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How can I decide when it's worth it to spend money to save time?

I found out that I'm a person who likes to do many things self but I found out that many people don't think like this. They usually choose more efficient way and delegate the task to somebody else and pay him for his service. The tasks can be various - programming, house repair, administrative tasks, bicycle or car repair, scanning of a book, whatever

How do you determine the boundary if it's more efficient to delegate the task to some professional who takes some of my resources (usually money) or that my knowledge, time etc. is sufficient and it's better to do it myself?

Is there some literature on this? Are there some equations evaluating factors and deciding between "do it yourself" or "delegate"?


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Thank you for all answers, each of them is valuable. –  xralf Mar 22 '12 at 11:42
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marked as duplicate by Adam Wuerl Mar 22 '12 at 21:09

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

3 Answers

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  1. Determine, what is important to you. Important things are those one, which has impact on your future, things which will lead you to your aims. Don't delegate important things. Every time ask yourself what do you achieve by doing some job and whether it will be useful for you in the future.

    • When you are programmer and you want to improve your skills, do programming on your own, don't delegate it - you will gain something useful from it (new experiences, new methods of usage and so on). And you will approach to your targets (by implementing next feature). (Responding to mails, reinstalling computer or carrying something somewhere will not help you to achieve your goals)

    • When you are freelancer and develop some software, maybe it is better to delegate programming issues to somebody else, while you will try to find more customers, try to make your business better

    • Doing shopping is not important, it is need. It does not matter if it is done by someone else

    • Doing some cleaning - it won't help you much for making your future better - and it doesn't matter if you do it this week, or next, or you delegate it

  2. Delegate things which can be done by somebody with less quantification and you can focus on things you want to improve and you are best in. Focus on that one which takes you the majority of time:

    • 80% of day you are answering to mails and packing boxes, so you have not enough time to improve your business strategy or to meet with your top-liner customers. So you can delegate these jobs to somebody else and the time spend better
    • 50% of day you spend by testing your application, to set inputs, clicking on every place to see if it is robust and so on. But you are very good programmer, so you can delegate testing, and have more time to implementation new features. You will make more things which lead to your aim in one day
  3. Don't delegate things if you have enough time to do them. Example: When you know, that after work you have nothing important to do, you sit in front of TV till late night, or you sit in pub and drink beer, you do not need to delegate some work - it is wasting of money, because you can find necessary time and do them in your own. Delegate actions when you can do something more valuable at that time instead of those actions.

    • Do some work worth your qualification
    • Or take care of yourself, your family, relax, ...
    • For example: If you work for 12 hours per day and all the rest time you spend by cleaning or gardening, there is no time for your relax and family, then you are more prone to lose health or family in the future. So priority should be to spend time by care of your health or family. Without health you won't be productive or successful anymore.
    • Nobody can relax instead of you, nobody can sport or eat instead of you, nobody else than you can improve your relationships, or sleep instead of you. This things should have big priority

The things I have written are just examples, used to explain what I mean. It could look different in your own life. First thing is to know what are the priorities in your life. The second thing is to have some goals, dreams for your future.
If you have this clear you will see what is good to delegate and what is good to do by your own. If you are not family person, and you like to be alone and to do you business tasks, maybe you won't agree with parts of spending time with family - but you can substitute family to something else, what is important to you

I hope, it was understandable...

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I would say delegate as much as you can, but keep an open communication channel with those you delegate to, so that they can feel free to tell you when they have (more than) enough on their plate. The less you have to do yourself, the more awesome things you can do.

Also, try to be as clear as possible when you delegate. Make the tasks and objectives as clear as possible. The clearer it is, the shorter time it will take to do.

I recommend this article on GTD times.

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It helped me to understand the economic concepts of opportunity cost, division of labour, and comparative advantage.

Basically you should delegate the tasks that either someone else can do better than you (or cheaper), and leave for yourself the tasks that earn you the most, or you can do better than anyone else.

The economist Paul Samuelson provided another well known example in his Economics. Suppose that in a particular city the best lawyer happens also to be the best secretary, that is he would be the most productive lawyer and he would also be the best secretary in town. However, if this lawyer focused on the task of being a lawyer and, instead of pursuing both occupations at once, employed a secretary, both the output of the lawyer and the secretary would increase, as it is more difficult to be a lawyer than a secretary.

In my case it is better to delegate my washing, cleaning, gardening etc and do an extra couple of hours overtime at my main job.

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