There is always more work to be done than there are hours in the day. And as your career advances or your business grows, so does the list of responsibilities and tasks.
Delegating tasks to others is one of the many ways to get more done, especially if it is a task that is not dependant on your particular skills or expertise.
But sometimes delegating isn’t an option. It may be a project where only you have the exact knowledge or experience. Or maybe, like many anywhereWORKERs who are freelancers, you are the only one. Whatever the situation, sometimes you must solve the puzzle alone.
In those cases where you can’t delegate to anyone else, there is a way to reduce the actual hands-on (or should I say brains-on) time spent focused solely on solving the problem.
Delegate to time.
This approach works best on assignment that requires you to look at the puzzle in front of you and come up with solutions or approaches or ideas.
I first observed this technique being implemented decades ago by Jean, a freelance process improvement consultant. She came into my organization to completely redesign the processes in the production department.
She had spent the entire morning mapping out the exiting processes and capturing all of the data surrounding her problem. The whiteboard in the conference room looked like a room full of 6 year olds were let loose to draw to their heart’s content.
When I walked into the room she was standing back from the whiteboards (which covered 3 of the 4 walls) with her arms crossed and was tapping her foot on the floor.
Then she turned abruptly and grabbed her keys and phone and said “It’s time for a lunch break.” I looked at the clock and it was only 11am. A little early for lunch, I thought.
I’m guessing she could read my expression and as she walked down the hall said, “I’ve got the data, now I’ve got to let my brain work on solving the problem.” And she disappeared around the corner.
At the time this type of behavior unacceptable – in my mind. I was always taught that you had to sit down and work on a problem until it was solved. Getting up from the puzzle before solving it was, in my – quitting. I was wrong.
Jean and I had many conversations after that moment. It was clear that she had fine tuned her ability to distinguish between easy and difficult puzzles and how to efficiently solve either.
There are puzzles that are easy to solve. So solve them. Sit your butt in the chair and do it. You’ll know when you are being lazy or distracted versus when you are challenged by a difficult puzzle.
The difficult puzzles can be so for two reasons. The first is a truly difficult puzzle, a problem that has many elements and layers and is somewhat complex in nature. The second is actually difficult due to what you yourself bring to the problem – your mindset.
For either of those situations, this technique works to help make the actual time in front of the puzzle more productive.
I asked Jean what her secret was to solving the difficult problems and how she did it efficiently even though she seemed to be spending a lot of time doing other things – like going to lunch, waking and talking on thee phone outside in the parking lot, I even saw her working a sudoku puzzle once.
“It’s quite simple, really. when you reach the point where your productivity starts to wain, step away and delegate the task to time.”
Delegating to time.
Of course! This isn’t a new approach, but rather a new way of looking at one that has always been there for us. We just haven’t been deliberately taping into it.
To be most efficient you need to use the resources you have to their fullest capability. Just like being able to delegate to other team members, you can delegate problem solving to that part of your brain that is waiting to solve it!
That part of your brain that has been taking notes this entire time you’ve been struggling with the puzzle. That part of the brain that has collected data your entire life from observing, reading, experiencing, and by connecting the dots of those individual data points. We each have a ‘problem solver’ right there in our brains.
We’ve all experienced it. You find just the right words to use in your talk during your morning commute. You figure out how to structure that proposal to your new client. You figure out how to take advantage of concurrent steps in your business process while cooking dinner.
We’ve all experienced the benefits of delegating to time. But it’s time to make it a deliberate choice. Stop wasting time trying to muscle through a problem. Walk away from the puzzle and come back after lunch, or tomorrow, or even a week from now. Delegate your puzzle over to your problem solver brain. Most importantly, give it time.