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Bar News - April 4, 2008

Work-Life Balance: The Three Dís: Do, Delegate, or Ditch


Our last column was an exploration of how procrastination is sometimes a misnomer for the process of pondering an issue before acting, and thus an entirely appropriate activity. Now Iíd like to explore the more troublesome manifestation of procrastination, which is the failure to take responsibility.

Examples include not spending sufficient time with a child, spouse or other loved one, not returning phone calls from clients promptly, being disorganized to the extent that there are negative consequences such as unpaid bills or taxes, or not taking care of your health by not getting preventative health care or constantly eating poor quality food. All of these situations require a response.

One way to look at these responsibilities is that you have three choices Ė to do, to delegate or to ditch. Not choosing one of these responses can result in the failure to take any appropriate action. Procrastination is a big time waster and emotional drain and can negatively affect each choice. Have you ever avoided doing something and when you finally got around to it realized how much more painful the procrastination was than the onerous task itself?


To do is deceptively simple. While carrying out routine tasks at work or home is often satisfying, there may be some areas of your life that involve tasks you dislike or donít know how to handle and thus you avoid or procrastinate. Getting started on these tasks and keeping moving when challenges arise can require an extra push, especially when the responsibility is unwelcome. Procrastination can occur at any time, so watch for it so you can act.

Some ideas to get "doing":

1. Break the task into smaller parts.

2. Motivate yourself to get started by doing the easiest part first.

3. If you get stuck on a particular part, analyze what you need to help you move forward and decide how to get it.

4. Get special help Ė a professional opinion, advice from a friend, counsel from your mother or another trusted family member.


Delegation is requires a number of skills and related actions. I use the term broadly to include seeking help from a variety of sources. Think creatively. Delegation isnít about getting someone else to do your work. It also isnít about forgoing standards. Sometimes people say "itís easier to do myself because if I donít do it, it wonít get done right." Delegation is a skill requiring organization, patience and often thoughtfulness. If you donít know what you need, how can you ask for help?

Delegation doesnít require financial resources, although they can be helpful! It often simply involves assisting a subordinate or colleague in developing expertise that you already have, so patience is critical.

At work:

1. Use the human resources you have at your disposal such as support staff, colleagues, or interns in your firm or company, or from the larger legal or business community.

2. If you donít know how to delegate, observe and learn from someone you admire who is good at it.

3. Build mutually beneficial relationships.

4. Learn how to increase your effective use of technology through continuing education or tutoring.

5. Consider how to maximize your most valuable skills for your firm or employer and choose which tasks are best delegated to others.

At home:

1. Not enough time for yourself?

a. Carve some out by having a night a week to yourself, by hiring or trading child care.

b. Create a time-out zone for yourselfÖ such as taking 30 minutes a day before or after work to get out of the house and take a class, have a standing date with a friend. Ask your children or spouse to give you this time and to help with the chores that would otherwise occupy you.

2. Not eating dinners together as a family?

a. Make dinner together.

b. Ask a teenager to cook once a week in exchange for an allowance or privilege.

c. Hire a professional chef to cook a series of meals and leave them in your freezer.


To ditch means not to execute a task or series of tasks at all. It involves the ability (and opportunity) to say no, or resist or decline tasks as they arise. Oftentimes, people say to me that they donít have a choice about a particular issue, but when they look carefully at their own behavior, they realize that they are choosing to say yes.

Where do you have choice in a situation where it seems you have none? There may be a small piece of what I call "wiggle room" where you can maneuver and choose. And, from a practical standpoint, if you accept a particular assignment, and fail to deal with it, this failure can have worse consequences than declining at the outset. Procrastination can play a role here by eliminating your options. Sometimes if you donít decline or accept in a timely fashion, the decision is made for you.


Being thoughtful and strategic about what you say yes and no to are critical for managing your time and being the person you want to see when you look in the mirror.

Do, delegate or ditch. The choice is yours.

Betsy Black, J.D., A.C.C., is an accredited life coach who specializes in working with lawyers seeking greater satisfaction in their work and personal lives. Please direct your thoughts, questions and requests for future topics in this monthly column to her at or call: 603-228-6195.

Read other Work-Life Balance Articles by Betsy Black

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