yourself, depending on what work you choose to do. This column discusses how to prioritize and delegate work so you can bring the most value to your team and organization.

High-value tasks leverage your expertise and experience and thus challenge you to bring your very best to your work. Low-value tasks are easy for you to do, but they could have been done by someone with far less training and capability. Every hour you divert from a high- to a low-value task gives you a complimentary downgrade in your value and importance as a physician. And while you are doing work that could be done by someone with less capability, who is doing the job only you can do?

Not only does diverting time to low-value work lessen your contribution to your organization but also it lessens your value as a professional in the eyes of those who see you doing that work. When someone sees you doing a low-value task, they don’t see you as someone who is a team player and pitches in no matter what the job. They see you as someone who doesn’t seem to be growing and developing in the way that you should. Their first thought would typically be “I thought she was beyond that in her career!” After all, your chair won’t be impressed by an associate professor who can do the work of a resident or an administrative assistant better and faster than they do.

The “golden rule” for high-value professionals is the following:

Anything that can be delegated must be delegated.

Without the golden rule, delegation is a complicated process. You must first decide if a task or project should be delegated. To do that, you will need to balance priorities, capabilities, workloads, trust, and urgency. Then, for each of the things you have chosen to delegate, you need to decide to whom you will delegate it and then actually delegate it and ensure the person understands exactly what you need.

But you only need to decide one time to accept the golden rule—once you do, your life is simplified. You will no longer need to spend a lot of time and energy deciding whether to delegate each task or project. Instead, all you need to ask yourself is if there is anyone below you in the organization who could credibly perform the work. If there is, you delegate to them. It is that simple.

There are two main challenges to applying the “golden rule.” The first challenge is thinking you can do it better and faster yourself. That is almost certainly true. But tasks (or ones like it) repeat. If you invest 3 times the effort of doing it yourself to train someone else, you will reap the benefit the next 20 times a task of that nature arises.

The second challenge is that there may be no one organizationally below you to whom you can delegate. Rather than looking at this as a lost cause and jumping in to do it yourself, take a moment to ask what would happen if it wasn’t done at all? After all, many of your esteemed colleagues don’t do all the things you do, and you don’t do all the things they do. Rather than spreading yourself too thin and doing a passable job on a low-value task, you might be far better off simply to not do the work and to focus instead on the unending number of higher-value activities you could choose to do with excellence.

How will you prioritize high-value tasks—and your own value—in 2024?



ACLGIM, Leadership, Administration, & Career Planning

Author Descriptions

Mr. Hopf ( is co-author of Stop Competing and Start Winning: The Business of Coaching and co-author of Rethink, Reinvent, Reposition: 12 Strategies to Renew Your Business and Boost Your Bottom Line, the latter named the “book of the month” by the Institute for Management Studies.