Let’s Not Do All the Things

I delegate to avoid over stress and it starts with asking questions. When I was growing up there was a wonderful couple that our family befriended at church. They exercised Elizabeth Ann Seton’s philosophy, “To live simply so that others might simply live.” Taking this credo so much to heart that that they purchased some land in the Pennsylvania mountains and lived off of the land – no electricity, no running water. The Amish in the surrounding communities used to bring their children to visit the O’Hagan’s small farm to show them what “roughing it,” was like. And while this couple lived in a small cabin in the woods, that they had built with their own hands, they still found time to welcome friends and share their experiences with others. 

As a young woman I would write them letters with whatever challenge I was facing. I relied on them and their advice to guide me to the best choices. One challenge that I found particularly difficult was that of feeling overwhelmed. I felt conflicted and challenged by family obligations, work expectations, and school. I was working full time, earning my Master’s degree, and attempting to make my own path in a new city. Writing to Daniel and Marcia I asked, “How do I do all of these things all at once? What am I missing?” Their advice, like their lifestyle, was quite simple. There were three touchpoints to their guidance. 

  1. What things are necessary? 
  2. What things are necessary but can be done by someone else?
  3. What things are necessary but only you can do? 

These three simple questions not only helped put all of my to-do items into perspective. It also very quickly put them into order. Because that which is not necessary very quickly falls away. This immediately makes the scope of work smaller.

Second, that which you can delegate must be given away. We often don’t want to let go of control. We believe ourselves to be the best and only person for every job. However, if you can let someone else do it then you must. If only because you are unable to move forward if you are holding on to everyone else’s responsibilities. You are limiting yourself and the people in your life by not trusting them. Delegating allows others the opportunity to rise to the occasion. Let go of the things that other people can do so that you have the space, time, and energy to do the work that is necessary and only you are capable of doing.

And finally third, that which only you can do is on your list. After following steps one and two you’ll find this list is incredibly short. It’s surprising to consider only the things that you yourself are able to do. The things that rise to the top of the list are much more important than anything on lists one and two anyway. They are things like – love your family, show up for your friends birthday party, and have the difficult but necessary conversation with a loved one. 

These big tasks quickly fall to the bottom when we are bogged down by tasks that are not ours to handle. Once we let go of the unnecessary we suddenly have time for the things that really matter – our relationships, our selves, and life. Only I can live my life and only you can live yours. Let’s not do all the things. Instead let’s focus on what important things are ours to do and what we can forget or delegate