One of the most detrimental mindsets in any position is that it's more efficient to do everything alone, rather than investing time to delegate it to someone else. When we do this, we suffocate our schedules with activities we have no business doing. These tasks are not aligned with our skill sets, they don't bring us joy, and they impede us from focusing on where we are truly needed in the organization.
So many of my CEO clients spend way too much time in firefighting mode. They insert themselves into situations that are best handled by their leadership teams, and they lose themselves in the weeds.
Harvard Business Review presented a 4-quadrant framework that employees at all levels can use to prioritize their tasks and determine what they should delegate to others. It's based on two critical criteria that ultimately determine the value we bring to an organization, and the satisfaction our job delivers:
- Contribution. How am I aligning my greatest strengths, experience, and capabilities to what my organization needs?
- Passion. What fuels me, inspires me, and motivates me? What opportunities inspire me to do my best?
Quadrant 1: Prioritize
When evaluating what's on your to-do list, ask yourself:
- What is most critical that only I can deliver?
- What is both urgent and important?
- How am I impeding the progress of other outcomes by not completing this task?
- Where am I the bottleneck to progress?
- What tasks make the most of my unique talents?
Quadrant 2: Tolerate
- Where do I know I am essential, but I dislike what is required of me?
- What essential tasks make me uncomfortable?
- Which tasks am I likely to procrastinate, even though I know they are critical?
- Which tasks evoke feelings of anxiety or stress when I think about them or do them?
For some tasks, toleration may a temporary phase on the way to prioritization. If you've recently inherited new responsibilities because of a promotion or re-organization, or if you are applying new skills or knowledge, you may be temporarily out of your comfort zone.
Conversely, you may now be tolerating a responsibility that you used to enthusiastically prioritize. If you are burned out or no longer challenged, an obligation may no longer excite you. If this is the case, it's time to re-examine your overall role to discover how you can re-engage in a more meaningful way.
Quadrant 3: Elevate
- What tasks bring you a lot of joy, but are not your best use of time?
- What are you working on that you believe in, but others don't see its value?
- Where do you see yourself being sucked into the weeds, yet you know your time and energy is best invested elsewhere?
When examining your to-do lists, which obligations do you gravitate towards, but they don't add a lot value? Which tasks keep you "busy" but not "productive"? Knowing the difference between what keeps us busy versus productive is an essential strategy for effective time management, and keeps us engaged on outcomes that yield the highest value.
Quadrant 4: Delegate
- What tasks are low value?
- What tasks are repetitive and tedious?
- What tasks may be important but are not aligned to your strongest skill set, and can be outsourced to specialists?
A CEO client recently won her largest placement contract. The company must fill more than 100 positions. Her initial instinct was to personally start the recruiting process. I re-directed her to consider hiring an outsourced recruiting firm or to bring in a part-time recruiter. This is a terrible use of the CEO's time because she is needed at a much higher level in the organization, and she is not a recruiting expert.
Being intentional with our time is the most important thing we can to do ensure maximum productivity and efficiency.