Let’s be frank: You have way too much on your plate. You’re a really hard worker. Your standards are sky-high and the quality of your work reflects that. But your life-work balance is completely out of whack. What you’re doing is unsustainable.
And what’s worse is that you dug yourself into this hole and you’re unable to see a way out. It may have started innocently enough, with you picking up jobs that people who got laid off used to do. Or trying to appease a client whose demands started to creep outside the scope of agreed-upon work.
You feel like you don’t have time to re-examine what you’re doing because you’ve got so many deadlines to meet. There’s just too much work.
Chances are, you think it’d just be faster to do things yourself than try to train someone how to do it correctly.
Well, friends, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you’re wrong. And in case you didn’t know: You’re also a control freak.
I know, I know. You’ve been disappointed before. When people have messed things up, it has taken forever to straighten them out. Or worse yet, when you’ve delegated tasks, people dragged their feet or let things slip through the cracks. Somehow you miraculously were able to salvage everything at the last minute. You’re unwilling to go down that road again.
You’re burned out, stretched too thin and in dire need of a manicure, a full night’s sleep or a meal you haven’t eaten standing up.
I’m here to help. What I have to say may be difficult to hear, but believe me, you need to let go. So put down that binder and step away from that inbox. Take a moment to think about what I’m about to say. It may not be easy to digest, but it’s true and very, very important.
You can’t do it all yourself. You need to learn how to ask other people to help. Here’s how …
Step 1: Break your tasks into chunks and prioritize
It’s a scientific fact. Your brain cannot stay focused and productive 24 hours a day, much less for an eight-hour span. You have limited resources available to you, and a finite amount of time available to tackle important tasks and problems before you fizzle out.
That’s why it’s easy to get distracted by interruptions, feel paralyzed by long to-do lists and why you start to feel aimless after wading through your email inbox.
Before you leave work at night, or before you tackle anything in the morning, group what you have to do into buckets of similar-type activities or goals. That way you can get a feel for the big picture. Once you can see that, it becomes obvious what tasks you need to accomplish when, what someone else needs to do, what can be put off and what may be a waste of time.
Any time you start to feel unfocused, go back to the bucket list to regroup.
Step 2: Identify where you need help and ask for it
You’re awesome, but you’re not perfect. There are certain tasks you enjoy and others you dread. Those are the ones you put off until “later.” Unfortunately, by the time you finally get around to doing them, you’re exhausted from dealing with everything else. You won’t be thinking clearly.
If you don’t have the discipline to tackle dreaded tasks first, then you need to find a way to delegate them to someone who might actually enjoy doing them. Maybe there’s someone in the office who handles something similar or has access to the same information you do. Perhaps the task is something you can outsource to a service like RentASmile.com, which offers virtual personal assistants on the cheap, or assign to a freelancer. Is it a specific part of the event planning process, like reviewing contracts or negotiating with hotels? You may save time and/or a significant amount of money by contracting a independent company that specializes in that area to complete that task for you.
Step 3: Trust other people
The hardest thing for control freaks is not the act of delegation. It’s fighting the urge to micro-manage the people to whom they’ve delegated tasks.
These people are here to help you. Assume positive intent. And set them up to succeed. Set clear expectations, share the history and knowledge they need to complete their tasks, set deadlines together and hold each other accountable for sticking to them.
You’re unique, so don’t expect people to work exactly the way you do. That’s not the point. The point is whether they complete the work on time, meet the expectations you set (not the ones you thought were implied) and achieve the stated objectives? If so, enjoy the fact that you didn’t have to do it and get over yourself.
If you keep track of what they’re doing and don’t change the scope or meddle, there’s no reason why the work should be late. If the work is substandard, give direction and send it back. But resist the urge to try and correct it or do it all yourself. If you’re paying them to do something and you’re not satisfied, they need to make it right. Next time you can find someone who cares more, does a better job or who you like working with better.
Believe me, it’s a lot easier to go to work when you get to focus on what you enjoy and are good at. And when you find the right people, you’ll be amazed at how much better they’re able to do the tasks you used to hate.
Step 4: Simplify and streamline
If you feel something is a waste of time, ask your boss, peers or stakeholders why it’s important, what it achieves and why it’s done this particular way. Do it kindly, without an edge in your voice. You want to let them know that you’re asking because you care about doing a good job, not because you think something is stupid or a waste of your time (even if you secretly do).
No matter what the answer is, you’ll learn something. Maybe you’ll gain a clearer idea of how your work accomplishes larger objectives. Perhaps you’ll be able to suggest a more efficient way to achieve the same goal. It’s possible that you may uncover that this really is a redundant task, something that needs to be re-examined or eliminated. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.
Step 5: Learn when to turn it off
Once you’ve been able to break your tasks into chunks, outsource what you aren’t good at, have people you trust and have identified what really matters and what can be streamlined or made more efficient, you’ll feel like a heavy cloud has lifted. It won’t happen overnight, but you’ll be able to regain focus.
The next step is learning how to leave work at work. This is the most difficult task for some people because cell phones and mobile email has made us available to everyone at any time. Give yourself permission to set “do not disturb” hours on your mobile devices so you have some time for yourself, your family and your passions or hobbies without being disturbed.
It’s very difficult in this industry to not work evenings or weekends when there’s a big program to execute. But the more boundaries you can draw between personal and work hours, the better you’ll feel. And, after stretches of time spent working around the clock, be sure you give yourself a break, a massage, a vacation, a sabbatical or whatever else you need to refresh, recharge and come back with new ideas.
You deserve it. Believe me, you do.