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Hope you have been starting the year well! We just spent over a week dealing with a Mycoplasma infection in Joy, and by the time this sends out, she will be starting her first day of school. Its also the last few weeks before Levi is out and life goes into a parenting blitz.
In the meantime, I have something new to announce:
My new project - A free employment clinic
Over last year, several friends and family asked me for advice on their workplace legal matters - such as reviewing contracts for a new job, dealing with HR, or managing their resignations. I realised that even a reasonably senior employee might not be sure about their employment rights. If that was the case, it must be even worse for a rank and file employee.
Work, taking up so much of our lives, means that the rules and norms of work shape society. In Singapore, the employment rules already favor the employer. They should at minimum be held accountable to those rules.
I decided it would be meaningful to offer free consultations to anyone who needs help on employment law or other work related matters.
So, I started off my year (and a boring day in the office) making a landing page and email address for a (very silly named) personal project called Workwizardsg. Its a channel for anyone who might need to get some some help. This is my own little way to try and even the playing field for all of us inflicted with this problem of work.
Do use the link below to take a look. I would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to share with any friends who might need help, and I would be doubly honoured if you can share it on your various social media.
The Eisenhower Matrix and the problem of delegating
The Eisenhower matrix is a popular time-management model. It looks like this:
Its key message is that things which look urgent may not be important. Doing these would be engaging in busy-work at the expense of the important things that are not urgent.
The matrix is a useful framework for helping us get out of busy-work and focused on our goals. However, like any tool, it is incomplete when used without knowing its limits.
I think one of those limits is its solution for tasks that are not important but urgent: delegating.
Delegating is too easy.
The Eisenhower Matrix is becoming a common productivity framework. As more people use it as way to meet their aspirations, whether at home or at work, the temptation would be to throw everything into the “delegate” box.
Delegating is easy. It avoid the discomfort of doing the task yourself, while reaping the pleasures of its completion. We want to reserve ourselves only for the “important” things, the ones with all the impact and glory.
Deleting, on the the other hand, is far more difficult. We have a fear of loss, of missing out. We naturally want to try to have everything. Deleting is usually a difficult choice, especially when we have an alternative to simply “delegate” it away, to still enjoy having it without doing it.
Delegating makes the world inefficient
The result of delegating too much is creating busy work for all those who cannot delegate it further, and are now stuck doing the things that are “not-important”. It calls to mind managers who seem to be “arrowing” work everywhere, without really caring if the work truly matters or if others are overloaded.
Energy is being wasted getting all of these tasks done, energy that can be used for many other more meaningful activities.
Delegating is dehumanizing
Delegating is a statement that the other person’s discomfort for this non-important task is acceptable, but your discomfort is not. We are saying that this task is “beneath me”. Our existence thus relies on having a lower class of people whom we can delegate to.
Recently, AOC called out the Mayor of New York City for the way he described the distinction between low skill workers and corner office jobs. Delegating tasks can fall into this mindset, creating fallacies such as “lower skilled” , or “seniority” to justify passing on the things you don’t want to do .
Achmat X @AchmatXEric Adams just said “Low skill workers like cooks, messengers and Dunkin’ Donuts employees don’t have the academic skills to sit in a corner office” https://t.co/KaoY9MNZ8J
I suggest some mindset shifts.
If its not important, delete it.
How can something be not important but urgent? For something to truly have urgency, it must also have been important. So what we have are unimportant tasks with a deadline.
If we have already established in our mind that this is not important, having a deadline doesn’t make any good reason to delegate it to someone else. If it is not important, don’t do it, and don’t make anyone else do it.
Remember, even the Eisenhower Matrix itself offers the same solution: delete.
If it needs to be done, it is important.
The trouble is, we all appear to have many not-important tasks that need to be done. Eating breakfast, tidying up that powerpoint presentation, bathing your kid. We need to recognise that if something needs to be done. It is important.
In truth, these tasks are only not important when measured on some kind of commercial impact. Not starving to death is important. Making sure that presentation is neat is as important as its contents. Your child is important. Let’s be honest and accept that these are important to us.
Get help for important things, not delegate unimportant ones
After accepting that all these things are important, we can admit that we have too many important things to do. It is impossible for us to complete them all ourselves.
What we need is not someone to delegate them to, we need to see it as getting someone to help us with those tasks. It could be a junior colleague, a domestic helper, or even your spouse. It could be finding a professional to do it, or a tool to automate it.
There is a difference when we recognise that all these people are helping us with something that is important to us. They aren’t doing our “busy work” because we are making a dent in the universe that is greater than theirs. They are doing it because we are limited and cannot get them all solved ourselves. They make it possible for us to do other important things. They deserve our gratitude, respect, and fair treatment.
Try shifting perspectives from delegating unimportant tasks to getting help on what’s important to you. You might find that those tasks start to get done much better, and people around you are happier too.
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Take care and have a good week!