Posts Tagged ‘goals’

Strengths And Weaknesses

When delegating a job, keep in mind the person's talents, area of specialization, and schedule. And set yourself up for success by delegating to someone who can actually complete the task! Handing a job off to a person who is missing a key ingredient (time, skills, resources, experience, or willingness) will only frustrate you both. Also keep in mind that the quickest way to turn someone off to a delegated job is to give that person an assignment that is substantially below his or her skill level. Delegate a project to the most junior person who is capable of successfully completing the job — it's silly to waste $30 an hour on an administrative assistant when a $10 an hour temp could complete the work.

When choosing which jobs to farm out, you need to remember that delegation can be used as a very effective training and educational tool. Delegate interesting projects in addition to drudgery — especially if you are trying to groom a new assistant, up-and-comer, or someone you want to be able to take on more and more challenging tasks as time goes by. Frankly, you will wear your team members out and dampen their enthusiasm for assisting you if you only give them the “dregs.” You want delegation to serve as an opportunity to help the other person grow and expand their skills, as well as a way for you to get menial chores done. If you challenge your delegees today, you'll keep them interested in the work — and also be able to give them more difficult assignments in the future (without worrying that they will be overburdened!)

Delegating The Right Way

In order to delegate successfully, you need to follow a system — one that keeps both you and the delegee on track. Let's start with your side of things, as the delegator. When you assign a project to a colleague or employee, how do you remember exactly what you asked of them? When you gave them the job? Your agreed upon deadline? There's nothing more frustrating than handing a job over to someone and forgetting that you delegated it, or when you delegated it, or when it was due back to you. You can keep track of what projects you give to whom by keeping a simple delegation log, in which you record these important details. This is especially important when you've delegated multiple tasks to numerous different people. Simply review your log each week, see which items should have been completed, and follow up with your folks. You'll find yourself facing fewer missed deadlines and experiencing a lot less stress. The last thing you want when you delegate a project is to wake up at 3 AM thinking, “Oh no — did I ask my web master to update my newsletter yet, or not?” We all suffer from mid-life Alzheimer's at times, so write it down!

But you also need to create some structure for your delegee. Don't ever hand a job off with the instructions, “I need this back when you finish.” Give your delegees a firm deadline along with the assignment. Although the ultimate responsibility for completion of the job lies with you, you don't want to waste all of your time chasing after someone saying, “When will you be done?” Similarly, you shouldn't have to guess what kind of a finished productyour assistant will hand you when the final deadline comes around.Communicate the exact result you expect before you delegate the job and agree on a goal with your delegee.That might seem obvious, but few people do this really thoroughly — and they pay the price later. Giveyour helpers enough information to go on so they don't have to keep coming back andasking you for more information every step of the way. The whole pointbehind delegation is to save you time — and that doesn't happen ifyou're always on the phone or in meetings clarifying requests.

Bite-Sized Is Better

It can also be overwhelming to a delegee for you to hand them a huge request and expect them to manage their time effectively without a little guidance. And you certainly don't want to wait until two days before the deadline to see what kind of progress your assistant is making. It's better to set milestones for completing each phase of the project. When you break a job up into smaller “bite-sized” pieces, it's much easier for the delegee to handle, you have set up a series of natural follow-up points throughout the project, and you can check in with your team member at each sub-deadline for a status report.

A lot of people fail to follow up on delegated projects until the very end because they don't want to seem pushy or overbearing. Of course, there is a fine line between checking in and micro-managing. Once you feel the person has a firm grasp on the expected result,allow your delegee enough freedom to decide how to accomplish the job.Delegation is about letting go of a task you didn't need to do in the first place — and as long as it is completed in a satisfactory manner, who cares HOW it was accomplished? But on the other hand, you shouldn't have to guess how far along a delegee is in a project, at any point in the process. Ask your people report their progress at regular intervals — these milestones are the perfect excuse for a meeting or written report. This allows you to discuss any problems the person has run into, any additional resources he/she might need, and make any adjustments to your project schedule.

Don't Squash Their Enthusiasm

No one likes to work hard on a job for someone else and receive none ofthe glory. So be sure to give credit where credit is due!People often think that the only real motivator in this world is money, but that's simply not true. It's been proven that people are more likely to break their necks to do a good job in return for intangible rewards like praise than they would even for a raise or a promotion. Your delegees will work harder for you in the long runif you give them a pat on the back — don't be stingy with the compliments when you feel that a job has been well-done. I promise that you won't give your folks a swelled head, just a swelled sense of accomplishment and pride in their work (and an incentive to help you out again in the future!)

Reality Check

It's incredibly difficult for folks to admit that they can't do everything themselves. Well,  guess what — you can't! And I don't know that you'd want to, even if you had the time. Some activities are unpleasant, outside your range of expertise, or just not what you want to spend your time on. There's nothing wrong with bowing out, as long as you can find someone else to take care of it. The not-to-do list helps identify those chores, errands, and daily responsibilities that can (and should) be delegated. This is assuming that we're talking about a job that even needs to be done in the first place — if not, let it go and move on!

Unfortunately, most of us don't realize how close to the edge we are until it's too late and we're about to fall off the cliff. The key to creating a successful “not-to-do” list is awareness –paying attention to what you do, how long it takes, how often you doit, and whether or not you get some benefit from that particularactivity. However, we spend so much of our days on autopilot and in astate of overload, that simply trying to recall how you spent yesterdaymorning can be a real challenge!

Keep a notepad handy, and record your activities for a week. You don't have to log every second of your day (“8:00 — got up / 8:05 — used bathroom / 8:15 — had breakfast” isn't going to help you be more effective and efficient!) But if you can start tracking your work responsibilities (a paid job, housework, or whatever fills your day), travel time to and from activities, and any other external responsibilities (committee meetings, carpools, volunteering), you will begin to see places where you can trim and tighten your schedule through delegation. Make a note of what you are doing — such as “checking e-mails” or “cleaning oven” or “buying groceries.” Then, estimate how much time you have spent on that particular chore (don't forget travel and prep time). Later we'll look at whether this action needs to be done at all (!!) and whether it needs to be done by you. But for now, that's the start of your “not-to-do” list.

How Much Is Your Time Worth?

When you were a kid, you probably didn't think much about what it took to earn money — you just asked for what you wanted and somehow, mommy and daddy made it happen. You didn't worry about what stuff cost, and you didn't understand when someone told you it was too “expensive.” Then you got an after-school job or started working for your allowance — and I'll bet you became a lot more discriminating about what you did with hard-earned cash!

It's the same with time.  Very few people really know what their time is worth, in concrete financial terms. They just go through their day on autopilot, wondering where the hours go. Until you recognize that your time is intrinsically valuable, you will never be able to make informed decisions about where your effort is best spent.  Here's a general guide illustrating how much an hour of your time is worth, and how just one hour a day (spent poorly or wisely) adds up over a year's time:

YOUR
ANNUAL INCOME
WHAT ONE HOUR
IS WORTH
ONE HOUR PER DAY
FOR A YEAR
$25,000 $12.61 $3,125
$40,000 $20.49 $5,000
$50,000 $25.61 $6,205
$75,000 $38.42 $9,375
$100,000 $51.23 $12,500
$125,000 $65.10 $15,884
$150,000 $76.84 $18.750
$175,000 $89.65 $21,875
$200,000 $102.46 $25,000
$250,000 $128.07 $31,250
$300,000 $153.69 $37,500
** Based on 244 working days per year

You can always look at delegating in terms of the biggest financial payoff. When I hire someone to take care of an item on my not-to-do list — and I pay them $25 an hour while my hour is worth $60 — I'm coming out ahead. The same is true when I can hire someone to do a task in a half hour that would take me 3 hours to complete. I can be focusing on higher priorities — things that feed my soul or grow my business or let me know I'm alive — without worrying that the work isn't being done.

Look At Costs Versus Benefits

Have you ever caught yourself spending a lot of time on a very low-payoff activity? Low-payoff doesn't mean worthless. This task might actually need to be done — like addressing 1,500 envelopes for a business mailing or cleaning all of the window screens in your house. But it's not something that will immediately and drastically improve your quality of life. And it might be a hugely time-consuming activity, where the rewards you will reap don't even begin to compare to your investment of time and energy. Most of these low-payoff jobs really serve as maintenance — but if left undone, they can erode away at your home, your career, your health, your peace of mind and cause serious problems down the road. That makes these chores perfect candidates for your “not-to-do” list — items that really need to be completed, but not necessarily by YOU. Here are some of the most common suggestions I hear from my clients — see which resonate with you as being potentially delegable:

  • house cleaning
  • grocery shopping and meal preparation
  • paperwork (filing/mailings/organizing)
  • errand-running
  • yard work and landscaping
  • home maintenance and car maintenance
  • follow-up with clients (phone calls/e-mails)
  • travel, meeting, and event arrangements

Of course, you also have to ask if you really enjoy the work. Even though I could probably find someone else to maintain my website for me, I love the process of creating new pages, bringing ideas to life, and watching my baby blossom and grow. It is time-consuming, but I'm filled with renewed energy each time I sit down and add a new section to the site. So the payoff for me comes as a sense of satisfaction and a continued outlet for my creativity — and that is priceless, regardless of what my hour is worth. On the other hand, my sister loves gardening. She finds it incredibly relaxing to dig in the dirt and watch a tiny bud explode into color. Lawn care is pretty much my idea of hell — so I would probably hire someone else to take care of my shrubbery and flowers (if I had a yard!) It's all a matter of what energizes you, what fills your life with joy, and what you look forward to doing. If an activity fits this description, keep it for yourself and find other less-pleasurable chores to include on your not-to-do list.

Is This The Best Possible Use Of Your Time?

The final question I ask my clients when setting up their lists is, “What's the best possible use of your time at this exact moment?” Americans in particular tend to focus too much on the daily grind (paying bills, keeping the house clean, writing reports, etc.) and too little on our real priorities. Those many details may seem urgent at the time — but if you look at the bigger picture, that they really aren't all that pressing. And it's sad when we end up missing out on the important things in life (experiences and relationships) because we're so caught up in the minutiae. Do you really need to be organizing the garage, or spending time with your kids at the park? Is it a higher priority that you decide how to arrange the chairs at the upcoming sales meeting, or that you develop a strong agenda and provide guidance during the group discussion? Will you benefit more from zoning out in front of the television, or taking a walk around the neighborhood with your spouse? Ask yourself where you will get the biggest bang for your buck. That should be where you focus your attention, and let someone else handle the rest.

Once you've made a list of items that you would love to delegate — who do you hand them off to? You have so many options! Just remember, you aren't in it alone. You simply have to decide whatyou want to delegate and then be willing to ask for help. At home, you can get your family involved in the act (see my dear hubby doing dishes?) Kids and spouses are just as capable of handling those daily chores as you are! At the office, don't be afraid to ask a co-worker for some assistance — and offer to help out the next time he or she needs a little bit of a break. Also make use of your support staff (administrative clerks, assistants, and other assorted minions) — that's what they are there for. If you don't have these sorts of support networks to call upon, hire an independent contractor or freelancer to help with household and business tasks that you don't have time for. You might also think about developing a local co-op for sharing those time-consuming domestic (trading off on cooking, cleaning, errand-running, or child care) — or set up an informal swap with a neighbor.

Have A Plan Of Attack

Begin working in the area that is the biggest thorn in your side — the part of your home or office that causes you the most agony. Even if every area of your life feels cluttered, it's not hard to pinpoint your MOST frustrating organizing challenge. When you find yourself saying, day after day, “Man, I wish I could get my (bedroom, desk, storage closet whatever) straightened out. This mess is driving me crazy!” — you know that's where you want to begin. Where is your greatest pain?

As you dig in, you're guaranteed to notice a few other spots that could use some organizing help too — that's fine. Create a list of the areas you want to work on, in order of priority. Be sure to include a deadline for completing each project. This will help you focus on the big picture as you work your way through your home or office. It's much easier to stay on track if you have a specific timetable within which to work. Crossing tasks off of your “to-do list” as you finish them also reminds you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel!  Don't feel overwhelmed — you will get to all of your problem areas, in due time.

One Baby Step After Another

It's tempting to want to organize everything at the same time, but that's a surefire way to sabotage your efforts. Instead, start by tackling just one small area at a time — a drawer, a cabinet, a shelf, a closet. Don't attempt to clean out the whole place at once. If you overdo it, chances are you will become frustrated and give up on the entire project. Set aside some time each week to work on a different area — once you get started, you'll be surprised at how quickly the job goes.

Do your best to move systematically, finishing one area before you begin another. There is nothing more draining than finding yourself surrounded by a bunch of half-finished projects — and it's even harder to find things if you have only organized part of your closet or cleaned out half of your filing system, while the other half is still a wreck.

Once you discover your own particular organizing style, you'll really be able to make some progress. Some people work best if they empty an entire storage area before organizing it. Others find that too overwhelming, and choose to tackle their clutter one item at a time. You need to decide for yourself which of these methods suits your personality best. But there is no “right” way — only what's right for you.  Remember, there are as many different ways to organize as there are people on the planet!

Call In The Troops

Don't be afraid to enlist a little help. If you can recruit some organizing “assistants” — do it! This is a big job, and it will go a lot faster if you aren't all by your lonesome. Consider drafting your friends, family members, or co-workers — put on some music, serve them pizza, and turn cleaning out into a party. Who said organizing has to be a chore?

You might even consider hiring a Professional Organizer to help you out — sometimes it's good to have someone around who has no vested interest your “stuff” and can offer expert advice when you get stuck. Just be judicious about who you bring on board. If you what you need most is an objective opinion, your nosy mother-in-law may not be the best choice!

Organizing is hard work — and it's going to take a minute. So don't get frustrated with yourself if you can't tackle every pile of clutter in one weekend! And don't drive yourself until you drop — cleaning out does not have to be painful. Just go at your own pace and cut yourself some slack if you aren't moving forward as quickly as you had hoped.  Most importantly, be sure to reward yourself every time you finish a particularly challenging task — even adults need “gold stars” (or a cappuccino or a movie or a soak in the tub) every now and then!

Changing Your Mind(set)

I'm a veteran at figuring out precisely what I want, then getting stuck partway along the path. Wink At that point, ya gotta decide if the thing you thought you wanted is really what you still want — or if you needed something entirely different, and that's why the roadblock popped up in the first place. At first, you might have a hard time accepting that shift, because it feels like you didn't know what you were doing in the first place. But getting derailed or changing your mind is not failure. We've developed a counterproductive idea in our society that deciding to go in a different direction means admitting defeat — when often, it's the smartest decision you can make. As W.C. Fields said, “If at first you don't succeed, try try again. Then quit. There's no use being a damn fool about it.” Knowing when to say no is a valuable skill!

My career is a perfect example of the winding, unpredictable, and thoroughly satisfying road my life has taken. I started out as a Social Worker, but hit a wall when I wasn't being allowed to fully serve my clients (and I realized that I was going to turn into a government bureaucrat if I didn't get the hell out of there!) I had to make a decision to stay and be miserable or walk away and do something else — but what? This was my “calling.” Where would I go? What would I do? It was hard, but I made the leap and started my own business (first as an organizer, now also a photographer and blogger). In time, that decision has also allowed my husband to quit his job, and for us to become full-time RVers — I don't regret having “quit” for one second!

My life and career continue to branch and shift (and I'll share stories about these changes in later posts), but my larger point is that being willing to say “no” to something that wasn't working for me opened up a whole new world of possibilities — opportunities that I wouldn't have even dreamed of it I had just “stuck it out”, the way we're often taught to do. That quitters-never-win-and-winners-never-quit thing is a bunch of malarkey!

Evolving And Growing

My sister once said to me (in a rather derisive tone), “Every time I see you, you're a completely different person. I never know who you're going to be from day to day.” Thank you! I actually take that as a compliment — continuing to change and evolve and adjust as circumstances in your life shift is the only way to grow.

I can't imagine staying stuck in one place your whole life — one job, one town, or one way of thinking. And while change can be a little scary, it's also kind of exciting not knowing what's going to happen tomorrow. I can be anyone I want to be at any point in time — I just have to be willing to let go of who I am today to get there.

Given the chance, are there situations and circumstances in your life that you would like to change? Maybe a relationship that isn't working, a job that wears you out, 10 pounds you want to lose, or even just a pile of clutter that is driving you up the wall. Who do you want to be tomorrow and what changes are you going to have to make for that to happen?

Success Is A Trade-Off

When life doesn't go the way we planned, we become big-time excuse-makers — it's human nature, a defense mechanism. People often blame “circumstances” for keeping them from achieving their dreams. This is code for “I would have had to do things differently to make it happen, and I just wasn't willing to pay the price.” What they're really saying is that they didn't want it badly enough to work for it. Want to be president of your company? How do 80-hour work weeks sound to you? You can be debt-free, but you'll have to put a moratorium on unnecessary spending for a while (no eating out, no movies, no impulse buys) — can you do that? Do you want to write a book? It will only if you turn off the TV. Wish you were in better shape? Are you ready to sweat — every single day of the week?

It's like that famous quote about the world-renowned pianist. At a concert someone said, “I wish I could play like you.” The pianist replied, “If you knew what I had to do to get here, you wouldn't.” You can have anything (and I mean ANYTHING) you want in life, as long as you're willing to make space for it to happen. But most people settle for what life hands them, instead of going after what they really desire most — usually because they have a hard time recognizing their long-term goals in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Knowing What You Really Want

The big question is what are you willing to give up NOW to have what you want most? It's easy to become shortsighted — with so many immediate responsibilities and distractions (delayed gratification is not most people's strong suit!) But when you fail to see beyond the end of the week or the end of the month or even December 31st, you're giving your future happiness a short shrift.

My husband and I have given up a lot of things — the huge house, the hot sexy car, and a lot of expensive “playthings” — because we have our eye on the bigger prize. Our goal is freedom — the ability to do what we want when we want it, to be able to travel endlessly without having to ask for time off, and especially financial freedom (which we define as having enough money to cover our daily expenses without having to hold a full-time job). We're looking at a longer timeline than just what we do for enjoyment “today”.

Our Story

In order to do this, we've chosen a fairly unconventional life. Matt and I both used to work for someone else doing the 9 to 5 grind thing until we started our own business. It was scary, we worried that we wouldn't have enough money (thankfully that didn't happen) — but we can work in our pajamas, and take the day off any time we like. That's freedom.

Our lives are not as “tied down” as a lot of people's. We have cats instead of kids (but we never considered not having children a sacrifice!) Tried homeownership, didn't like it — so we're full-time nomads, living out of a 29-foot Airstream Excella instead. We travel the country, stopping to “live” for a while anyplace that strikes our fancy. That's freedom.

Matt and I try to live frugally, because we don't want to spend our lives working to pay the bills. We have no debt and we refuse to pay anyone interest for anything if we can avoid it (which means we have to save up to afford each purchase — no financing). We only have one car, when we need a new one we buy used (with cash), and then we drive that vehicle to death. We don't eat out every day of the week, I shop for most of my clothes at thrift and consignment stores, and we don't pay the exorbitant fees that most folks do for cable or satellite TV (we wait until the end of the season and get our shows on DVD from the library or Netflix. And we put money away in savings every month toward our goal of financial independence. That's freedom.

How About You?

The point is not to say “ooh look at how great we are” or brag about our lives — it's simply to point out that everything Matt and I “give up” is a conscious decision, and we do it because there is something else out there that we want even more. Some people think we're weird and wouldn't want our lifestyle for anything in the world, and that's fine — everyone has to decide what their dream is and what they are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve it.

So I guess I would ask — what kind of life are you leading now, what would you really rather be doing, and what would you need to give up in order to have that? How badly do you want your dream to come true? Are you willing to go there, no matter what it takes? And what will your first step be? It's all up to you!