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Delegating to myself

The art of tricking myself into doing what myself tells me to do.

Just yesterday, the book The Mom Test gave me a swift kick in the pants with this quote:

For unpleasant tasks, imagine what you would have someone else do if you were delegating it. Then do that.

Rob Fitzpatrick, “The Mom Test”

I immediately fell in love with this concept. Let’s dig into it by first looking up the definition of the word “delegate”:

delegate: verb – entrust (a task or responsibility) to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself

Oxford English Dictionary

That last part is key. If I’m giving a task to someone less senior than me, I lay it out with subtasks and any other info they may need.

This jives well with a favorite philosophy of mine, which is that I should treat future-me as another person. It’s like, when I’m staying at someone else’s house, I’m more likely to pick up after myself and make my bed and generally be super respectful. If I treat future-me as another person, I can trick my brain into doing all those things for myself.

So to delegate something to myself, what I’m really doing is treating future-me as a different, less senior person. I’m tricking my brain into doing some planning for this unpleasant task, which makes it much less unpleasant when I’m actually doing it. I’m being more respectful to future-me.

For example, say I need new tires. Instead of just putting “new tires” on my todo list, I can delegate it (to myself). When I’m delegating to someone less senior, I probably want to split it up into specific subtasks, like:

  • Call tire shop (867-5309)
  • Make an appointment to bring in my car
  • Block off my calendar during that time

My favorite todo list app Amazing Marvin calls these types of tasks “tasty tasks”:

A tasty task is one that you immediately want to do when you look at it. This happens when it’s super clear what the task entails and you feel confident that you can actually complete the task.

Amazing Marvin blog

See how “Call tire shop (867-5309)” is a tastier task than just “New tires”? That’s one reason I love this self delegation concept.

The other reason I love it is that it makes me less likely to take lazy shortcuts. If I wouldn’t tolerate those shortcuts from the person I delegate the work to, then I can’t tolerate them from myself either.

So watch me crack the whip on myself! Observe as I put myself to work and don’t take no crap from myself!

Anyone who needs to speak to me has got to go through me first, alright?

Dwight Schrute