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How to delegate for Effective Time Management

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To Do List Question



Effective leaders and managers know the value of time and utilize this precious resource effectively and efficiently to create results.

Things can go haywire when our productivity is dependent on others and that is what happened with this particular client of mine.

During a recap of the previous week’s action plan with a client of mine, a new problem surfaced which he had not associated with the original need to get a grip with his time mismanagement.  

A hardworking individual who managed to fit in a lot during the course of the day, but still wondered where his day went, there was utter chaos and our common goal was to bring order back into his day so that he had a chance to step back and look at the big picture like a true business owner and leader.

A whole session of brainstorming with 22 action points was produced. The client was given the option to implement any 3 of them based on his own priorities and what he thought he could achieve.  One of the actions he chose was the To Do List.

A week later, he was able to confirm that the days when he prepared his To Do list were much better and more productive for him. He was directed to celebrate and give himself a pat on the back.

But by Friday of the week, he had slipped from the wagon and had not prepared the list since his Thursday had been a day from hell.


Even with a robust To Do list, why did the day become so bad?


There were many reasons, which included putting in too many things for action.

But more importantly, there were tasks that had to be urgently completed and the employee responsible for preparing it had not done it with the excuse that he had other things to do compelling him to go into a fire fighting mode at 6 pm since the documents had to be submitted to a statutory authority.

This brings me to the point for this week on two aspects of efficient time management:

Firstly, the number of tasks on a To Do list should never be more than 8 or 10 unless the tasks can be completed quickly. More than 12 in a day is a sure way to fail and the associated feelings are not worth it.


How to effectively delegate a to do list


Secondly, where a particular task requires inputs from others, make sure that the other person knows the necessity of his input to get the task done.

What may be an urgent and important task for you may be an urgent but not important task for the other person who will find ways to be busy with less important tasks which are worth doing but which are low on the priority list for you.

This is the combination of the arts of delegation and assertive behavior.

In other words, the strategy for time management where your success depends upon others requires that they be made aware of their responsibility to get the job done.  Be more specific, give timelines and THEN follow up at the specific appointed time.

Do not sit down to do the task yourself but insist that it be done. Your subordinate or colleague or even family member may slip up a couple of times but the message that you are being firm and assertive will get through.


Assertiveness is a key ingredient in this type of time management.  


Instead of doing the task, you have a talk with the other person. Do not ask why the task was not done, which would put the other party on the defensive.  Excuses such as ‘I was busy doing other things’ or ‘Sorry, I made a mistake’ will only provoke you into further frustration and reaction which you might not like when the dust has settled.

Instead, say ‘This document/report/letter had to have gone out by the end of today, what exactly stopped you from completing the task?

The answer could be anything from their not realizing the importance or even that someone else had delegated a task to them with a clearer sense of urgency.  Worse still, they might know that if they delay it long enough, they won’t have to do it since you will get around to it.

In the meantime, reassess your method of delegation. Give clear and concise instructions, set deadlines and having been assertive, stick to your guns no matter what the provocation.

More importantly, the message that you are sending out will be clear.

As you can see, my client’s efforts at time management hit a roadblock when it came to managing others to manage his own time and he had to set up boundaries and conditions while delegating tasks.

What barriers come up for you when your productivity is dependent on other colleagues?


Are you a career professional, independently practicing professional, small business owner, consultant, healer, freelancer or student who’s overwhelmed with all the tasks you need to complete during the day?

If yes, then you need to check out this course

5 Simple steps to win your Time Management Challenge


Professional trying to stop time from moving forward


This post originally appeared on my blogger blog back in August 2011 and has since been updated for relevance.

Written By: Vatsala Shukla



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10 Responses to “How to delegate for Effective Time Management”

  1. I was a full-time working mom with 2 kids and an entreprenaurial husband. My calendars were color coded and there were always extra activities sych as plays, tennis lessons & matches, rehearsals along with my own evening interests and volunteer work. The only way it all got done was my managing with a reasonable to do list. To this day, every task ^& call gets written down & I see where in the week it fits best.
    I feel for those who are not naturally organized & thank goodness they have you.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thank you for the compliment Roslyn, you’ve made my day! I follow a similar system with a rolling To Do List for the week where I put in the dates by which particular tasks need to be done before they become ‘headless chicken’ time tasks. I also make sure that I am proactive in completing those parts of tasks which require other people’s inputs and then pass it on to them while I focus on tasks on my list that I alone can do. Sometimes I’m teased at home for acting like an Army Officer but the truth is, when I run a tight ship, I get more time for creative pursuits and family. Thanks for sharing your method, Roslyn, I know a lot of readers will find it beneficial.

  2. Suzie Cheel says:

    Love your graphic- I have pinned it:) I have a new way of being that where I have 4-5 nonnegotiables I do every day- that grows me and my business and that has talen the stress off my to do list- which I now call a love list- as you might have seen in my post xxx

    • Karmic Ally says:

      I saw the Love List, Suzie – I love it! Having your non-negotiables on the list is the best way to grow a business and maintain life balance.

  3. Reba Linker says:

    Thank you, Vatsala. I am running into this issue in my work heading up AtoZ Healing Space and take your points to heart, especially about communicating effectively about the urgency of particular tasks. I also appreciate your gentle steering away from accusation (and frustration) and replacing it with a more probing, problem-solving line of inquiry.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      My pleasure, Reba! Effective communication is a leader skill and one that we can always improve. I love the way AtoZ Healing Space is shaping up!

  4. This is really an interesting article Vatsala! I must say that I have been guilty of this in the past 😉 Too many things in the to-do lists was making a way of overwhelm and burnout for me. As an entrepreneur at first it was very hard for me to delegate as I thought no one can do it as good as me! 😉 I had to learn the skill of delegating too! And now I have the space to do the real things that fuel my creativity in my business!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      I hear you, Jonita! I didn’t have a problem delegating work in the corporate world but when it came to my business, I had a hard time figuring out what I could outsource since I was dealing with new service providers. In time it worked out well and there are back-end and maintenance tasks that I regularly outsource. I know I can do those tasks competently but look at the cost of time that I can devote to my clients. Better to work in your business than on your business. 🙂

  5. Joyce Hansen says:

    You raised an important point about delegating and communication, Vatsala. When you’re working with other people and depending on them, it’s crucial that what’s expected is understood by all parties. One of the problems, I’ve often seen in office situations is when there’s a lack of being open to feedback when problem arise. Both parties need to stay in communication with one another so adjustments can be made to ensure the job gets done on time.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      I used to notice the same thing, Joyce – the lack of open feedback and a post-mortem witch hunt to nail the blame on someone when the situation could have been avoided if everyone knew their clear roles and how their task fitted into the big picture. Thanks for sharing your insights.

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