Defer – Delegate – Endure – Execute

This entry was cross-posted to The Network Buzz

I’m just kicking off a week of vacation, to recharge a bit and take a break from EWB.  It was a surprisingly difficult decision to take some time off now – despite needing a rest, there always seems like something is happening that I should be involved in… and I’m incredibly thankful for some amazing colleagues who’ve pushed me to get some rest and who I feel comfortable leaving things with.

But yesterday on Friday, while going over my to-do list, a pattern emerged in dealing with the various items, and I want to share some thoughts around that.  A new framework, if you will, on how to manage your workload.  Take everything you have to do (I carried a pad of paper with me, and wrote down everything as it came to mind), and then sit down and categorize them (doing this with a friend/colleague/manager can help add some perspective):


  • Does this item really need to happen now?
  • Can it wait until you’re back – what are the actual consequences of waiting a week?

(I find that I am sometimes my own harshest critic – not every deadline is an external one with consequences… some deadlines are based on my own plans, or how long I think something should take, and yet I stress out over missing them just as much as I do for a deadline with external consequences. Recognizing the difference and letting go of some internal deadlines is refreshing.)


  • What value-add do you provide?
  • Do others have the skills/knowledge/ability to do this too?

There are some things that you should be doing (even if others are also able) – things that may be apart of your official responsibilities or job description… and then there are things that you have unofficially taken responsibility for (maybe you’ve stepped in before, and over time you’ve just assumed responsibility).  In both cases, it’s OK to also ask for help.

I was going over my Strengths Finder results, and one of my strengths was responsibility – one of their reflection questions was, You naturally feel ownership over your tasks – but ensure this does not prevent others from also discovering the joys and challenges of ownership.  That felt particularly timely and relevant.


  • If you have specific skills/knowledge on this task, can you share this? Train others?
  • Is it actually more suitable for others to gain those skills/knowledge?
  • How are you valuing your own time in relation to others?

There some items where you do bring specific skills/knowledge, which allow a task to be completed much more efficiently and effectively.  These can be the most difficult to let go of.  It’s hard to say, it would take me half an hour to do this, but you should still be the one doing it even though it’ll take you three hours.  It’s why I named this category endure (the pain).

But, it’s also a good push to recognize areas where you can share those skills and knowledge, and build others’ capacity rather than always being called on to help.  And, it’s a good push to recognize that you can’t always be helping – at some point, you need to ensure you are valuing your own time as well.


  • Are there low hanging fruit that you can execute and deliver on, in order to clear a project off your plate?

I included this last category to the dismay of Anna (who was helping me organize my to-do list).  I had a few projects that are really close to completion, that I wanted to just finish off and put a checkmark beside – having them done and cleared would make it easier for me to take time off.  But I recognize it’s a slippery slope.

But we did also recognize this framework-in-the-making can also be used for regular workload planning (not just clearing items before vacation) – where the execute category is also useful.

Anyway, I found this framework/categorization useful, so I’m sharing in case you do too.  If you use it (or modify it), I’d love to hear about that too.  But in a week.  =)

Sidenote: on feeling tired, and needing a break, and on work-life balance… I’ve usually considered myself quite good at balance and proactively avoiding burnout.  I take an approach of yes, there are times where you’ll work hard and have crazy hours… but balance that with lighter weeks too, and keep some fuel in the tank in case of emergency.  But this past week has been difficult, and I think I may add a third item to the usual work/life balance concept.

For the past while, I’ve been alternating between busy work weekends, and weekends of doing nothing and vegging out – which kept me going for a while, and made me feel like work/life balance was fine.  But in fact, the slow buildup of things I want to do and friends I want to see with and errands I want/need to run and the whole other active side of life (beyond relaxing/recovering), was catching up with me.  So, I’d modify work/life to be work/relaxation/life balance – recognizing passive relax time and active personal life time are both important but different.