According to Toronto productivity consultant Mark Ellwood, managers spend 20% of their time on administrative and paperwork tasks that by definition do not advance business goals.

Some of these tasks are essential to your business success (for example, meeting with key customers or coaching performance). The rest are possible items that could be better completed by someone else.

An essential part of an effective People Plan is the Right Person doing the Right Things. And this includes YOU.

Are you spending your time on the Right Things? What could you accomplish for your organization if you “had more time?”

Here are the typical excuses we make NOT to delegate:

  • I am the only person who can do this,
  • I can’t trust that she will do it right (or she is not trained to do it),
  • last time he didn’t do it right,
  • she is too busy,
  • I don’t have time to train someone

The solution to all of these is to train someone to do this work, and then let them…

As a business owner or manager, you have knowledge and skills that make certain tasks essential for you to perform for the best interests of the company.  Your role is to determine and implement the business strategy and tactical goals through your people.

The majority of your time should ideally be spent on training, managing and motivating your people, and overseeing key action items to achieve company goals (from your short term action plans).

For example, you should be the person who reviews financial statements, budgets, and forecasts. You do NOT need to be the person who creates invoices, enters checks or goes to the bank to deposit checks.

We all have tasks that could be adequately performed by a staff member. Often these are administrative or routine in nature. If you spend 30 minutes analyzing your monthly financial statements by computing ratios or comparing to prior months, this is a task that your accounting person can complete and provide in a report with the monthly income statement.

What to delegate
To determine what tasks you can delegate, I highly recommend a simply time study. For one week, track your time in 15 minute increments. You can do this with a printed time chart (every 15 minutes on the left, one column for each day), a voice recorder, or an online time tracker (such as or even an I-phone app (such as timewerks).

It takes a bit of effort to remember to log your entries, but if you capture 75% of a week you have great data to analyze. If you can also track your phone calls this is additional information. One memory trick is to set a timer to ring every 15 minutes, and record your tasks since the last entry.

Your delegation action steps

  1. At the end of one week, calculate the time you spend on various work categories, and highlight those that are not essential for you to do. Also review your outgoing emails and phone calls for patterns.
  2. Divide your tasks into priority categories (a, b, c) or use the Steven Covey method of categorizing by urgent and important. Items that are not important are candidates for delegation, automation, or even elimination.

Typical items for delegation:

  • basic fact finding/ research
  • entry and collection of data and routine reports
  • basic analysis and problem solving suggestions
  • routine communication
  • sorting of emails and mail
  • tasks that you are not very good at or dislike
  • “enrichment” tasks that can give an employee the opportunity to learn and develop

3. Identify to whom to delegate

Once you have identified tasks to delegate, select an appropriate staff member to become responsible. Delegation can provide “stretch goals” to provide job enrichment to employees, so don’t always give items to the most experienced. If you have multiple task sets to delegate, share this among several staff members.

4. Train that person and the “inspect what you expect” until they are meeting expectations and you can be confident in the results without taking the work back.

5. Remember, you will have to invest a bit of time in the short run to reap the long term rewards of off-loading some of your tasks. You will also continue to be responsible to manage the process and review outcomes.