This is a transcript of Episode 2 of the Simple Systems with Sam Podcast. Let’s talk about how to overcome the mental hurdle and cut down your to-do list with one eye opening step: delegate tasks to others.

Episode 2: Is it REALLY yours?

If you’ve ever spent time around small kids, especially in larger groups, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “it’s not my fault”, or “I didn’t do it”. As a parent, it can get really annoying. But as someone trying to simplify my own life, I actually think we can learn a thing or two from these kids. 

I mean, if you think about it, on a really simplistic level, what they’re doing is delegating out the fault. They are not taking the blame, they’re instead they’re giving somebody else the blame and asking that you go to them to try to figure out what happened. It’s a weird way to think about it. But it’s super effective, right? 

The “Long List” Problem

We’re gonna apply this to something that you might do on a regular basis. Let’s say you come home, and you have a million things running through your head. So the easiest way to stop your head from running in circles is to write out a to do list. I’m sure we’ve all been there. And you get down to like 30 things on that piece of paper and think, “man, okay, we just need to get this knocked out laundry needs to be done dinner, picking this up cleaning this off all these things”… 

And you look over, and your partner sitting on the couch, drinking a cold one watching reruns of Parks and Rec and you’re like, why is that person not understand all the things that need to go on?! I’m sitting here staring at a list of all the things that need to happen and they don’t understand that I’m running around ragged, just trying to get all done. 

It’s simply because their brain just does not work the same. They just don’t think about some of the things on the same priority that we do, or that it’s going to make everyone feel so much better when it’s done. 

Delegate Like a Boss

So instead of getting frustrated, we’re going to start delegating. And this sounds like a super easy thing. We all understand delegation, right? We know how it works. We know how to delegate things out to other people. But we take on this mental burden that nobody ever justified. 

Mental Block

We think that we are overwhelming other people before we’ve even asked them to do anything. We also think that if we give up some of the responsibility for some of these things, that people are going to come to us and think that we’re lazy. Even though we’re still working on other stuff, we just asked maybe that a friend goes and picks up your kid from school because they live right down the road. So it makes sense.

Delegate and Manage

 And one thing that I think is really interesting, I’m gonna tell you a story about when I worked at Target. So I was hired on as an assistant manager at Target. And it was an interesting time in my life, I will never go Black Friday shopping again. But when I worked at Target, I’m given a list when we hand off between managers. A list of the things that really need to get done to put the store in a better place. 

Instead of delegating those things out to the people that we literally paid to listen to me, I was so afraid that it was gonna overwhelm them. They have all these other things that they need to do with their time, right? They need to help guests, they need to restock things, they need to clean up their area. So who was I to be the one to tell them what they need to do? 

Well, I was their manager. So they would have listened to me. But I was so afraid of overwhelming other people that I took it on myself. And I became quickly stressed out and burnt out. 

An Interesting Thought

Now kind of looking back years later, I was talking to a friend the other day, whose other friend in their company is looking to get a promotion. And she said, “I’ll only take on more money, if I don’t have to do as much work”. And that stopped me in my tracks. Right?

 You hear that you’re like, man, that seems like an interesting philosophy. But that’s just because they are great at delegating. People at the top of the chain, don’t do a ton of the work, they delegate it out. So let’s not maybe be at the top of the chain of a giant multi billion dollar corporation. But let’s start this just in our homes. 

The Simple Step: Delegate

Right now I want you to write down 10 to 15 things that need to get done. We’re not writing in brain dumping an entire list. We’re not going through pages and pages, but just a little sampling. And that’s just for the purposes of this experiment. 

What to Delegate

Once you write down that list, you’re going to put a star next to the things that you are the only person that can accomplish that task. For me, like I’m the only person that can go get my hair done, right, that’s… that’d be weird to send my husband to go get my hair done. I also want to be the only person to put away my underwear. It just freaks me out. 

I’m going to be the one to do my laundry and get my hair done. But if I write down the first 10 to 15, things that come to my mind, I probably have to be the one responsible for two or three of them. 

And once you start doing this, every time you write out a to do list, it becomes very eye opening. 

Who can do it?

So the next step is to think of who else can take on these tasks. Now there are certain tasks that I’m going to assign my husband that I’m not going to assign my four year old and vice versa, right. My four year old can actually accomplish a lot. She can wipe down the counters really well. She can pick up shoes, she can pick up toys. But she probably can’t carry the box of books down the stairs because I can’t even do that because they’re ridiculously heavy. So I would give that to my husband. 

Maybe my husband just wants to sit down on the couch, he’s had a long day at work, you know what he can do? While he actually watches Parks and Rec, he can fold some laundry. And he actually enjoys it! 

We’re going to think about the people who can do these tasks so that it does not have to be us. And then you just have to ask. 

Now, this is the hurdle that I feel a lot of us get trapped in is, we don’t really want to ask, and we talked about it earlier. But if you don’t ask you don’t know. 

Delegate at Home

And let’s brainstorm through a couple of these tasks. Okay, at home, we talked about laundry, cleaning things up dinner, husbands, and spouses can take on dinner, it can happen. But also any small task you can assign to kids, kids actually love to help, you just can’t expect it to be done perfectly. But you can expect it to get done to a level that you feel pretty comfortable with. 

Delegate Errands

Also, outside of that my mother in law loves to go shopping. If I didn’t want to run to a specific store that I know she loves going to maybe I say, “hey, we have a birthday party this weekend, could you pick up a toy from here, I’ll pay you back”. And you know what?She would love to do it.

Delegate to Students

At home, there’s a ton of things that we can delegate out, but also at school. let’s talk about some school things I love delegating out. You do not have to be the one to pass back papers, I don’t care what anyone says you do not have to be the one to do it or to hand out new papers. Also, lab prep. You do not have to be the one to pull out all of the lab supplies the day before, students should practice this skill. So let’s let them do it.

Also grading, students can grade their own papers, believe it or not, I tell my students, if I see a pencil out while we’re grading, they get a zero on it. But otherwise, I had them highlight their correct answers. And by highlighting their correct answers, I kind of like locks it in. And then they turn it in. And I can look at the ones that they missed. And maybe let them correct it before they turn it and whatever. But they can do that grading for me and takes maybe five minutes in class. But that cuts down on hours of my time at home. 

Also, if they’re writing anything, if you’re having them write a claim evidence reasoning, or a summary paragraph on something they learned, and you have a rubric of things that they needed to include, have them highlight their work from the rubric. And then you only have to create the highlighted parts. It’s amazing. I learned that from an English teacher. 

Delegate with Friends

But also with friends. Let’s say that you’re planning a big girls night out or a bachelorette party. The person that was put in charge feels like they have to be in charge of all of it. And they want that responsibility. They want to be the one that throws everything the best puts on the best bachelorette party. But let’s be honest, everybody has their strengths. And you do not want to plan that whole big night by yourself. Delegate some of those things out. We just have to ask. 

The Challenge

My challenge for you is to take one item from your to do list, especially if this is a mental hurdle you’re going to struggle with. And I want you to delegate it out. If that feels way too easy, you’re like, “No, I need the pro level”, then delegate out five things from that to do list. 

So if you only wrote down 10 things that is half your list. Give that responsibility to somebody else. And then at the end of the day, you can be the one kicking up your feet on the couch, watching Real Housewives. 

One of Five

Delegating is one of five steps that I use to simplify my to do list and I wanted to make a whole episode about it because I really do think it’s the biggest mental hurdle for us, but it’s also the most freeing. 

To get the other four I do have a free download for you so you don’t have to wait for the episodes to come out on them. But if you want the free download, go to the show notes for a link so that I can get that email to you. It’s a quick one page document that’s going to write down all the steps and the quick things to look at on your to do list so you get to do less. Anyway, thanks for hanging out today. We’ll see you soon.