I passed my neighbor and his son mowing their yard while walking my dogs this morning. I actually did a double take because the dad wasn’t mowing the yard in the most efficient manner. In fact, there was no doubt the way he was mowing would take at least an hour longer than it should have to mow his yard.
You see, he was guiding their push-mower while his young son (most likely 7 or 8 years old) pushed the machine. Slowly, the pair worked up and down that yard, careful to cut every blade of grass together. As someone who hates yard work, my first thought was that there are a million better activities to do for parent/child bonding. But as I watched, I realized he was probably thinking much more long-term than I was.
By investing the extra hour or two to make sure his son could mow the yard correctly, the father was freeing up his time in the future to work on other areas of the yard (or skip yard work altogether). He was training his son to do the job correctly so that he could take over the task going forward. An extra hour or two today would save him countless hours over the next few years.
It makes complete sense – so why do we forget so often in business?
We rush to train new employees. We grow frustrated when a task that may take us five minutes takes us three hours to train someone else to do. Impatient, we yell “nevermind,” and take the task back from the new hire. We limit our focus to only the immediate five minutes instead of the bigger picture of giving responsibility of that task to someone else.
As Geoff Woods once taught with me, yes, it may take you three hours to train that person to do a task that only takes you five minutes – but how many times during a year are you doing that one task? Let’s say conservatively you do it once a week – 52 times.
52 x 5 minutes = 260 minutes.
This means it will take you almost 2.2x as long to do the task in a year than it would be to train someone else to do the same task.
If you’re a busy, stressed, “don’t have enough time” business professional, imagine getting almost 2.5 hours back for important tasks. Sounds great, right? Think about if you do that task 2-3x per week, you could be getting back 11 hours or more to your schedule!
But it’s only achieved when you invest the extra time upfront to properly train someone else to do the tasks you need to get off of your plate.
This was an area of my business that I struggled with for years. I could quickly complete tasks (design, blog images, social media graphics) in a matter of minutes and didn’t want to invest the time to training someone else because it “would only take much longer to train them on something I can do in minutes.” Until that conversation with Geoff, I failed to see the big picture of time I was losing by continuing to do the project myself.
Like my neighbor who is spending a majority of his Saturday morning training his son to mow the lawn (a task that could take him only an hour to complete), he is freeing up his future Saturdays for other projects (while instilling personal responsibility into his son).
Here are a few ideas on ways you can begin to pass off certain tasks to members of your team – or an entirely new part/full-time hire:
1. Document everything
Keep a log of every activity you do on a day-to-day basis. I simply have an ongoing list in my iPhone “Notes” app that I track all of my daily activities, categorized by type (marketing, social media, sales, website, etc). This allows me throughout the day as I sit down to work on a task (or something urgent inevitably “pops up”), I can add it to my list for a clear picture of all the activities I’m actually doing instead of just the ones I think I’m doing.
2. Use software such as Loom & Google Docs to create your training “How To” folder
We currently use a combination of Google Docs and Loom to train our team on tasks and activities. Once I realized I had to quit doing everything, I started using Loom’s free software to record myself and my screen as I completed tasks. I would explain to the video what I was doing, why it was important, and my process for each activity. I would then take the link to the video and type up instructions to accompany it and save in one of my Google Drive folders in our “How To” training section.
This way, any of my team members can access the folder, see exactly how to complete a specific task. If there were any questions, I can be brought in to help, but it primarily removes that task from my plate entirely.
3. Teach your team to teach you.
I learned this nifty trick from Mike Michalowicz in one of his interviews about his most recent book, Clockwork. Mike shared that he uses a similar formula above to train his team to complete specific tasks, but to help ensure they understand it fully, he has them film themselves (or screens) doing the task as if they were teaching him. This extra time investment allows him to see any missteps they may have taken or where a breakdown in his instructions were. It also helps the employee better know the process because the best way to learn a subject is by teaching it to someone else.
Success in business requires leaders (that’s you) to focus on the big picture and do the work that grows the business – not just the quick, easy stuff you “don’t have time to train someone else to do.” Don’t make the same mistake I made for years, and instead starting freeing up your schedule to focus on what *actually* matters.