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On do or delegate

On do or delegate
By Tom Littler - Notion & myKanban • Issue #28 • View online
It’s not always best to delegate, ‘synergy’ and other such jargon, what makes sammy run?

Over the Christmas period, I spent some time catching up on some ‘must-read’ books on creating wealth. ‘The Almanack of Naval’, ‘Think & Grow Rich’, you know the type…
One common theme that appears through these kinds of books is the importance of delegating, now also commonly referred to as ‘personal leverage’.
The fundamental principle behind delegating work is hard to argue with.
If you can employ someone to do your work, for less than it would cost you to do it on your hourly rate, then you should delegate.
This frees up time for you to focus on more valuable work, which in turn brings in more cash which creates more leverage for you to delegate.
But as with all principles, formula, life rules – any advice you’ll ever receive, there are exceptions, and it’s nothing, in my opinion, that should just be blindly followed.
Here are some thoughts on when you should think twice about delegating.
Delegating when you know zero about the work you are delegating.
I see so many people fall into this trap. They don’t understand how to achieve a certain thing so they turn to an ‘expert’. Maybe they don’t know how to create a website, how to do Instagram marketing, or how to get their finances in order.
It’s easy to see the appeal of turning to an expert in these cases. Why would I invest my time in exploring something that is of limited use to my skill-set when I can just employ someone to do it for me?
The problem is if you have no idea of the work you are delegating you open yourself up to being ripped off, or choosing a solution to your problems that is completely sub-optimal.
Taking the example of getting a website made, let’s say it’s a simple portfolio site. If you know nothing about web development, you might be inclined to seek out a web development agency, or a front-end developer. You may pay £0000’s to get a great looking, bespoke site.
The problem? For a simple portfolio site, you could have just used a Webflow, Wix, or a host of other no-code platforms and got just a finished product for 1/10th of the price. This is the price of complete ignorance.
The solution? Apply the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 rule). Take some time to understand the problem you are trying to solve, the solutions out there, and the basics of the execution, you’ll then be in a much better position to hire an expert to delegate to.
Delegating when you actually enjoy the work
This is a funny one. What if you actually really enjoy the work you are delegating? A personal example for me is the editing of my YouTube videos. I actually quite like the process and the satisfaction I get from taking raw video and audio files and turning them into something watchable.
Life isn’t all about productivity, sometimes there’s a satisfaction to doing a job yourself even if technically it isn’t ‘worth your time’. The amount of high-earning friends I have who choose to paint and decorate their own homes is testament to this!
How I’m thinking about delegating fun work is by not thinking that a task has to be 100% delegated to someone else, but that there can be a balance in the workload.
Using the example of editing my YouTube videos, I’m going to delegate probably 80% of my videos – the ones where I am just talking through a Notion system or technique, but still edit myself the other 20%. These are the more ‘artistic’ videos – where there’s lots of B-roll, a compelling narrative (hopefully) maybe the odd diagram.
This way I get the best of both worlds. The free time that comes with delegating work that can be done by someone else, and the satisfaction that comes from doing work with my own two hands.
Delegating when the skill you learn could synergise with your core skills.
When I hear the word ‘synergy’ I think middle management, corporate jargon – everything I hate. Alas, I can’t seem to think of a better word for the phenomenon when skills interact with one another in a way that makes each skill stronger in its own right.
Let’s say you are working in Operations at a start-up, you are putting together a business case for a new initiative and you need to know the conversion rate of users on the platform. The normal way is to ask the data team. It may not be labeled in this way, but effectively asking someone for help at work is delegating.
In a company utilising everyone’s unique skillset is vital to efficient running, but sometimes, staying in our rabbit hole can lower our creativity and ability to think about problems in a broad, holistic way.
If instead, you’d learned how to use your data reporting tool yourself you may find it opens up a whole realm of possibilities of information you could gather. Also, having to think in terms of variables, dimensions, and measures, and databases (as you must do when analysing data), could help structure your thought process about completing unrelated problems in new and interesting ways.
I hope that’s given you some food for thought on taking the ‘always delegate’ mentality with a pinch of salt. There are exceptions to every rule!
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10/10. Such a great insight into success, it’s trappings and how far chutzpah can take the talentless.
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Tom Littler - Notion & myKanban

Hey, I'm Tom, a product manager and startup founder living in London.

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