Do you know anyone who likes being busy? Someone who enjoys nothing more than juggling items on their to-do list?
I’ve met people like that before, people who connect their self-worth to the number of items in their calendar or the different hats they may wear. And while all of them were busy, not all of them could say they were productive.
In fact, most of them said the opposite.
For all the pride they took in being busy – in feeling needed – they also struggled with the sense that they didn’t get nearly as much done as they should. The responsibilities they were juggling were diminishing their effectiveness instead of highlighting it.
This month, I’m writing about three areas for reflection that can set you up for success in 2017. Last week I wrote about reflecting on your relationships, and this week I’m writing about reflecting on your responsibilities. As you head into the new year, it’s crucial to understand one of my favorite leadership lessons:
The secret to success is determined by your daily agenda.
I want to help you make progress in the coming year by clearing away some responsibilities for which you shouldn’t be responsible. So grab a pencil and paper or open up a new note on your phone. We’re going to make a list and check it twice as we answer three questions for reflection on responsibilities.
What responsibilities did I assume?
The first place to begin is to figure out what responsibilities you took on over the year. There are some, like being a spouse or a parent or an employee, that you have because that’s part of your role in those areas. These are easy to identify. But there are other responsibilities that go under the radar – things that you take on out of a sense of duty or opportunity – like carrying someone else’s weight at work, or being an emotional sounding board for a friend.
These are the responsibilities that tend to accumulate and choke out your energy and passion. You often take on these responsibilities because you want to help others, but in the end, they become more of a hindrance than a help. It is crucial that you list these out alongside the larger responsibilities you hold. Everything from coaching soccer to taking out the trash should make your list.
I recommend writing this out to help you see things with perspective. Staring at a list of important and not-so-important responsibilities forces you to begin prioritizing. Which also leads you into the next two questions for reflection.
Which responsibilities could someone else have done?
This is a simple enough step, but it’s crucial to helping you get better. Look at your list of responsibilities and put a check mark next to those that another person could do. Whether it’s feeding the cat or changing copy toner at work, if the job can be completed by someone else, it gets a check mark. Once you’ve gone through the entire list, take a moment to count the check marks.
I’m willing to bet that there are more than you thought there would be. Each one of those checks is a potential responsibility that you can give away to someone else, but more than that, each check mark is a responsibility you don’t have to carry if you don’t want to. People often shoulder burdens because they feel they have to, when the truth is that someone else can carry that burden just as well – if not better. And that brings me to the third question.
Which responsibilities should someone else have done?
This is where you get to the really good stuff. I want you to go back through your list, and look only at the checked items. Of the ones with a check mark, which ones are better handled by someone else with more time, more skill, or more knowledge?
In other words, which responsibilities need someone else at the wheel?
When you find a responsibility that someone else should handle, underline it. As you review your list once more, I promise you’ll find more than one responsibility that not only can go on someone else’s plate, but should go on someone else’s plate – and off of yours.
At the end of the day, this list is only helpful if you actually do something with it. I strongly recommend finding someone to take over several of the responsibilities you underlined. Chances are good that responsibility will be a growth step for that person, even as it’s a relief to you.
If you worry that giving up responsibilities will make you look lazy, I have good news for you. Channeling your freed-up time into those responsibilities that only you can do will prove just how productive you can actually be! Letting go can actually be the first step to the greater responsibilities you desire.
I’ll be back next week for the final post in this series, but until then, what are some of the responsibilities you think you need to let go of heading into the new year?