The Art of Delegation

It takes a village, right? We cannot do all the things, all the time, and still radiate sunshine. It is not humanly possible, much less sane.

I don’t need to say it again but I’m going to. Being a caregiver means busy, it means stress, and it means never ending lists.

It is critical to manage the to-dos and responsibilities through delegation. How many times has someone offered a vague helping hand, a “let me know if you need anything” and you say “ok” and then nothing comes of it? STOP DOING THAT. Have a list ready to go that you can email or rattle off what would be helpful. Do not be shy. People may ask out of politeness without a real intention of helping, but do not fret about their level of sincerity. Those that do not want to help will find a way out; but it’s just as likely they will follow through on the offer and you’ve saved yourself a menial task.

It can often feel like more work to manage the help than to manage the tasks yourselves, but I assure you, it is not. If you have a support network already in place, here is my recommended approach to delegating help:

  1. Assign Middle Management, committee heads, task masters or whatever you want to call them. This is the person in charge of the task overall, and responsible for assigning other people days and times to help with the particular item. For example, I have a group of 7-8 girlfriends who are fantastic and rotate cleaning our house. One friend manages the calendar, coordinates times, and communicates with me. Not only do we get help cleaning, I’m saved the dreaded back-and-forth logistics that derail me from seeking help to begin with. Other suggested ‘categories’ of help: Kids Activities, Laundry, Meals, General Errands, Visiting Care-ee, Appointment Taker, you get the picture.
  2. One Offs: for those that either you don’t trust to consistently help or don’t have the time to do so, accept help as needed. Create email groups or texting groups of people you can reach out to in the event you get in a pinch and need assistance with something.
  3. Aim for consistency. While it’s helpful to get help when you can, if you have a schedule, it can ease the mental burden of tracking it. Monday is laundry day, we need meals Tuesdays and Thursdays, get us groceries on Sunday, you get the drift.
  4. Use technology. Many cities have grocery services that deliver in two hours time; save yourself a trip to the store.
  5. If you don’t have free help, consider what the budget will let you pay for. Cleaning services, laundry, even handy man work – all are services you can buy and there is no shame in outsourcing that which you don’t have the time or energy.
  6. Work with your local church or other organization to find groups of volunteers. For example, there are kids in high school that are required to complete community service hours.
  7. Seek out the Council on Aging in your state and find out what help they can provide. It can be a fantastic resource to connect you with the help you need.
  8. When help is arranged, plan in advance what you will do with that time so you don’t end up meandering and under utilizing the time. Either another item on the to-do list, or take a break. Stroll Target, get fresh air, work out, grab lunch with a friend, read a book… you know, the things you always want to do but feel you never have time? Do those things.

It’s easy to feel guilty for not being able to do everything and even easier to feel guilty for needing a break from doing everything. Take a step back, get over yourself, ask for and accept help.

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