“How am I going to get all this work done?!” If you are reading this article, I’m sure that’s a question you often ask yourself.
Yet, there is a better question you could be asking. And that is, “How is all the work I’m responsible for completing going to get done?” Asking the question this way allows you to consider more options, including delegating, in thinking about how to close the loop on your work.
Like many people, though, you may tend to only think of delegating as it relates to the workplace. That is, you think of people who manage other people having the authority and responsibility to delegate, right? And, if you manage other people, you may even want to upgrade your skills in this area.
But it’s helpful to think of delegating in broader terms, as well. Because really it is something most people can do when they think of it as “assigning responsibility and authority to someone in order to complete a clearly defined and agreed upon task while retaining ultimate responsibility for its success.”
According to this definition, when you delegate you are by no means abdicating responsibility for the task. On the contrary. Because you’re still accountable for its successful completion. And, therefore, you still need to do the necessary follow-up to make sure it is on track to be finished on time.
But, for many reasons, some of which I’ll explore below, delegating can be a challenge for ADHD adults. Yet, if you are having a difficult time delegating now, it is probably a skill you want to consider upgrading. As it is impossible for you to do all the work that needs to get done in your personal and professional life by yourself.
So, let’s explore the ins and outs of delegating.
Why Delegating Is Essential to Being Productive For ADHD Adults
The purpose of delegating, of course, is to get the “stuff” done that you want to get done — to be productive.
But, remember, being productive means doing what is essential to you — engaging in activities that bring meaning to your life. Not just doing random tasks. The 1st step you need to take to achieve this is to decide what those activities are. Then you will know where to focus your time and energy. And, subsequently, minimize the ADHD tendency to pay attention to everything.
The 2nd step you’ll need to take is to figure out the best way to execute on these essential projects/tasks. This may entail thinking about what kind of help you need. Of course, this is where delegating comes in. You knew that.
Because doing what is essential does not mean doing every related task. That is impossible. I bet you’ve had the experience of trying to do a task that you really should have delegated. Think of one of those instances. What happened? Maybe you hit a roadblock that prevented you from bringing your vision to fruition.
Delegating is one way you can remove those roadblocks.
Example of When Delegating Promotes Success in Executing
One of the obvious examples where delegating is helpful is in running a business.
I love being a coach and also enjoy dabbling in the various business-related activities. However, in order to have a successful business, I also need to rely on others to help me. As I can’t do it all myself. So, I continually need to decide which task to delegate because I either lack competency and/or interest. Making these decisions affords me the time and energy I need to focus on those areas where I choose.
Obviously, since this is a one-person shop, most of my time and energy is spent tending to my clients. In addition, I also carve out time to continue to develop my coaching skills, as well as stay abreast of current related topics that will help me help my clients.
To have the time to focus on my coaching I’ve chosen to delegate most of the work related to my website. Specifically, the people at Solamar designed and created my website and continue to update it as needed. Marv Conn of MagicAngel host my site and is my go-to technical person. He has gotten me out of many sticky situations, for sure. I recommend them both highly.
In contrast, though I’ve had many offers from people who said they could “improve” my blog, I’ve chosen to do all my own writing. Because, while I may not be the “best” writer, I really enjoy writing. And, moreover, I want my website to reflect my voice. So, I write, even though it takes up a great deal of my time.
The bottom line when it comes to delegating is that it’s important to make the choices that feel right to you. Even when those choices may not make sense to others.
Why Delegating May Be a Challenge for ADHD Adults
Here is the rub.
While delegating can help you be more productive, you may shy away from doing so. In part, this may be because it can be hard to do in practice. As it requires you to utilize executive functioning skills that can be a challenge for you because of your ADHD, such as:
- making decisions about how to delegate.
- planning enough in advance to allow the person to whom you’re delegating enough time to do the work.
If you struggle with decision-making and planning, you may end up slogging through, trying to do too much work on your own. Even when you might not be the best person for the task. And you could delegate if you could make the necessary decisions and do enough planning.
The antidote may be getting support in order to upgrade those executive functioning skills where you have a deficit now. Then you’ll be able to take more off your plate, as you become more competent in those skills related to delegating.
“I Should Do This Work Myself!”
In addition to upgrading your skills, you may also need to explore some of your faulty thinking patterns. As this faulty thinking may be keeping you from delegating. For example, you may feel the need to prove yourself. In part, this may come from feelings of shame, partly as a result of your ADHD.
So, to prove yourself and counter this feeling, you may take on too much, thinking, “I should…” As a result, you:
- agree to take on projects at work even though your plate is already overflowing.
- say “yes” when asked to volunteer before you even figure out if you have the bandwidth to fulfill the requirements.
- undertake a home project though you are not sure you have the time or even know how to do it.
Then, when you become overwhelmed, you might avoid the task altogether. Subsequently, you feel guilty, frustrated and even more ashamed because you are not following through on your commitments. You may even project your anger and frustration at the person who asked you to do the task.
And, in these instances, when things go sideways, it is because you are adhering to rules about how you think you should behave — shoulds. Even though these rules are not serving you.
There is an alternative. That is, you could examine your “shoulds,” and decide whether you are willing to break your rules about which tasks you need to do yourself. And consider whether delegating might be a better option.
“If I Give It To…, She Won’t Do It the Way I Want.”
When deciding whether you are the best person to do a task it is important to be clear on the outcomes you hope to achieve, whether directly related to the task or not. And question whether your thinking is supporting or hindering you in reaching multiple objectives.
You might be reluctant to delegate in these instances because you don’t want to take the necessary time to give a thorough explanation and answer possible follow questions. So, they can potentially meet your expectations. It might help to consider whether the upfront investment of time will save you time in the long run.
That is, with a bit of mentoring, someone else may be able to step into your shoes and take work off your plate.
However, even after you have given a thorough explanation and the person has been able to practice, she still might not do it exactly the way you want. In these cases, it might help to ask yourself, “Can I let go of my expectations a bit and accept the finished product as good enough?”
“It Is Just Easier to Do It Myself.”
This is another common related reason clients offer when they are reticent to delegate. In part, this is true. Because, as an Adult with ADHD, you may be prone to think about the here and now — the short run. And, in the short run, it really might be easier in some respects to do a task yourself. After all, you don’t have to go through the hassle of explaining how to do it and then following up to make sure it gets done.
But what about the long run?
What if you could mentor another person to take over the task? So that eventually it would no longer be your responsibility. Might it be worth it in these instances to take the time now to help someone else develop their competencies in areas where you are currently responsible?
Might it be easier in the long run to delegate a task you are currently responsible for? Is it possible more work would get done then?
“I’ll Just Have to Do It Over If I Ask… To Do It.”
Of course, you need to give the task to the “right” person, as well as take the time to make sure they know what you expect. And, while follow-up may not be your strong suit, you may also need to have check-ins at agreed upon intervals to make sure they are on track.
Delegating takes time and effort, for sure
And, as I mentioned above, you might also need to decide whether, if the person does not do it exactly the way you want, you are willing to accept it as good enough. One way to do this is to consider whether they met the primary objective(s). And whether this is good enough, even if some of the details of how they executed are not to your liking.
What Do I Take Off My Plate – Delegate?
Deciding what to take off your plate can be hard, for sure. And will vary from person to person depending on capacity, needs, and preferences. Undoubtedly, you should do the task when you are the best person for the job — able to get the outcome you want. This includes completing it. 😊
In some cases, you might be the best person to do the task, if you had the time. But, if you just don’t have time, delegating might be a better option to ensure the work gets done, right? Below are a few other scenarios when delegating might be a better option than doing the work yourself.
As an adult with ADHD, you know it is much easier to follow through on tasks that interest you. So, of course, the more of these you can have on your plate the better. And whenever possible have someone else do tasks — delegate — that do not interest you.
There may be instances where you have a great interest in doing a task, even though someone else could do it more efficiently or effectively. If you have a full plate already, you may want to consider handing off these tasks, as well.
Then there are times when you could do a task. But you may decide the frustration involved in completing it is just not worth your time and energy Since emotional regulation can be a challenge for adults with ADHD, you might consider passing along these tasks to someone else.
Whether as a manager, parent or volunteer, you may want to mentor others. That is, you want to help your “mentee” grow, right? So, even when you could do a task better yourself, you may decide to delegate to help someone develop their competencies.
When else does it make sense to delegate?
4 Ways to Delegate
Delegating comes in many different forms. For example, you might be able to offload some of your work by:
- of course, asking someone you manage to do it.
- hiring someone to do all or part of the task.
- bartering with someone who is willing to do the task in exchange for you doing something for them.
- negotiating a division of labor at home or workplace that entails delegating all or part of a task you are currently responsible for doing.
Did I leave anything out? Are there other ways you can think of to delegate?
ADHD Adults Need To Delegate – Summary
Delegating is definitely an important skill for adults with ADHD to have in their toolbox. To do this effectively you’ll need to:
- be aware of the various challenges you may have in effectively delegating.
- adopt workarounds for these challenges.
- decide what to take off your plate and who you want to delegate it to.
- follow up as needed to make sure the task is completed.
There you have it. What is one step you can take this week to begin delegating more effectively?