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Why Mastering Delegation is Crucial in the Gig Economy

In my own life, I’ve seen massive shifts in delegation since I began to engage regularly with freelancers. I get more done, and the projects benefit from the contributions of experts. I also get to spend more time with my family, doing things we all enjoy.

I also spend a lot of my time writing and teaching on the Gig Mindset. Both writing and teaching require a great deal of communication. In addition to speaking at conferences, I deliver a weekly newsletter to more than 60,000 people and record regular podcasts.

I call this approach the Gig Mindset.

The Gig Mindset involves making my network of freelancers my first port of call when I have something to accomplish. Every element of the Gig Mindset takes practice. By far, the hardest, in my experience, is delegation.

Delegation requires you to let others run with your ideas.

It’s difficult because, to delegate successfully, you need to be willing to give up control. It takes courage to change your mindset, trust in people with diverse backgrounds, and radically reinvent how you work and live.

To truly engage with what is possible in the Gig Economy, however, delegation essential. Let’s break down what I mean by delegation in a Gig Mindset context — and why it’s such an important skill.

Giving up Control

What is delegation? When I use the term, I’m not simply saying that you tell a freelancer what you want to be done. Imagine you’ve ordered an Uber. The app allows you to plot your journey and dial in the exact spot to be dropped off. When you get in the car, you could ride the entire way in silence. Maybe, as you approach your destination, you offer a few bits of clarity to guide in those last few blocks. Think about the trust you just placed in your driver.

Could you have sat down in the passenger seat, app out, playing navigator the entire time? Sure. You could also just drive yourself if you need to have that much control. Delegation means stepping back from the driver’s seat and trusting your freelancer to follow directions and ask questions if they get stuck.

Right now, I have people that do web research and data to support my arguments and narratives around a variety of topics. I have an expert who does motion graphics. I have another editor for videos. Sometimes I need graphs and charts based on the data I’ve sourced to support articles and newsletters.

All of these tasks represent someone I’ve delegated to. Someone I’ve trusted to run with my instructions. This is the type of delegation that will allow you to thrive in the Gig Economy.

Conferring Authority on Your Team

The reason delegation is difficult is that it requires you to assign both responsibility and authority to the freelancers with whom you work.

Responsibility is easy. When you hire someone full time, you are giving them responsibility. It’s part of their job description. When you delegate to someone, you are assigning them authority. They can make decisions based on your instructions and your intent. You are trusting them to make the right choices in pursuit of a shared goal, for which you are ultimately accountable. For so many people I’ve met, that is the scariest thing imaginable.

I can’t emphasize enough how hard that idea was for me and still is for people who are beginning to work without a shared context. Human beings have difficulty seeing how delegation can be a blessing.

If we’re honest with ourselves, it looks like a threat. We all have that expectation that we are “the only ones who can do this task.” We tell ourselves that we’re the only person who can do it. If we don’t do it personally, it just won’t get done. Or it won’t get done right.

For anyone who has managed a team of people, you know delegating won’t lead to the same end result as doing something yourself. But I’ll bet that you have experience of getting things done through delegation.

No matter the task, you and your team pulled through. And that diversity of thought made the project better. Different doesn’t equal worse. Working with a wide group of people adds new voices and perspectives and helps find new solutions to a variety of challenges.

When I engage with freelancers and bring together a wider team, I gain knowledge. My life experience is limited to my gender, my race, the neighborhood I grew up in, and the schools I attended, as well as the companies and industries where I worked.

What looks “right” to me is fixed and rigid. Adding in the perspectives of people from around the world teaches me how to connect on a whole new level. It makes the market research better, designs products better, and forces me to improve my management skills and communication.

The Gig Mindset is not a shallow pond. You can’t just dip in your toes, play around, and then go back to your old lifestyle. In fact, you have to come to this with a little faith, the belief that this will work. You have to lean into it, dive into the deep end with the expectation that—for just a moment—you will be completely underwater.

How to Communicate Effectively

The number one challenge, the number one place where people struggle, is communication. I’ve seen it from thousands of people. They struggle with how to communicate their expectations to someone who may not have a shared context; to give up control and trust.

The “control” problem isn’t exclusive to business relationships. Control affects millions of intimate relationships too. Couples counseling is a huge industry in the United States — becasue of the “control” issue.

Now they have to articulate those tasks. They have to provide specific instructions and then just walk away. For a lot of people, this is new. It’s easy to sit in a meeting and just talk, but far more difficult when you have to write a descriptive project brief to delegate.

It’s understandable. Your tasks are so innate to you. If you closed your eyes, you could picture every detail. Now you have to work with someone who doesn’t share that context, and you have to place all your hopes and expectations into them. It’s a real learning process.

Delegation isn’t just saying, “Go do this.” It’s building expectations, setting timelines, and really engaging with these experts. To delegate is to get your vision on paper with examples of things that inspire you.

Effective delegation is inviting the other individual to provide guidance –to you– on how they work and feedback on your thinking. It’s trusting that they are professionals and want to deliver the very best. Most of all, it’s about having an open and curious mind throughout the process.

Delegation in Action

Let’s use an example to illustrate how delegation works—and how it doesn’t work. You need to cater to a working lunch for a group of ten. Now, if you were to ask a virtual assistant to find a place to eat, you’d get back a pretty bland response. Maybe something on their list would fit your needs, but it would be a roll of the dice. What about dietary restrictions or allergies? In this case — you’ve provided too little information and context to expect a good result.

So, you go back to the freelancer, but you ask a more detailed question: “I’d like somewhere to order lunch. It needs to be within fifteen miles of my office, my boss prefers Italian, and it needs to be vegan-friendly. Also, we are capped at $30 a person.”

You’ve provided the same request but with context. You want something specific, but not so specific that the request is redundant. If I engaged a virtual assistant and said, “I’d like to eat at McDonald’s tonight,” I’ve wasted our time and my money.

The sweet spot lies in providing enough information to your freelancer for them to come back with specific recommendations that meet your needs, but not so much that their input is redundant. To delegate effectively, you need to know what you want, create a brief, then trust an expert to fulfill that brief.

A Delegation Revolution

To excel at delegation, you need to be clear about what you gain. It is all about your relationship with time. You have to go back and look at all the tasks for this project. What are the trade-offs? What has to go? No matter what you do in life, your time is finite.

Whether you work in the mailroom or the top-floor corner office, you have the same number of hours in a day. You can’t do everything you want. You can’t even do all the tasks you need to do, at least not alone. So, you need to start looking at your life and selecting those items you can delegate out. What can you give up, relinquish all control of, so you can have more time and space?

Radical delegation is about practice. Start delegating with small tasks, which leads you to more complex tasks. Do a couple of projects in the virtual system. Engage with a virtual assistant on one of the platforms and practice giving detailed instructions. You’re not writing pages and pages of notes, just a few bulleted guidelines.

Giving up control is hard. It takes time. But it gets easier as you build your trusted network of freelancers. The goal is to find your tribe. After a while, you will see that your value isn’t the control. Your value comes with the exponential opportunities you create by engaging with these experts.

When you empower your employees to use the Gig Mindset, you add a force multiplier to your team. Each person becomes an engine of activity, bringing in expertise that you couldn’t have expected before.

Do you have a special project you want to do at work? Or a family activity that keeps being pushed back? Or a trip to visit family and friends? Find a freelancer, brief them thoroughly, then stand back and allow them to do their job.

For more advice on mastering delegation, you can find Gig Mindset on Amazon.

Paul Estes

Paul Estes is an unstoppable advocate for the gig economy who is dedicated to creating opportunity for everyone, reskilling by doing, and bringing diversity to our work. After twenty years of driving innovation in Big Tech (Dell, Microsoft, Amazon), Paul transitioned into working as an independent, remote freelancer. He shares his insights from main stages as a keynote speaker and offers his thoughts and advice through articles on LinkedIn. By engaging with freelancers, Paul gets exponentially more done at work and has more time for his wife and two daughters. He’s the author of the best-selling book, Gig Mindset: Reclaim Your Time, Reinvent Your Career, and Ride the Next Wave of Disruption.

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Coding From Home? Here is how You Stay Productive

As a programmer, large amounts of your productive time, you are working on your own. Doing research, testing potential solutions until you piece the product together to a point you are happy with your work. Then you start the process of debugging and optimizing.

For this reason, many software development companies now offer programmers the option to be coding from home. And let’s not forget the developers out there who opted for a freelance career due to the perks of schedule flexibility and getting to choose what projects they want to be working on.

This relatively new working trend begs the question:

Can you be Productive Working from the Comfort of Your Own Home?

According to research conducted by Harvard Business Review, letting employees work from home benefits the company much more than any potential adverse side effects. The study traces a nine-month-long experiment tracking productivity, and the results showed that the measured results jumped by 13.5%.

Besides, the company saved upwards of nearly two thousand dollars per employee for the nine-month duration. The concern that the results may be unreliable due to a temporary burst of excitement were ruled out. The reason behind it is the fact that the statistical data behind the research remained consistent throughout the entirety of the time-frame.

Finding ways to keep your productivity consistent in a home setting

Home is often the place of comfort you go to unwind after a long day at work. Staying consistently productive when you have changed your daily habits and your surroundings is a challenge. Especially until you find practices that are sustainable for you.

coding on couch
Consistency in a home setting.

For example, you might think it’s a good idea to take advantage of coding from home. You choose to set up to work on the couch as you were, in your pajamas with a bowl of snacks on the coffee table.

Did you consider all the time you spent building the habit of watching something on TV while you are on the couch?

How easy would it be to let the thought of “Is there anything interesting on Netflix” creep into your mind? For many of us, it would be quite easy (at least in the first few attempts at working from home).

Before you know it, chances are you are two hours into a TV show, and you have not written a single line of code.

I am now a part of a company that allows coding from home (when done responsibly and within measure). From my experience here, in a java development company, I have developed specific methods that help me stay on top of work issues and situations — all without slipping into the habit of procrastinating at home.

Consistency is KING

Think about what you do before you get to the office on any given workday and do the same before you get to work at home. Maintaining as much of your usual consistent habits as you can make all the difference in your productivity levels.

  • Do you sleep in late or wake up relatively early? Do you stay in bed and snooze your alarms? You don’t snooze? Then get up.
  • Do you brush your teeth, eat breakfast and drink coffee? Yes? Then do all of this in the same order, at relatively the same time of day.
  • Do you do a home workout, go to the gym or jog, or take a  walk with your dog? Yes? Then do the same exercise routine at the same time of day as you usually do.
  • Do you eat junk food for lunch on the couch in your pyjamas, while scrolling through YouTube? No? Then grab a balanced meal and eat it on your desk or kitchen table as you usually would.

The human body and mind crave and understand consistency and predictability.

That means to do the same things in the same way repetitively and reliably. By doing this, your body and mindset can adjust and prepare to work before you even sit on your desk to code. This way, the adaptation between starting your day and getting started with the work process is much smoother and feels more natural, despite the change of surroundings.

Being consistent and predictable in our repetitive actions are essentially what makes up a habit. It is also the reason why it is so important to be mindful of what habits you build when you start coding from home. If you set off a collection of “bad” habits (in this context, such that cripple productivity or result generation), it will be that much harder to fight them later on.

If you want to understand and master your habits, you can read more about the meaning of consistency and habit building in the book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.”

The Illusion of “having enough time” when working from home.

Are you thinking that since you are working from home, you have more time to finish what you need to get done? After all,  there will be no commute to work, or distractions, or having a long lunch with colleagues — Right? 

Do you let the illusion of having a lot of time calm you at the beginning of your day? Only to realize it is four in the afternoon, and you are way behind on what you should have done by now?

Just because you code from home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t manage your tasks in terms of time. When you are in the office, do you go through the motions until late in the afternoon? Or do you systematically go through your tasks list until it is complete in order to leave work on time?

Start your day off strong.

You should approach your workload when coding from home, the same way as you would in the office. Chances are, the sooner you complete your tasks, the less stressful your day will be. The more free time you will have to pursue any of your other interests or take care of non-work responsibilities.

Create a to-do list of all you need to get done, either at the end of the previous day or at the start of the same day. Plan out your tasks and assign them by name in your calendar. Give each assignment each their own much-much needed time frame. The best part of using Google calendar is that your commitments are easily editable and displayed excellently, which subconsciously prompts productivity.

Having a visual representation of what you need to do throughout the day helps keep your mind in check and focused on the work. Of course, you can always move up an assignment if you finished early. Or push it later in the day if something comes up or you simply feel like you need a break.

Delegate working sessions.

schedule working sessions
Consistent with a calendar. Plan sessions.

The human brain can only be functional for a few hours at a time. So consider dividing your home-office-workday into a few sessions dedicated to working. During each session, silence your electronic devices that are not work-related to avoid distractions.

Make sure to have eaten beforehand and bring a bottle of water to your desk. This helps to minimize the need for you to get up off your desk as much as possible.

Naturally, the working periods are something that you should choose based on your personal preferences and what you have noticed to be working for you in the past.

This is a principle that should serve as a guideline. All you have to do is put your undivided focus into your work for a few hours. You can work until it is time to take a break if you need it. Or keep working if you feel like you got in the groove of the workflow.

Good Practices Lead to Good Results

As with just about any structure that has ever been developed and implemented by people working from home has the potential to be a fantastic opportunity to revolutionize the working experience on a large scale. It also holds particular risks such as distractions, letting leisurely habits disrupt the workflow and more.

And as with just about any structure that has ever been developed and implemented by people, the key to extracting the best results is moderation. Find the ways that help you obtain the best results from the home office practice.

If you found the tips listed above as helpful, be sure to leave a comment below. What is a method that you apply when coding from home, that helps you stay productive?

Danila Petrova

Danila is a Marketing Specialist at Dreamix nurturing audience engagement through content, with a passion for technology. She has a background in Mathematics, Informatics with higher education in Web Design and Graphic Advertisement.

Source: ReadWrite