February 21, 2012


chess pieces by rankSituations change fast. To anticipate and react, you need control over your calendar. If you’re already working at capacity, what use are you?

I've been controlling my work time and priorities since the late 1990s. This includes making time to think and experiment. Productivity is important, which is why I’m currently in week 4 of the 12 week Pick Four goals program.

Making Time

You have more time when you delegate or outsource. It's tempting to pick
  • what you don't like to do
  • what you don't know how to do
Are those the right reasons?

You might get further by delegating what you like to do. This may be counter-intuitive (and unpleasant). Conventional thinking says do what you do best and delegate the rest. There is merit in this approach but also diminishing returns. There's little room for growth when you're already great. If you're a world class athlete, the small incremental changes matter. For most of us, we might be making a rut as deep as a grave. The 10,000 Hour Rule (see Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers) leads to mastery but is 20,000 hours better than investing the next 10,000 hours in developing new skills?


If something is experimental or important, I personally get involved. It doesn't matter if the work is boring. When you do something dull or difficult, you learn and you set a good example for others.

Once I spent weeks developing spreadsheets that showed product performance vs. competitors insurance products. This involved numerous calculations for combinations of age, gender and smoking status. I input the results into spreadsheets and soon had pages of figures. This was overwhelming. To make interpretation simpler, I showed percentage differences in performance. Finally, I added colour coding: green if our product was better and red if we were worse. The colour coding made interpretation very easy. These pages became known as "green sheets" within the industry.

Once the prototype was working well, I delegated the preparation to my staff. If I delegated at the outset, the results would not suffered.

New Skills

Sometimes, new skills are needed. I don't know web programming but wanted to prototype brandable websites to help advisors sell life insurance via education and the opportunity to buy. That was in 2000. I learned how to use Microsoft FrontPage and soon created a prototype. Eventually, the Board approved the multiyear, multimillion dollar SaveTax Project. That's when I could delegate to real web designers and programmers.


These days, I'm learning video editing. Last week, I learned how to insert slides from a PowerPoint presentation into a live recording of Building Trust With Blogging from Word11. I also put the audience questions onscreen and enhanced the audio. I'm using Adobe Premiere Elements, which I find unintuitive. There isn't much online help either.

Yesterday, I was asked why I didn't just hire an expert. The results would be better and I'd save time. That's true, but I'd lose out on the learning and role modeling.

My ultimate goal is to inspire clients to get ready for their video debut. If they agree, they're likely to outsource. Who to? Most video "experts" are close to average, by definition. That's not good enough. Unless I know the basics of video, I can't spot the fakers from the pros. That means I can't make recommendations.

Too Important

You might outsource video production, graphic design or even writing. You might have no choice. For instance, I don't have design skills.

When you delegate or outsource, you're creating a vulnerability. What they do for you, they can do for your for your competitors too ...

Sometimes what you do is too important to risk losing.


PS What do you handoff to others to do?

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