Automate, Delegate, Delete
Use the title of this chapter as the filter for many of the decisions you make, especially at work.
If you’re going to quickly get out of the middle of things and gain a truckload of personal control, you must be sure you’re headed in a single direction, not helter-skelter, all over the place. It really does boil down to picking the correct road and then traveling down it efficiently, and a great way to assist that effort is to pass every decision through this “task filter.”
To reinforce the concept’s validity, think about the opposite tactic: doing every task manually or doing them all yourself, or accepting every burden that shows up on your doorstep. And yes, it’s especially about work,
but it’s also about relationships and health.
Automating and delegating can be combined. For example, my strength coach at the gym, Scott, guides me through my twenty-minute high-intensity training session. The automating part is simple: I just need to show up as scheduled. The delegating part is giving control to Scott. Here’s an illustration of the effectiveness of it. Just a week ago, as I was writing this chapter, Scott put me on a horizontal leg press machine and loaded it up with tremendous weight. He said, “I want fifteen” (repetitions).
The weight was more than I had ever dealt with before and at the fourth repetition, gritting my teeth through the pain, I told him I couldn’t do even one more. He firmly balked and persuaded me to continue. I plugged along—slowly, agonizingly—somehow getting the full fifteen.
For a few minutes afterward, I stumbled around in exhausted stupor as I asked myself where those other eleven repetitions could have possibly come from. But the answer was simple. I had given management of the process over to Scott. Even though I was the one who had met the challenge, I had effectively delegated the management of my performance to someone else.
And what about “deleting?” Maybe the simplest illustration is to imagine you’re in a romantic relationship that is not turning out to be what you had hoped it would be, while the other person thinks it’s going fine. Rather than try to make it work when you know in your heart it never will, use the “delete” part of the formula to simply end it. The alternative is a frustrating, wasteful expenditure of energy for both of you (and of course it will ultimately end anyway, just further down the road). Being able to decisively walk away from a dead-end scenario like this is a powerful personal attribute.
I like the automate-delegate-delete formula because it simplifies decision making. We humans, as I’ve said, like to complicate things.
There’s one other thing. Know that you already delegate and automate all day long. Truth is, although you don’t know it, you’re really, really good at it. As an example, I’m going to give you a Systems Mindset vision that you will not be able to shake. Be forewarned that it will embed itself in your head. It has to do with a daily ritual that you’ve taken for granted up until now. Here it is: In the morning after you wake up, shower, dry yourself off, hang up the wet towel, get dressed, and then go about your day’s activities—have you ever thought back about that wet towel, hung up and drying, back there in your bathroom, requiring zero attention or additional input from you?
There is significant importance here if you can see it: This towel-drying system is a perfectly automated machine that requires no maintenance or management, and it’s 100% successful every single time. Hanging your
towel up to dry is maybe the ultimate act of automation, one that you haven’t thought about until this moment. You hung up that wet towel, and the drying system flawlessly executed over a period of time, to completion.
With one small initial effort, you made it happen! And now that I’ve laid this out for you and you’ve considered it, I guarantee that your future towel-hanging will be accompanied by the comforting thought that “this is a wheel that will turn to completion all by itself with zero additional input from me!”
But this is just about a towel! All through the day, there are many more instances of this hands-off delegation/automation that you haven’t thought about from the outside and slightly elevated stance. How about
the refrigerator that keeps your perishables fresh no matter what you’re thinking or doing during the day; the clothes washer in which you load the clothes inside, add soap, and then walk away, not thinking even once about
the complex system execution happening over the ensuing hour or so.
And of course, there’s the clothes dryer: It’s the same thing. Think about the myriad other machines that are working for you in the background, machines that you activated but then execute to completion entirely by
themselves. Until this moment, it’s my guess that you haven’t given a second thought to any of them.
It will be good for you to casually reflect upon these small processes from the Systems Mindset standpoint—and not just today, but always. It will keep your head straight.
You’re already a master at delegation and automation! Now that you see you’re already good at it, consciously doing more of it will be easy.