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Stop Working In The Trenches: Free Yourself Up For Higher-Value Tasks


Workers, freelancers, and solopreneurs have an incredible opportunity to escape the mundane aspects of their work and focus on the stuff that really interests them and matters. But the reality is that most people are still working in the trenches, spending an enormous amount of their time doing things which could quite easily be done by machine or passed on to somebody else. Why is this?


Experts call it the “competency trap.” It’s the idea that some business leaders get so wrapped up in all their processes that their entire operation becomes dependent on them. It applies just as much to entrepreneurs as it does to workers and freelancers. The problem with the competency trap is that it slowly drains the life out of the person at the center of it. If you’re the only person with the skills to solve a particular problem, you’ll be regularly called upon to deal with it, taking you away from other, higher-value tasks.


The competency trap is a major problem for many professionals. Team leaders, workers, and even administrators will often take on extra work because they are afraid of what will happen if they delegate it to somebody else or let a machine do it for them. The result is filling out invoices until 9 pm at night, running around like a headless chicken and feeling totally burned out.


Are you the go-to person for issues at work in your organization? Do you wish you had more time to focus on higher-value tasks and furthering your career? If so, take a look at some of these tips to help you stop working in the trenches, escape the competency trap, and enjoy the career you deserve.


Write A List Of Tasks That You Feel That Only You Can Handle


Before shedding any of your workload, take a look at the tasks that you and you alone can perform. Often you’ll find that a significant number of the tasks you’re currently doing don’t make it onto the list. Just by going through the process of categorizing tasks, you’re often able to shed unnecessary jobs and pass them on to other people.


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Even once you’ve got your list of tasks, the process of shedding work doesn’t end there. The next step in the process is to create a shortlist of people in your team (or external companies if you’re a freelancer) who have the potential to do the work you do right now. Play to each person’s strengths: there’s no need for all your responsibilities to be handed over to a single person. Look for the members of your team with the most promise.


Start Relying More On Technology


Many people think that if you want something doing well at work, you have to do it by hand. But with improvements in technology, software is becoming increasingly adept at replacing traditional human labor. Today’s leading software is cutting the time that business leaders have to spend sending invoices and collecting payment by orders of magnitude. You can visit DataServ for more info on the specifics, but suffice to say, technology is providing workers with more time to focus on interesting and creative pursuit. The great thing about this technology is that it can be applied to practically all the repetitive tasks that cause workers to experience burnout. Why spend all your time filling out invoices or doing your accounts when intelligent software can do it all for you in the blink of an eye.


It’s important, however, not to let your automation strategy become another of your core competencies. Automation is great when it’s up and running, but setting up and maintaining these systems can often take a considerable amount of time and effort. Delegating these responsibilities to third parties is essential if you want to free up your time.


Get Your Team Fully On Board


Everybody knows that getting people to change their work habits is a massive challenge. People like to do the same thing, day after day because that’s what they’re used to and that’s what’s easiest. But if you want to escape the competency trap, you’ll need to pass some tasks, especially creative tasks, over to other team members.




The best way to do this is to focus on how you’re going to sell the transition to your team members. Avoid admitting that you’re exhausted and don’t want to do it anymore. Instead, point out how the new experience will be a great addition to their CV and will provide them with valuable, marketable skills. Note also that in the future, these new skills will make it more likely that they’ll get a promotion or a job offer from another company in the future. With any luck, you should be able to create excitement among your team and motivate them to grow as individuals.


Consolidate Your Position And Write A Transition Plan


Once you’ve got the go ahead from your key team members, the next stage is to consolidate your position. As a first step, find out which technologies you can use to your advantage quickly and easily. For instance, could you automate your payments and billing processes? Could you automate your marketing processes or outsource them to a third party company? Do you have a robust CRM system, or would your team benefit from better tools?


The next step is to sit down with your star team members and write a plan for how they are going to complete their additional roles. Get them to be clear with you about their concerns and where they feel they may need additional training. Ask them whether they are prepared to take on the extra work and discuss with them any additional pay they will receive. Also, point out that you will offer them additional support going forward should they need it.


Delegating responsibility and escaping the competency trap is difficult. But those who are successful in their careers and business make a habit of it. They realize that they can’t do everything themselves, and so they pass on tasks to others so that they can focus on higher-value activities.