Episode: Productivity Investments that Pay for Themselves

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Michael Hyatt: On January 25, 1966, Sir Charles Snow stood before Congress and spoke about the cybernetic revolution. He was talking about the computer revolution, which was then just beginning. Lord Snow declared, “This is going to be the biggest technological revolution men have ever known.” Within a few years, that prediction came true. Information technology brought sweeping changes to every aspect of life.

Megan Hyatt Miller: Beginning in the 1970s, American business made huge investments in IT. Just as the industrial revolution had supercharged manufacturing, now the digital revolution would transform commerce. Computers would do the work of humans in a fraction of the time. Productivity would skyrocket along with profits.

Michael: There was just one problem. The gains in productivity failed to materialize. In fact, productivity growth fell in the 1970s and 1980s from about 3 percent to just 1 percent. That dramatic decline led economist Robert Solow to observe, “We see computers everywhere except in the productivity statistics.”

Megan: This disconnect between investment and technology and productivity is sometimes called the Solow computer paradox. If computers make everything faster, why did American business slow down after adopting new technology? Economists have argued the reasons for years, but from this productivity paradox we learn a basic lesson in the science of getting things done. Spending more money on new technology doesn’t automatically increase output.

Michael: Or to put it another way, sometimes the best way to accomplish more is to do less.

Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt.

Megan: And I’m Megan Hyatt Miller.

Michael:  And this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work, succeed at life, and lead with confidence. In this episode, we’re going to talk about productivity investments that pay for themselves. We’ll learn that new technology and productivity hacks aren’t always the best value, and I’ll show you how to get more done by investing in your own margin.

Megan: That’s right. On today’s podcast we’re going to explore the productivity paradox and reveal the investments you can make that will bring the greatest payoff. We’ll also hear from productivity expert Cal Newport on the importance of investing in your own time, and we’ll have a visit from our own Suzie Barbour to talk us through the ins and outs of delegating your work to others.

So why do you think those investments didn’t pay off? Because it was definitely counterintuitive.

Michael: Yeah, definitely. Well, I think we have to start by recognizing there was a lot happening in those decades. We had the oil embargo, increased regulation, a lot of stuff happening at a macro level that impeded productivity. Some companies also mismanaged their IT investment. Everybody got crazy. They went out and bought all this stuff.

Megan: But they didn’t know anything yet, right?

Michael: Right. They didn’t know anything yet, and it took a lot of investment in those old punch card systems and then later the more sophisticated ones to get any productivity out of them. It was disruptive at first, but there was a learning curve, and adapting offices to a new way of working. I remember even when the electronic typewriter came on, that changed everything in the office. Then there were computers.

I can actually remember back to when this started. I bought one of those very first IBM computers, and there was a huge learning curve to just learn how to use it. So it took a while, like any investment normally would. It illustrates the principle that we try to boost productivity by doing more things faster, and it’s not always the case that that works. In fact, I would say most of the times it doesn’t work and it puts us on a rat race or on a treadmill, where we’re going faster but actually getting less done.

In that environment, what happens? We look for hacks. We look for quick fixes. We look for gadgets, but we should be doing actually less work. The problem is not the technology, like if we get better technology we’ll do more productive work. The problem is we have to evaluate the work we’re doing and cull out the stuff we shouldn’t be doing at all. That’s where I think a lot of productivity systems go wrong.

Megan: What do you think are some of the productivity fads that have come along over the years that have turned out to be a real fail?

Michael: One of the biggest ones is multitasking, the idea you can do more than one thing at a time, which the science completely disproves. You can do what’s called micro-slicing. You can do one task and then move to another task, and it looks like you’re multitasking because you’re doing several tasks in quick sequence, but the problem with that is you slow down in the switching between those tasks, so you’re less productive than if you would just stay focused on one thing until you got it.

Megan: It’s kind of like the old “rub your tummy while you pat your head” thing. You can’t really do it. It’s the same in life.

Michael: Yeah. You can kind of go back and forth very quickly.

Megan: Another major productivity fail is devices.

Michael: Yes, indeed.

Megan: Who has not felt their productivity take a nosedive, especially after being up high on the hopes it might be your salvation, when you started integrating all of those devices in your life? It’s just crazy.

Michael: Part of it is the promise of it and the reality of it are usually two different things. There’s a gap there. I remember when the PalmPilots came out. I thought, “Oh my gosh. I’m going to have this computing power in my pocket.” But then you realize, “No, I have to sync this with my computer, and it doesn’t always work, and the apps I’d like to have don’t always work with the other apps I want to use.” Then there was the BlackBerry. Remember the BlackBerrys? Was that before your time?

Megan: Not quite. Probably just a little bit, but it was affectionately known as the “crackberry” for a reason.

Michael: Yes, because it was addicting.

Megan: That was kind of the beginning of the addiction.

Michael: I want to say this. I stood up in front of the executives at Thomas Nelson Publishers in a big meeting where I really wanted everybody to be focused, and I said, “I want you to turn off your BlackBerrys.” Because people were looking at them all the time. You were never not connected. Plus it was kind of fun, because you felt like you were doing business faster. Emails were coming in and out.

Megan: Or you felt like you could do something else than pay attention in a meeting.

Michael: Right. So I asked people to turn it off, and no one knew where the off button was. No one knew how to turn it off. I literally had to show them how to turn it off. Then, of course, we had the iPhone, and that changed everything. Now we have essentially the computing power of a Cray computer or more in our back pocket.

Megan: Think about how many family vacations have been ruined because of devices, people checking email. That’s a relatively new idea when you think of human history. How many meetings have been interrupted or have not been attended well even though bodies were in the room.

Michael: And this doesn’t help productivity.

Megan: No, it doesn’t help productivity at all or it doesn’t help productivity do what it’s supposed to do, which is enable us to spend time on what matters most.

Michael: I remember being in a meeting (this was years ago) where everybody was bringing their laptops and their digital devices, and nobody was present, nobody was focused on the issue at hand. That’s not productive. There’s no reason to have a meeting. You’re spending hours and a lot of money to have a bunch of people present to solve a problem, and yet they’re not solving it because they’re not present. It’s that simple.

Megan: We’re going to talk about the productivity investments we can make that really pay for themselves. We kind of know what doesn’t work, but now we’re going to talk about what does work. You’ve identified three for us to talk about today.

Michael: The first investment is create more margin for yourself by eliminating tasks. Here’s the problem with most task management systems. They talk to you about how to sort tasks, how to categorize them, how to arrange them. The problem is the question about evaluating whether the task should ever make it into your task management system is rarely discussed.

Megan: Right. It’s just basically “Pedal faster.”

Michael: That’s right. As a result, people have these impossibly long lists they’re trying to manage, and they spend more time managing the lists than actually doing the work. There has to be a filter, something that enables you to slow down and focus on what’s most important. One of the things we teach in our course Free to Focus and is a part of the Full Focus Planner is the idea of your Daily Big 3. You can have sort of this junk drawer of other tasks you could get to that are sort of the trivial tasks, but they’re not going to make or break your day.

Megan: Or your business.

Michael: But if you can focus on three important tasks every day, that can be a game changer. The only way you can get there is by eliminating tasks, by asking yourself, “Am I the best person to do this? Could this be automated? Does it even need to be done?” So often we’re in meetings that had a purpose at one point, but they’ve outlived their usefulness and need to be deleted. Same thing with other routine tasks or workflows we go through. We need to stop periodically and ask ourselves, “Can I eliminate it? Can I get rid of this?”

Megan: How has creating more margin this way affected your productivity?

Michael: It’s been huge for this reason: I’ve been able to focus not on just my output but on the quality of my output. When I focus on fewer tasks I’m able to give more mental focus, more emotional energy, and really be creative in the solutions. I feel like, in my own career, in the last two years I’ve been more productive than at any other time in my career, and yet I’m doing less than I’ve ever done. I basically have my weekends free. I’m taking a month-long sabbatical, a lot of vacations. All that stuff works because I’m doing less, but what I am doing is more important, more focused, more creative.

Megan: Really high-leverage.

Michael: Yes.

Megan: Recently, we chatted with Cal Newport on the importance of investing in your own time, and here’s what he had to say.

Cal Newport: Something interesting you’ll notice if you study people who produce really valuable things is that they don’t tend to care so much about how much they work. These tend not to be the people who are very busy, who are frantically on their phone, who are up late, slinging emails back and forth and jumping around on the social media platforms to make sure their latest thought is known. Instead, they tend to prioritize with a laser-like focus deep work, which is full, unbroken concentration on doing the thing they’re best at doing.

The thing about deep work is you actually have to understand the nuances of its definition. For a session of work to count as deep work you have to be giving a task full, unbroken concentration with no distraction for a long period of time. Now what gets people, often, is the “no distraction” piece, because people often don’t count little things, such as a glance at a phone or a glance at an inbox. They’ll say, “Cal, I am primarily just working on this hard thing, and who cares if for 10 seconds I glance at an inbox?”

But we know from research even a quick glance can be devastating to your ability to produce things with your brain. Even a quick context switch, even if it lasts just five seconds, can be sufficient to reduce your cognitive capacity for 10, 15, maybe 20 minutes after that, so you’re producing lower quality results at a slower rate. The people who really succeed prioritize intense concentration with zero distraction and zero context switches. It’s almost like a superpower, the level of productivity this allows them to accomplish with the time they spend working.

The flip side of that is they’re not that busy. You do deep work for four hours in a day, you’re producing as much as any of the top minds in this country are able to produce. Everything outside of that is just the busyness that surrounds it. So that explains this paradox I often observe and find to be fascinating. The most value-producing people don’t work a ton, but when they’re working they are in deep, fully concentrated, non-distracted mode, and what they’re able to produce with those hours is really hard to accomplish any other way.

Megan: Let’s go on to the second investment.

Michael: This may be my favorite. It’s something I love. It’s automate recurring tasks using templates.

Megan: You are really a geek about this.

Michael: I’m the template king of this. In Free to Focus I talk about four types of automation, and today I want to focus on template automation. The idea is anytime you do something, you ask yourself the question, “Will I be doing this again?” If it’s an email I’m writing or a speech I’m going to give or some kind of workflow I’m doing, am I going to be doing it again? For me, that’s a trigger. If I say to myself, “I’m going to be doing it again,” now I’m going to create a template.

I’m going to engineer it right the first time so I can save time in the future. Let me give you an example. Take an email template. Let’s say I continually respond to a request, like somebody asks me if I would be open to speaking at a certain engagement. In the past, I’d expend a lot of energy to write a thoughtful response to a request like that, when really what I needed was some standard pieces of information in order to make a better decision.

Megan: This is really why email can feel so overwhelming, because it takes all this horsepower to answer every single request that comes in.

Michael: Because we’re reinventing the wheel every single time. I ended up in this process of coming up with a series of 50 or 60 templates. I took the most common requests I was asked and said, “Okay, I’m going to compose a very thoughtful response I can use and reuse over and over again.”

Another example. One of the things we do a lot of at our company is webinars, and we’ve learned through doing hundreds of these now what’s the best sequence, what’s the best way to lay out the content, so we created a template so we don’t have to think through that every time or try to reinvent it and also so we don’t miss stuff. So automating recurring tasks using templates is a great way to get more productive.

Megan: One of the objections that might come up for leaders around this area is that they feel like it might be impersonal if they use a template, whether it’s an email template or maybe for some kind of project they do on a routine basis, that it would sort of start to feel canned or cheesy or something like that. How do you overcome that part of it?

Michael: I rarely use the template as it’s written, but I use it as kind of a place to start, realizing it’s about 90 percent of what I want to say. Then I can personalize it. Sometimes it’s just a personal paragraph at the beginning where I acknowledge having talked to that person recently or something I’ve read on Facebook about them or something that makes it feel less canned, but then I get into the canned part of it because it’s repetitive information or repetitive questions or resources I want to suggest. Why reinvent that every time? Really, all the person needs is the information.

Then I’ll typically close it out with something personal. I’ll put a wrapper on it, so to speak, so it’s more personal. Yeah, we have templates for meetings so we don’t have to think through the structure of a meeting over and over again. Goal templates… Those are part of the Full Focus Planner. We’ve provided those in Evernote in the past. Just anything that’s going to be repetitive and recurring. That’s what you’re looking for. That becomes a candidate for a template.

Megan: Let’s talk about the third investment, which is, by the way, my personal favorite. You said number two is your favorite. This is my favorite.

Michael: Delegate anything that could be done by someone else. A lot of leaders we know resist delegation. In fact, I think most leaders initially resist it. According to a study published in Basic and Applied Social Psychology, managers are reluctant to empower employees for two reasons. First, they tend to see work performed under the control of a supervisor as inherently better, and second, managers evaluate work product more highly when they are more self-involved in the production. (Big surprise.) In other words, “Nobody can do it as well as I can.”

Megan: I also think it’s about perceived job security. If I’m not doing everything, then am I really adding value? If I only do a few things well, is that really going to be enough for the people who are above me to want to keep me?

Michael: We have this weird thing going on in our culture, too, where busyness is sort of a badge of honor. It’s like, “Well, I want to be doing more. I want to be overwhelmed. I want to appear busy.” Plus it gives them a sense of significance, and a lot of people think, “Nobody can do it as well as I can.” I hear that all the time.

Megan: Right. #beastmode or #hustle, or whatever. There’s a whole list of those things. The truth is delegation produces huge productivity gains.

Michael: It does, because if you think about it, you can’t make more time unless you delegate. Now you have somebody else who’s doing things maybe you did previously, but now you’re doubling your time or tripling your time or quadrupling your time.

Megan: Because it allows you to focus on what you do best and also on what’s most important that only you can do.

Michael: And it’s the best way to use a team, if you think about it. You’re depriving somebody else of the ability to express their gifts when you do work they could do. I go back to that Dawson Trotman quote I’ve quoted so many times before. Don’t do anything others could or would do when there’s so much of importance to be done that others could not or would not do. That’s the secret to productivity and, frankly, career satisfaction.

Megan: So in just a few minutes, when we come back, we’re lucky enough to have in the studio with us today an expert on delegation, Michael Hyatt & Company’s very own Suzie Barbour, who is our senior director of operations. She’s here to talk with us today about the ins and outs of delegation. First, let’s talk about a really neat new webinar we have coming up.

Michael: We have a webinar I’m really excited about. Webinars are my favorite, by the way.

Megan: I know. You love doing webinars.

Michael: We’re going to be talking about harmful habits that we, especially those of us who are high achievers, do every day that we don’t really realize. Part of the webinar is naming the traps; the other part is coaching you through how to conquer them. That’s really where the transformation is going to be. This will make you a productivity ninja, and it’ll keep you from getting sucked down the rabbit hole of things that appear to be productive but actually are traps. They’ll make you less productive.

Megan: I promise you will find yourself in this webinar in surprising ways. There are things you are doing you don’t even know you’re doing that are getting in the way of your productivity, and you can’t afford not to know what they are.

Michael: That’s all in this free webinar we’re going to be doing on a number of different dates, a number of different times. All the information is at And did I mention it’s free?

Megan: All right. We are back with Suzie Barbour, who is our senior director of operations. Suzie is my right-hand woman. Suzie’s expertise is in executive support. For many years she has run teams of executive assistants, supporting high-level executives in a number of different organizations, so she’s an expert in delegation. She has seen what it looks like when it goes well and she knows how to facilitate it and she also knows what it looks like when it goes badly, oh so badly. Welcome, Suzie. We’re glad you’re here.

Suzie Barbour: Thank you. It’s good to be here.

Megan: Talk to us a little bit about why you think leaders struggle so much with letting go of tasks.

Suzie: I think there are a few reasons. Michael kind of touched on this earlier, but thinking you do what you’re doing best and better than anyone else can do it is part of it, which in a lot of cases is not true.

Michael: So arrogant.

Suzie: I’ll put that out there right away. I think there’s some fear associated with it. What’s interesting for a lot of leaders sometimes is I think the fear, if you really sat with it, has to do with if I’m focusing on only the most important things, am I afraid of what actual success at those things looks like? What if I’m doing my most meaningful work? Sometimes that might come across harder than easier tasks you can just knock off your list, so you feel accomplished even though you’re not doing something that’s probably truly important for you to uniquely contribute to.

Michael: It’s kind of a way of procrastinating the really important work in favor of doing other work that gives you a sense of momentum but is not really that important.

Suzie: Exactly.

Michael: Okay. That’s scary.

Megan: Or kind of playing small, it sounds like.

Suzie: Playing small. That’s a big part of it. So I think fear is at the root of a lot of it, whether it’s job security or that success or those kinds of things.

Michael: When leaders don’t delegate like that, what’s the cost?

Suzie: I think there’s truly a financial cost, if you think about it. You’ve said that a lot. If you were to break down what your hourly rate is as a leader and how much you’re paying someone, essentially, to check emails or to answer a phone call or listen to all of these voicemails, it’s pretty expensive. So I think there’s a financial cost, but obviously the biggest cost is not so easily measured, and that has to do a lot with you not achieving the things you’re really meant to do and uniquely gifted at.

Michael: That’s good.

Megan: I think so too. What do you think about mistakes that are the most common? What are the biggest delegation mistakes you’ve seen leaders make over and over again?

Suzie: First and foremost is not delegating. That’s a problem. Once you get past that, I think people tend to delegate without giving proper context and instruction. We don’t slow down sometimes. That’s where you always hear people say, “It’s faster if I just do it myself.” It’s really not if you have to repeat that over and over again.

But initially when you’re training someone, it is slower to train someone on it. Once you train someone on the task, then it can be done and it saves you a lot of time in the future if you have a long-range vision. I think sometimes leaders easily lose sight of that, so they don’t take the time to slow down to give direction and instruction so it’s successful the first time.

Michael: Do you think delegation is something that comes naturally to some leaders but not others or is it something every leader can learn?

Suzie: I think every leader can learn it. I think there are people who are more naturally inclined to delegation for sure.

Michael: I’m just thinking back on my own experience. I think it was tough for me. I think a lot of it was just arrogance. I had this sense that “Nobody is going to do it as well as I can do it” and maybe a fear that if I delegated something and it wasn’t done up to my standards there would be some repercussion either from my boss or from our customers. I wanted to make sure it was done right, so I was reluctant to let go of it until I discovered there are actually people out there who can do it better than I can do it.

Suzie: That makes sense. I think that’s common. Megan, knowing you when you first had an executive assistant, delegation seemed like an easy walk in the park for you.

Megan: Yeah. I wonder if it comes a little easier to women, because we’re juggling a lot of things all the time and it’s sort of like you’re not going to make it unless you do at some level.

Michael: I don’t know about that. For example, your mom really struggled with delegation. I will tell you, for her, part of it was that she didn’t feel like she was worthy… In other words, she ought to be able to do all of the things she was doing.

Megan: Right. She’s had a different mindset about it.

Michael: Like, “Well, I should do the housework. I should do the cooking. I should do all this stuff.” Probably it was a little bit of a mindset, kind of a traditionalist, “That’s a woman’s job.” She eventually got over that, and now she’s unbelievable, but it took some training. Also to Suzie’s point, it’s something anybody can learn.

Suzie: Absolutely. What’s really funny is when you think about me. I’m an Enneagram 8, if you think about personality profiles.

Megan: That means she’s the boss.

Suzie: Megan and I share command and strategy and some other similar gifts, communication in our top five StrengthsFinder. We’re both oldest siblings. I think all of those kinds of things can contribute. I joke with my husband often that if he ever does decide to run for president I’m confident I can handle the staff at the White House. I’m ready. Thankfully, he has no ambitions of that.

I do want to say there are people who are more naturally gifted for delegation, and those are people probably that when they’re younger you label them as bossy kids or natural leaders or strong-willed. But what I will say is even if you have a natural advantage for that, you can improve. I’ve definitely learned (we have some systems we follow at Michael Hyatt & Company) over time to be good at delegation. So whether you’re naturally inclined or not, it’s something you can learn.

Michael: One of the things I wanted to ask you about (speaking of systems we have at Michael Hyatt & Company) is to talk about the five levels of delegation. This, to me, kind of takes the risk out of it and makes it easier for leaders to delegate, knowing they have more control over the process. You’re not just talking about abdication; you’re talking about delegation. So let’s talk about those levels.

Suzie: Absolutely. We have five levels of delegation we use at our company, and I really love this framework. It really helps to clarify things. Our level one delegation is where we’re saying, “Do exactly what I have asked you to do. Here’s the plan. Please do it. Please don’t deviate from it.” Then level two would be, “Research the topic and then report back to me. So don’t make any decisions, don’t execute, but get me some information and bring it back.” Level three is, “Research the topic, outline the options, and make a recommendation to me. If you were me, based on the research you’ve done, what do you want me to do?”

Michael: Now it’s starting to get interesting.

Megan: This is one of my favorite ones, actually.

Suzie: It really takes a lot of the work out of it for the leader.

Michael: And the overwhelm.

Suzie: Yeah, totally. You can just say yes or no on that recommendation, which is great. Then level four is “Make a decision and then tell me what you did.” That’s awesome. That really communicates trust in your team, and it gets something fully off of your plate, which is great, but you still get that report back. Then level five, which is probably my favorite, is “Make whatever decision you think is best. I’m taking this off my plate. I’m giving it to you. Get it done.”

Michael: I love that.

Megan: If you hire people you can trust, that is something that’s easy to do.

Michael: Last night I was having dinner with Daniel Harkavy, who is my coauthor on Living Forward. Daniel has a company called Building Champions. He is a master delegator. He told me last summer he took a three-month sabbatical. My head exploded. I’ve taken a one-month sabbatical and I…

Megan: You’re feeling pretty good about yourself.

Michael: Thumping my chest, feeling pretty good about it. But he took three months off. I said, “Okay, I have to ask you. How often did you check in with the office?” He said, “Um, I think about three times, basically once a month.” I said, “And you were fully confident?” He said, “Oh, it was awesome.” He said, “The business improved while I was gone. Everything got better.” He said, “I have an amazing team.” That freed him up. Interestingly, two of his kids got married last summer, which, when he set the sabbatical, he didn’t know of before, so he was able to totally be present for all of that and pitch in on that. It was pretty cool. That’s what delegation can mean.

Suzie: It’s powerful.

Michael: More time to do what matters most. It may not look like a three-month sabbatical, but it might look like you getting to work on the work you really enjoy, something we call your desire zone in Free to Focus, where you’re passionate and proficient, and that could be a game changer.

Megan: Suzie, I have a question for you. Some of our listeners are brand new to delegating. Maybe they’re in a new leadership position where all of a sudden that’s either necessary or a possibility, and then some of our leaders are really seasoned in their profession or in their role and are pretty good at this already. So what would be the delegations you would recommend to someone who’s brand new to delegating and maybe even leadership formally itself, and then what would you recommend for somebody who would consider themselves a little more mature in their delegation capacity, and what would be ways to optimize that?

Suzie: That’s a great question. One of the things everybody can do to be successful at delegation is to build in time in your schedule to delegate. What I mean by that is make a part of your quick morning routine (it doesn’t need to be long) when you’re starting up your workday to think about the things you could get off of your plate and constantly be evaluating your task list and handing things over.

If you’re new to leadership (and if you’ve been doing it for a long time this applies too), another thing you can build into your routine is regular meetings with your staff for the purpose of delegation. Especially if you have a virtual assistant or an executive assistant, you want to be having those meetings where there’s an easy touch point for you to hand off tasks so you don’t always have to be doing that through email.

There are some technologies I think make delegation really easy. Slack is a great resource for that, so we don’t have a thousand emails with tasks anymore (speaking for all of the virtual assistants of the world). Task managers…all those things can work for that. Just building in regular time to delegate in your schedule I think is really important. Then clear communication, just realizing you need to slow down when you give a task out, especially if you’re new to leadership, and make sure you really outline the steps so that when you are delegating the person is set up for success.

The very last thing I would say… This is something I love that you and Michael do all the time. So if you’re a more experienced leader, this really applies to you. Ask the people around you. Ask your spouse. Ask your kids. Ask your team especially. Especially, if you have an assistant, ask them. “What am I doing and what am I holding on to that you could take over?” I know I’ve challenged Michael from the very beginning of the time we’ve worked together anytime he has asked me that. I remember saying, “Hey, you don’t have to do every social media post,” back in the day.

Michael: It felt like heresy at the time.

Suzie: Or webinars. There were just a few of us. We’ve made some huge strides as a business from answering those kinds of questions. So as a leader, make sure you’re asking those questions.

Megan: And regularly asking, because you may have asked it at the beginning of that relationship with an executive assistant, for example, but as your business matures and as time goes on you need to reevaluate, because it may either be irrelevant things you asked to delegate or there may be new challenges you face that are creeping back onto your task list that don’t need to be there.

Michael: It just occurred to me that if you want to develop your team and if you want to see your team grow, you have to delegate. If you hold on to all this stuff they’re never going to learn. If you delegate it, they do higher level stuff they really enjoy, they make a better contribution, and (this has been shocking to me) they actually do it better than I could have imagined it. That happens over and over again. Okay, I have one last question.

Megan: We could, by the way, talk all day.

Michael: Oh, we could.

Megan: I have like 14 questions in my head. I’m having to really turn it back.

Michael: I love this topic. One question for me is what do you say to the leader who’s listening to this who says, “Well, that’s all fine and well for you guys to talk about. I can’t afford to bring on somebody full-time” or “I can’t afford an executive assistant.” What do you say to that person?

Suzie: I would, first and foremost, challenge you to make sure that’s not a limiting belief, because there’s a way to get executive assistants for very inexpensive for as little as five hours per week. So first and foremost, if you feel like you need that support, I would challenge you to make sure that’s not a limiting belief and to ask yourself what would have to be true in your business to make room for this, because usually, if you’ll make that investment, it’ll have amazing returns for you as a leader and actually produce a lot more in your business to free you up. So first and foremost, challenge that statement and that belief.

But there are people who don’t have anybody to delegate to, and whether you’re in the process of needing to hire someone or bring someone on or you’re in a position where you don’t have people under you, delegation doesn’t just apply to your professional environment. You can also start at home. I know virtual assistants and executive assistants who hire virtual assistants for five hours a week to do their budgets and to do some of their administrative tasks so they’re more freed up at home and can focus when they’re working.

I just think there are always options. There are ways to delegate that are not always human. We’ve talked about automation and getting things off your plate. There are ways to hire services to do things for you so it’s not directly NEA. But always kind of be open. Challenge that limiting belief, and start somewhere. Start small. I think once you start seeing the results of that, it’s a no-brainer option, and it grows easily from there.

Michael: I want to say, too, to solopreneurs, because I was in this boat for a while after I left the corporate world. You think, “I really can’t afford that.” You can’t afford not to do that. Because here’s what happens. When you delegate the lower level work, especially the work you can’t bill for, it frees you up to bill for more hours.

You’re going to make more than it’s going to cost you to pay an executive assistant, so that difference between what you make in those billable hours and what you pay for that executive assistance is margin, and it gets you more and more focused on what you do best. I tracked this for the first three years. Every time I hired someone, my personal income went up.

Suzie: That’s amazing.

Michael: Which is counterintuitive, but every time I hired someone, from the first person I hired from BELAY Solutions, my income went up.

Megan: BELAY, by the way, is a company that provides executive assistance on a contract basis. They’re friends of ours, and you can hire somebody for even five hours a week.

Michael: I think they have a 10-hour minimum now.

Megan: Okay. But you can start small. You don’t have to start at 40 hours a week or a full-time employee, which is great.

Michael: Yeah, test it. And you know what? If it doesn’t work for you, great, but we have clients constantly tell us this has been the thing that has made the biggest difference. They’ve seen the biggest jump in their income when they’ve learned to delegate, when they’ve hired somebody to help them.

Megan: Well, Suzie, we are so grateful you’ve been here with us today. Like I said, we could just keep talking and asking questions. I’m sure our listeners feel the same way. Do you have any final thoughts on delegation for leaders before we let you go?

Suzie: I would just say do it. Make it happen. The reason we could go on and on about this and geek out on this is because we’ve experienced immense transformation and immense growth from delegating successfully. You want that. You want to do that. So get brave about it. Make it happen. If you’ve been doing it for a long time, evaluate it. See what else you can do to free yourself up to focus on your most important tasks. If you’re just getting started, go for it and be a good delegator, because it really is transformational for yourself and for those you lead. So jump in.

Megan: Awesome. Thanks, Suzie. Today we’ve talked about productivity investments that pay for themselves, and we’ve discovered you can make great productivity gains by doing fewer things rather than doing more things faster. As we come in for a landing, I just want to remind you it’s worth taking the risk to invest in your own margin. Dad, do you have any final thoughts for today?

Michael: Just to remind people that when you’re evaluating your task list you can’t just accept every request, every incoming thing, and assume you’re going to be the only person doing it. It’s important to run it through a filter, and the filter we shared today is to eliminate, to automate, or to delegate. Just because something has to be done doesn’t mean it has to be done by you. It could be done by a machine, it could be done by a person, but you don’t have to do everything. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, that’s a choice.

Megan: Wow. As we close, I want to thank our sponsor LeaderBox. It provides automated personal development in a box. Check it out at If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, you can get the show notes and a full transcript online at

Michael: Thanks again for joining us. We never take that for granted, and we really would encourage you, if you enjoy the show, to tell your friends, tell your colleagues about it. Please leave a review, because that really helps us get visibility for the show. Do it wherever you listen to podcasts.

Megan: This program is copyrighted by Michael Hyatt & Company. All rights reserved. Our producer is Nick Jaworski.

Michael: Our writers are Joel Miller, Lawrence Wilson, Mandi Rivieccio, and Jeremy Lott.

Megan: Our recording engineer is Mike Burns.

Michael: Our production assistant is Aleshia Curry.

Megan: And our intern is Winston.

Michael: We invite you guys to join us for our next episode, where we’ll be discussing the character advantage in leadership. Until then, lead to win.