"It's faster just to do it myself."

Here’s a post from the archives that seems especially relevant right now, as I’m looking around at random messes and piles that I should really tell the kids to take care of…

The dishes, not washed correctly the first time. The towels left wadded up on the floor. The toys and candy wrappers (hello, post-Valentine’s Day mess!) strewn over the table.

I really should get the kids to clean up their own messes. I know. But so often, it just seems faster and easier to do it myself. 

The thing is, that’s true…but only for today. Tomorrow I’ll have to do it myself again. And the next day and the next. I save a moment, but what do I lose?

It’s such a crippling mindset, and only hurts us in the end. It’s like the time equivalent of “pennywise and pound foolish” – minute-wise, and hour foolish.  It’s what makes me resist instructing other people to do what I usually do. It’s what makes me resist creating systems to manage things better in the future. It’s what keeps me from trying new products and new technology and keep on stumbling along using “what works” instead of taking the time to explore what might work better.

Still, it’s easy to see why we fall into that trap. When every day seems like a breathless rush from activity to activity, deadline to deadline, chore to chore, it’s hard to imagine where we’ll find the time to train the kids to properly scrub a pot or organize the closet so we can find our stuff more easily in the future. But it’s so worth it, something I realize every time I set aside the time to do so and then watch how much more smoothly things run.

The trick is slowing down so that the “urgent” doesn’t keep getting in the way of the important. We can’t properly delegate in the midst of panic. As I ramp up my work life over the next month or two, I’m going to have to set aside serious time (even if it means dropping one or two things that no longer fit) to create new systems to help me and make sure the helpers in my life really understand what I need from them. It’s a time commitment, but sometimes you have to spend time to save time.

Some tricks I’m planning to try to help:

  • Set aside certain times of the day or week for organizing, instructing, and creating new systems. It’s difficult for me to think about much besides writing on a Monday morning, but Wednesday at 3 PM might be the perfect time to take a look at what I’m doing, tweak, and instruct. If your routine is very fragmented, you might consider setting aside 10 minutes a day rather than a bigger block of time each week.
  • Do  less in general.  This is something I’m always striving for, but it can’t hurt to give myself a reminder every now and then.
  • Assess. Time for some serious reflection. What’s currently on my plate? Why is it all there? Are all of my activities in line with my priorities? Is there anything I can temporarily put on hold until I’ve freed up the time for it? Is there anything I need to let go of for good?
I don’t expect this to happen overnight. In fact, I can’t expect this to happen overnight. Delegating is a process, and if it’s done correctly, it ought to take a while. But I’m taking steps to get the help I need…starting today. Even if it would seem “faster” to do it myself.
Do you ever fall into the “It’s easier and faster to do it myself” mentality? 


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