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The Delegation Experiment, Part 2: Counting the Hours

In the opening post of my Delegation Experiment last week, I spent my time lamenting the stress and difficulty in handing the reigns to my business over to someone. It’s frightening to think about. But in the end the conclusion needs to be one of resolve and determination. If I am going to grow my business, I need to let go of pieces of it.

Now, like a man who has decided to sell his home and move across the country, I’m left with some actions that need to take place to make my decision real. I’m going to delegate parts of my daily and weekly business. I’m not excited about the loss of control, but I am about the gained time and freedom to improve the success of my design company. So the question that really needs answered right now is about ROI: how much time can I reasonably expect to free up, and is that going to benefit me.

I realize this sounds overly simple, but to know how I can divide up my responsibilities and delegate them I first have to know what I’m splitting up. So, to get me rolling in the right direction, I pulled out a piece of paper and started jotting down all the things I have to do as part of my job. I didn’t want to get caught up in the minutia, so I kept the categories broad and general at first (hours refer to total hours spent on a category each month):

  • Design: 120 hours
  • Client Communication: 20 hours
  • Billing & Business Reports: 10 hours
  • Marketing & Promotion: 5 hours
  • Print Order Management: 5 hours

Five simple categories. As a side note, when you finish with your rough list, you may share in my surprise at how simple the complexity of my job seems on paper. But whatever your categories are, whether there are two, or five, or ten, these are the basic “departments” of your business. A corporation would have hundreds of people working in each department, but for most of us, we are the sole members of each department. But not for long.

This list netted me some great information. For example, of the 160 hours if work time I have in a basic month, 40 of those hours have the potential to be delegated. That’s 25% of my time! And I don’t know about you, but if I could get 25% of my time back each month, I’d be willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. When you think in those terms, all of a sudden the notion of delegating becomes incredibly attractive.

The next step for me was to take each of those categories and list out the various tasks that I have to complete within them on at least a monthly basis. The only category I didn’t work with was Design, since I’m the sole designer here, and the business revolves around my design work, that’s work I’m not going to delegate. But digging into the others presented me with a larger list:

  • Client Communication: 20 hours
    • Responding to leads/inquiries
    • Submitting drafts/revisions to clients
    • Delivering final files/links
    • Following up on unresponsive leads
    • Chasing missing payments
  • Billing & Business Reports: 10 hours
    • Recording payments received in P&L
    • Sending invoices & estimates
    • Recording estimates sent
  • Promotion: 5 hours
    • Twitter
  • Print Order Management: 5 hours
    • Upload print files to printer
    • Approve proofs
    • Record print costs on P&L
    • Manage shipment tracking

I realize none of this is sexy, and most of it is probably boring to your specific business, but you have to see my process. Each of those over-simplified departments has a number of very critical tasks within them. Some are things that only I can do. Some are things I prefer to do but shouldn’t. And some are things I can’t wait to get off my plate. I think all of us have lists like that. That’s why we’re pushing to grow our business – so we can reach a point where we hire someone and let them free us up to focus on the parts that energize us and fit into our wheelhouse. That’s my goal, at least.

After all of that work, it became a simple matter of looking through my list and marking the items that I don’t really have to do. Mark the items on your list that you know you should be sending to someone else to complete. Some of those delegations will be hard to commit to, but you’re just marking them right now. No pressure. The goal here is to simply get a list of tasks you can pass off to someone else in the near future, at your discretion. So that’s your homework for the week. Make your list. If you feel like sharing the results in the Comments, I’d love to read them. But take a moment today to dissect your job. Cut it up, count it and mark it for delegation. It’s the next step toward freedom.

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