Anyone managing a factory, office, home or any group situation will have tussled with delegation. The next eight points may be used when working with clients to delegate tasks to better manage their time (Le Boeuf, 1985; Moss, 2001):

1. When first delegating a task make eye contact with the other person. This helps to get the message across.

2. Having explained the task/activity verbally, it pays to make sure the requests are written down and understood. One way of doing this is to have the other person read the request and then check for understanding (ie. ask them questions).

If the person does not understand some of the terminology involved, make sure they get this cleared up as anything not understood or misunderstood will lead to complications later. Having a written explanation of the task or activity saves time as the person carrying out these functions can re-read rather than the need for repeating explanations.

3. If you don’t want to write down what you are requesting, at least get the person to say back to you what it is they are expected to do.

4. Orient people towards the final product. There is a difference between “I want you to clean the bathroom” and “I want the bathroom to be clean and shiny and fit for royalty to come and visit”. The first request asks for the activity to be completed to no particular quality. The likely result is a grudging twenty minutes of poor cleaning. The second request asks for something specific which will call upon the person to apply effort and initiative. This is further enhanced if rewards are offered for a satisfactory product.

5. Praise the person at the start of the task, tell them you know they can do it and praise them when it is successfully completed. If it is not successfully completed, praise them for making the effort, ask them if they had problems with it and jointly discuss how it might be improved next time.

6. If you really want to offload the task, don’t interfere with this person as they try to do it. Bypassing them tells them that you are not really relinquishing your ownership of the task, and they will end up leaving it to you.

7. Allow the person to make mistakes. In the long run you will come out on top in terms of time and you will make the people around you feel more useful and productive, thereby boosting your self esteem.

8. If you get the reward system right, such as awarding points for tasks done and having monthly prizes and recognition, you may end up with people coming to you looking for more things to do.

Tracy (2007) advises to watch for ‘reverse delegation’. ‘Reverse delegation’ is where those people we have given tasks to come back to us for a solution to the problem.

  1. Le Boeuf, M. (1985). How to motivate people. Melbourne, Australia: Schwartz and Wilkinson.
  2. Moss, G. (2001). Time savers. New Zealand: Moss Associates Ltd.
  3. Tracy, B. (2007). Time power. USA: Amacom Books.

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