Simplify Decision Making: A Case for Strategic Delegation

As I wrestle over decisions, I’ve tried to become a quasi-expert on many topics. And if not an expert, at least I have tried to be very well informed about many things. Too many? Maybe. Some of those topics include:

  • Early childhood education: Waldorf or Montessori?
  • Home building: renovate or build? Modular, custom design or off-the-shelf plans?
  • Food regimes: paleo, pescatarian, vegan, whole 30, simple mindfulness, or Keto?
  • Writing: oxford commas, great thesis statements, using semi-colons?

I know a little, and sometimes a lot, about all of the above, and yet none of them are directly related to my profession as an executive coach and Enneagram facilitator.

A case for strategic delegation

We cannot be experts in everything. And even if we could, some topics are not of interest. So, if you love researching electric cars or natural skin care remedies, go for it. But if you don’t, I recommend delegating.

Let’s take medicine for example. I rarely argue with doctors. It’s an arena where I KNOW I don’t have anything close to the knowledge base of the experts (of the western or eastern variety). I have a primary care physician, at a large facility that tracks my appointments, communicates by email, reminds me of recommended tests, and responds to my new enquiries. And while no doctor is perfect, the system is working. I have resources available to me in the form of my primary care doctor, her support team, and a range of specialists, when needed. It works. 

Outside of that facility, I can also tap into other resources like my nephew who is a naturopath doctor, several friends who are doctors, a friend who is the best chiropractor I know, and more. I realize that I’m lucky to have a wealth of resources, but even if you don’t have these, you probably have more good advice available in your life than you realize. And, at the very least, you can hopefully find a primary care physician who has some of the resources of mine. It simplifies my life.

So, doctor, check that off the list. That may seem like an obvious one to delegate given the importance of your health, but it’s also a model for what we can do in other areas.

There are a myriad of important decisions we make about our lives:

  • financial: homes, careers and investments
  • health & well-bring: nutrition, skin care, exercise, down-time
  • people: our partners, our kids, our parents, our friends and our communities.

Add in the daily deluge of less important decisions and the whole process can be overwhelming. For decades, I’ve been searching for guidelines to help make decisions and simplify my life.  I think Albert Einstein said it best: 

Everything should be made as simple as possible,

but not simpler

So, I’m simplifying and trusting the experts in my life – until they give me reason to pause.  I believe that most of us have experts all around us. So, before you resort to a google search, try the humans. As an added bonus, you get the benefit of making a human connection. More connections are, after all, is what many of us crave. And while you’re seeking out experts in your life, I have another guideline:

Don’t delegate the big decisions

You need to make the important decisions yourself. You can delegate the rest to advisors found in your community or online, but important, or “big” decisions are yours to make. What do I mean by “big decisions?” That’s sort of up to you but my guideline is if it’s expensive and/or has long term impact, that makes it an important decision.

My husband has often claimed that women are the real decision makers in many heterosexual relationships. His assertion is that, for the most part, “women decide when to get married, where to live, and how many kids to have, while men decide what kind of car and how big the TV is.”  Okay, he’s exaggerating, but I’m trying to make a point that there are some big decisions in life that no one should delegate. Get your expert advice, call in all your “people,” and collaborate with your partner and family, but don’t completely delegate those really big decisions to anyone. Not even the strong partner in your life.

Now what about the smaller life decisions? Well, it depends on what you LIKE to do. The internet enables you to become an in-house expert on an incredible range of topics. One of my sisters is incredibly well informed about food and nutrition. She was way ahead of the curve on the possible harm from processed meats (now listed as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization), and the impact of refined carbohydrates. As my own knowledge grows, I realize how much she’s known for decades. But she likes to read about this; it’s in her nature. So, if you love to garden, fix things, run triathlons, invest in stocks, paint, eat, code, or decorate, have at it. Spend your time and energy on those things.

For all the other stuff of your life that’s NOT important or not a passion, simplify by delegating. 

Delegate, delegate, delegate. 

If it’s an important decision (i.e. has long term impact or it’s expensive), find the experts, interview three of them, and choose one. Then trust them until you’re given a good reason not to.

  • Buying or selling a house?  Ask your friends and neighbors for recommendations.  Crowd source for the best. Interview three agents or brokers. Decide.
  • How to choose your investments? This is certainly an important one so choose wisely. You have your risk tolerance factor to consider and choices to hire a professional to manage your nest egg, go it alone and invest, or put your savings into a fund. Seriously. Make a well-thought-out decision, hire well, and focus on what’s important and of value to you. Don’t delegate this decision.
  • Food? Vegan or paleo? Home-cooked or take out?  So many decisions with important considerations like your budget and your health, but find what works for you and set it up. When food-writer Ruth Reichl became full-time editor of Gourmet Magazine she still wanted to cook for her family. Her solution was to do some preparation and cooking on Sundays, but more importantly to plan the whole week. Her point was that many meals can be on the table in less than 30 minutes (not much longer than it takes to stop for takeout), but it has to be planned ahead of time. From her perspective, she liked cooking and wanted to do this for her family, so she put in the time and effort. Again, if food is your thing, by all means, get your farm-fresh delivery, explore new recipes and blogs and have fun with it. And if you want a home-made meal but don’t have a big budget or a lot of time, you can still have it, but as Ruth tells it, planning is the key. 

So, to be clear: big life decisions you can’t delegate. Call in all the support you need/can afford. For all the rest, there are three types of decisions to make or delegate:

  1. Important decisions (like your health & investments): Do some research, find your experts, verify their qualifications, and then trust them. Don’t forget to re-visit your decisions – check up in your advisors on a regular basis (that’s always your responsibility).
  2. Less important and of little interest:  Similar to #1 above, delegate this thoughtfully, but it doesn’t need quite as much research. Ask a few friends, do some good internet research, decide and move on.
  3. Do what you love:  research your next vacation, plan your meals for the week, delve into the merits of electric vs. hybrid cars…or whatever you like. As long as you enjoy doing it.

So whether you’re deciding if you should pay for that coveted parking space, what car to buy, what food plan to follow, what tech stocks to buy, or where to get a mortgage, it will fall into one of the 3 options above. 

I hope this streamlines some of your decisions. The more you can let go of, the more time you have to do what you love.

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