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How to Delegate Effectively to Your Coworkers


When your plate is way too full, sharing the load is the secret to sanity. But delegating requires a leap of faith—and some serious people skills. Here, successful women reveal how to inspire your colleagues to want to take on your to-dos.

Determine What to Delegate

Zero in on tasks that help your career. First, take 15 minutes to write an exhaustive to-do list. “This allows you to clear your mind and shift your focus to action,” says Tiffany Dufu, author of Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less. Assess each task against the bigger picture: Which will truly drive the success of a project or help you secure a promotion? “Switch your outlook from ‘What needs to happen today?’ to ‘What am I trying to achieve?’” advises Dufu.

Schedule your time. There are only 24 hours in a day—and you need to sleep. Seeing your full to-do list will make you think, “When am I actually going to do all this?” says Mary Jane Nirdlinger, assistant town manager of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Answer that question by using your calendar to plan and schedule your tasks—factoring in time for brain prep, eating, and checking email—just as you would a meeting, she says. Pad those time blocks, too. “We tend to underestimate how long it takes to get things done,” says Dufu. You’ll quickly realize you can fit in only so much. “And if something is still a priority, you’ll have to find someone else to do it,” says Nirdlinger.

Prioritize tasks that only you can do. These aren’t things you can necessarily do better; they’re things that only you have the skills, network, or political savvy to handle, says Dufu. “You might be the only one who can give the speech, but you can ask for help with preparing your presentation slides,” she says. Keep whatever requires your distinct point of view. “I would never delegate anything that demands true authenticity, like my voice in my writing or control over my menu,” says Vivian Howard, a chef in Kinston, North Carolina, and the author of the cookbook Deep Run Roots. Avoid delegating tasks you really enjoy doing, however trivial. “Those contribute to your overall job happiness,” says Nirdlinger. Maybe you love to book your own business-trip flights (and are super picky about layovers).

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