How to effectively delegate and improve your productivity

Working harder does not always equate to being more productive and achieving more. Working harder often means more hours, more fatigue, and can be a reflection of in-efficiency in your workplace. Some of the main obstacles to maintaining productivity are common things that pop up day to day. These could include changing priorities due to demands (deadlines changing, other important things coming across our desk), crisis management (dealing with the unexpected), trying to do too much (and not really doing many of the tasks well), telephone interruptions and ineffective delegation.

Today I want to share with you some thoughts and tips on the art of effective delegation and how this can improve your productivity.

“Don’t buy a dog and bark yourself” – this was the heading of a chapter in a book I read called The Rule Breaker’s Book of Business by Roger Mavity.  I loved Roger’s take on the art of delegation.  It is often assumed, like many other business skills, that as we enter private practice and we start to grow, or if we manage a service and have a team around us, that we automatically possess the skills to delegate tasks to other people.   I am not great at delegation, and will be the first to put my hand up about that… something about being a perfectionist I think!

What is important in the art of delegation firstly is understanding where your value sits in the practice/business.  Ask yourself are your skills being utilised well?  As practices grow, it is important to learn how to delegate well.  We have all heard the phrase “time is money” and it is true.  If you are feeling a bit busy, or finding you are not getting to those ‘other’ tasks such as working on your business, not just in it, I think you might need to look at what you can offload from your day.

The first thing is you need a list.  Can be in the form of a handwritten list, or a table – doesn’t have to be fancy.  On the list write down all the tasks that you do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  Make a little note beside each one that indicates the amount of time you spend on that task.  Once you have worked out the time taken to complete everything, multiply that by the value you are worth per hour (e.g. what would you pay yourself an hour to do those things).  What you might find then is that you could be better off paying someone at a lower hourly rate to do some of the tasks that you are doing.

Secondly, you now need to work out which items you have to do yourself.  These might be things that are particular to your role and not really something that others have the insight to do.  For me, for example, something that I need to do is revisit my business plan and ensure I am on track for the upcoming new Financial Year.

Now what we have left are all the tasks that you could delegate out to improve your productivity and allow you to put your value into other more critical tasks.  Some of the things you might have left over could include:

  • Data entry for bookkeeping
  • Following up particular phone calls
  • Organising meetings
  • Ordering supplies

You then have a decision whether you outsource this to an external provider, perhaps a virtual assistant, or find someone through one of the many online administration support websites (for example: Odesk.com and Elance.com).  Your other option is to delegate to internal staff if you have this availability.  Remember when delegating to your team, three important things to consider:

  1. Don’t overload them all at once
  2. Ensure they have the skills to do the task
  3. List all the things they need to know to do the task and set them free to do it (that means, empower them with the knowledge of what the task involves, but don’t stand over their shoulder whilst they do it).

It is important to consider that nowadays we can also look to delegate to technology. When thinking of delegating to technology, we are seeking to improve our efficiency and also free up our time. Not only that, we can automate things so they are produced the same way at the same time with the same level of quality.

There are a few examples I will share on how you may delegate to technology:

Receipt bank: This a great little online tool that will help you manage your finances by getting rid of manual data entry of purchases. Receipt Bank is great if you are like me and are prone to losing receipts – especially those little ones that you cram into your bag, that fade after a week! When you first join Receipt Bank, spend some time setting up your preferences. Using the Receipt Bank app, you can take a photo of the receipt or invoice and upload it. Overnight, the information is processed and once you approve this, a simple press of a button links the information straight to your accounting software program, in my case Xero. This app has saved me so much time – and it actually tells you how much time you save – brilliant!

Text SMS reminders: I specifically looked for practice software that would allow me the ability to send text message reminders to my clients the day before their appointment. This is an automated feature that we have set up in our practice, and it has two wonderful benefits. Firstly, it has decreased our non-attendance rate dramatically meaning that our diary is not covered in empty spots that are hard to fill at the last minute because people have forgotten their appointment. Secondly, it decreases then the need for my receptionist or even myself, to call clients that need reminding to attend, or to call those that had forgotten. This type of technology delegation is a “win-win” for myself and my clients.

My accounting software program generates a budget for me each year. It will track how well I am keeping on top of my budget, and highlights for me areas that I might need to re-look at or tighten up. Doing this manually would be time consuming and I know it would be a task I would get to after all of my client work, and sometimes those tasks are hard to get to when you have a busy clinic. Being able to delegate this task to the technology of my cloud based accounting software means that I no longer have to spend time on this manually. The budget is created based on the expenses and income that I am generating, and based on previous history of expenses that I have generated each year in the software program.

One thing to be mindful of when delegating to technology is to make sure you dedicate some time initially into the set up. Ensure you research the technology well and know that it has the features to do what you want it to do. You need to then make sure you sit down and enter in the parameters to ensure you get a quality outcome each time. For example, it may be setting up the script for text message reminders, or it might be setting up on your accounting software your predicted budget figures. With any technology, I believe if you put in time at the start to get it right, you will reap greater rewards in the end.

I will leave you with a quote from the chapter on delegating by Roger Mavity because it is thought provoking!

“Somewhere in the dark depths of a bad delegator’s psyche is a hope that the job will fail, thereby proving their unique talent.  It takes a bit of confidence to enjoy other folk succeeding, and not see it as a threat.”