
When you are done with the first run through the List, the next step is to categorize the items on the List.
Businesses generally have three main parts:
1. Sales and Marketing
3. Administrative and Finance (IT goes here too)
Now categorize each item on the List as one of the above three. This gives you clarity as to what person, team or department should be responsible for each task. At this point, if you have a long list, you may want to shift to using a spreadsheet like Excel or Google sheets. It is not necessary, just convenient. You may want to sort the tasks by business part. You may also want to assign a difficulty level and sort by that.
If it dawns on you who would be the right person to do a certain task, go ahead and add a column for “Who”, as in “Who to Assign To”. But don’t get caught up in that just yet, we will address it soon.
3. Proceduralize the Tasks
If a task is more than two steps, you need to write the instructions for it. What may seem to be a single step for you may in fact be multiple steps. For example, “Open the Store Every Morning” may seem to be a single step, but here is how I would write out the procedure to Open the Store:
1. Arrive at the store 15 minutes before opening time.
2. Our hours are 9AM to 8PM Monday through Saturday, and 12PM to 6PM on Sundays.
3. This means arrive at 8:45AM Monday through Saturday, and 11:45AM on Sundays.
4. Unlock the front door and enter, then lock the front door behind you.
5. Turn on the lights.
6. (If the A/C is not automatic) Set the A/C to 74°F in Summer.
7. Listen for any beeping, which indicates a triggered alarm or a battery backup that needs to be turned off and on.
8. If the security alarm is a triggered alarm:
a. (list scenarios and what to do)b.
b. Call the owner and report the problem
9. Check the cash registers to see if they are all operating and not showing error messages.
10. Allow in other employees arriving early.
11. Unlock the front doors at opening time.
Got the hang of it? If you think about it, it takes as long as performing the repetitive task ONCE as it does to write out the detailed instructions, maybe a bit longer. And once you create the procedure for the right way to do the task, that sets up the whole process to be done correctly indefinitely.
Start with the easiest tasks, write a few procedures, then go on to the next step. You can come back and write the rest. I recommend this because you need to see how effective your procedures are before you write too many of them. For example, you may need to add sections at the top for materials and tools required, like a checklist.
4. Delegate and Train
A lot of clarity will come to you as you write procedures. It helps you think of the skills and level or responsibility needed in performing the tasks. And that will show you who to assign each task to. Back on the List, in the column for “Who”, start filling in names of who you can each assign to.
In preparation for the training, select a task and its procedure, and print out two copies. Then set up a time or go meet with that employee of choice. Inform them that you are assigning them a new responsibility. Explain the task, and go through the procedure with them, step by step. Ask them if they understand, and if there is anything they are not 100% clear on.
The discussion that sometimes starts here is, what, if any, extra compensation should be offered. If the employee has frequent idle time, but is a good employee, sometimes no extra compensation is necessary. But if you are expanding a productive employee’s role and they will end up working extra hours, additional compensation is in order. You can offer a recurring bonus at the end of each pay period, then switch to bump in hourly compensation once they do the task correctly for a few months in a row. These are some ideas, and your employee may ask for other forms of compensation, like an additional day off once a month or every two pay periods.
When you and your employee are in agreement on the assignment, take the time to actually run through the procedure with them. Make sure they understand it and execute the task well.
5. Review and Assess
The first few times your employees do tasks you trained them on, you should review their work. This would alleviate some of your concerns. For example, if they are doing a task outside of regular business hours, come in to work and observe if they do it well. But try to observe without hovering or looking too much over their shoulder.
It is common that procedures are not perfect. If you try to make them perfect, you will never get them completed and delegated. They just need to be the best you can produce in the limited time you have available. So as you observe the results of the execution, make a note of any changes you have to make to the procedures, then reprint them and give the employee the corrected versions.
At the same time, assess if the employee is doing the tasks correctly. Are they missing or skipping steps? Determine the reason steps are omitted, and decide if that step is actually necessary. Bring it to the employee’s attention; ask for their input.
Reviewing the employee’s execution of tasks, and assessing the quality of the work being done, gives you assurance that it is being done right.
Another assessment you can make is which employees are handling what new procedures well. Whoever is doing well and is eager for more should get more tasks, especially if they are efficient at executing.
Most employees will inevitably get better and faster at executing these repetitive tasks. This opens up time for them to take on more tasks. So go back to the Repetitive Task List, continue writing more procedures, and continue training and delegating. Take a moment also to review the Who column on the List.
Pro Tip: You can dictate your procedures using an app that then produces a text transcript. You can record your instructions, and then copy the text of the transcript into a document to create the procedure. It is not perfect, and you will need to do some edits, but it will save time if you are not a fast typist.
Example apps: Google Pixel has an app called Recorder. The Apple App Store has “Transcribe – Speech to Text” by DENIVIP (there is a small hourly charge per hour of transcription). Microsoft Office 365 now has built-in transcription with MS Word.
For tasks that need to be repeated on a periodic basis, add them to your calendar, and add the employee’s name. Now all you need to do is tell the employee on the day you chose to perform the task. Note that even this calendar tracking process can be delegated.
The task training and delegation process gets even easier. Consider the scenario where you have a junior employee and a more senior employee. You trained the senior employee on a task, and they are doing it well. With your approval and direction, the senior employee can now train the junior employee on that same task. Now you can train the senior employee on the new, more complex procedure you just created. The trainees become the new trainers, and the knowledge flows down the chain.
With repetitive tasks delegated, you are able to do so much more. You can attend a morning networking event because you do not have to open the store yourself. You have the free time to work on your seasonal projections (ie, doing vital work) because you did not spend the afternoon trying to get something else done yourself (ie, doing some other assignable functional work).
The process of writing the procedures and training the right staff is easy for many tasks, and the results will be surprisingly quick. Other tasks are more challenging, and require more time to develop the procedures and train the staff. And yes, sometimes it is not easy hiring the right person. But in the end, you will have done yourself a huge favor and freed up a lot of time.
The above reading is from the author’s knowledge and experience. The reader should use good judgment in deciding who can be trusted with confidential business information, and what processes should be shared with employees and contractors.
About the Author
Walid Costandi has a mission: To release entrepreneurs from the shackles of their business!
I am looking to partner with business owners. Together we can identify a transition plan that keeps both your legacy and your employees secure. I am also working on projects to merge companies in order to create larger enterprises that have a higher market value.