Habit List & Delegation

October 10, 2019

These are two completely separate topics, but it dawned on me yesterday that while I am good at delegation in the clinical realm (this took me time, but I got there! I am lucky to work with a fantastic medical assistant) and at home (our nanny), I am not a great delegator in my GME role.

And I need to be!

I do think there is a fine line. Sometimes I see people delegate . . . too much. There’s really no standard here. I am sure that men tend to delegate more than women. Here are examples of tasks that I did/am doing by myself, recently:

  • Send out electronic invitations for a mentor gathering
  • Print out handouts for a recent faculty meeting
  • Schedule and reschedule my residents for quarterly meetings with me and/or our APD (though this was a joint effort)
  • Write, print, and scan a ‘letter of good standing’ for one of our residents

None of these actions take that long (well actually, the electronic invite one is kind of annoying). But when you have many of them they add up and take away from the deeper work I need to be doing — connection directly with faculty, keeping up with the most recent ACGME guidelines, etc. I think my hesitancy to outsource here has been related to having an interim program coordinator, but I also think it’s a confidence issue. Like I don’t want to seem too entitled or bossy or . . . something.

Since we are currently hiring for this position, I am going to try my best to help train the new coordinator really really well (and treat her really really well!), and I hope she will encourage me to delegate if I am not doing so on my own!


On a totally unrelated note, I am reading Atomic Habits and MY GOD, it’s a great book on habits. Seriously. If you are at all interested in habits (and really, everyone should be, habits are a big part of life) — read this book.

For fun and my own personal development, here is a list of habits that I am happy to have . . . and habits I would like to break!

Some habits I am happy to have developed:

✔︎ Flossing. For over a YEAR now, every single day except for 2-3 days total when I couldn’t find floss or we ran out. This habit took me approximately 15 years to develop but now feels truly instinctual, so it gives me hope for many others.

✔︎ Drinking coffee. This may be my oldest and strongest habit, circa ~1995 (I learned quickly that it helped me not sleep through 10th grade math). My more modern variation of this habit is setting the pot up the night before (circa 2018). While the coffee-drinking itself isn’t necessarily that virtuous, having it brewed the night before is a perfect habit-stacking mechanism for me. While I drink my coffee, I read, plan, and often write here.

✔︎ Posting here. Okay, maybe not daily, but clearly I’ve done enough writing in this space over the years that it’s a habit. This one speaks to “pick habits that suit you and you’ll follow them.” I enjoy this habit a great deal, so it’s likely to have significant longevity.

✔︎ Exercise. Definitely a habit for me. Usually stacked with reading, blogging, and coffee. I find it much harder to exercise later in the day (though sometimes I manage to crank it out). Strength training was a much harder habit for me to build than running (which is attractive for its post-run endorphin rush), but I feel after >1 year of consistent Beachbody workouts I can say I have built this habit.

✔︎ Hugging the kids in the morning. It’s pretty instinctual but I love to hug them when they come downstairs (G I hug standing up when I get her out of the crib, though she doesn’t let me linger long b/c she’s such a busybody). I guess I should probably expand this to hug my husband. Sorry Josh! Will work on it.

✔︎ Tracking various things including expenditures, health, nutrition, workouts. It’s instinctual for me to go right to strava and record a workout right after it’s done — I just love the ‘gold star’ feeling I get when I do it!

✔︎ Daily planning. I’m great at laying out my day, typically in the morning (theme: I am better at habits, in general, in the morning!).

✔︎ Skincare. This one is in progress, but so far so good!

Habits I would love to build or shed someday

To shed:

Haphazard phone use, particularly around the kids. It would be better for me to just consistently DOCK THAT THING, particularly between ~5:30p – 8:30p. What could I miss?

Randomly checking in on email throughout the day. Ugh! I know I would be able to focus better if I could just remember to leave that outlook window CLOSED until predetermined times. And same with my gmail, really. All the task switching is terrible and I hate it . . . and yet I do it!

I bite my nails! It’s so terrible. I don’t bite them down to the quick or anything, but they are not very pretty.

To build:

Having a consistent weekly review process (probably on Fridays). I have a great process; I just do it fairly haphazardly and some weeks I (gasp!) skip it and pay a price.

I would like to work farther ahead on some things. Things like podcast prep & presentations at work. These ‘deep work hard things’ often get pushed until they meet both the important AND urgent criteria, which is stressful (though admittedly effective).

Obviously this isn’t a complete list, but it’s plenty! Please feel free to share inspiring habit stories!!

PIX from our day off yesterday (it was Yom Kippur and the kids were off. We didn’t really celebrate the holiday, which was fine with me, but had some nice times. Our nanny was here so I had a good amount of relaxation/productive time, too. Which I needed.)

omg these school pix
we made (and ate) chocolate chip banana bread! Well, A&C did it with me. G helped by doing other things 🙂


  • Reply Tamara October 10, 2019 at 8:30 am

    Filing my nails every night helped me kick the nail biting habit! If they are short and neat, I am less inclined to “ruin them”. I still pick at them but much less!

  • Reply gwinne October 10, 2019 at 8:37 am

    Really timely post for me! It resonates quite a bit

    * I read Atomic Habits over the summer–I also really liked it! I need to go back through my notes and implement some strategies/build positive habits.

    * There aren’t many areas that I can delegate, but I am also getting better at it. I realized yesterday that I had in fact accomplished something huge at work almost solely through delegated tasks. While I did very little of the actual labor, this is a major project (years in the making) that wouldn’t have happened without me getting grant funding, coordinating folks across departments, and hiring student workers.

    I’m enjoying your more regular posting about time/planning matters!

  • Reply omdg October 10, 2019 at 8:48 am

    Sarah, Maybe you can shed some light on this… but how do you handle things if you delegate a task to someone and they either a) do a bad job, b) don’t do the task at all, or c) don’t do the task in a timely fashion. Double the annoyance if they roll their eyes or act irritated with you when you do the delegating.

  • Reply Beth @ Parent Lightly October 10, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    I really liked Atomic Habits, too! I’m not one for Big Huge Major Goals (I hate NY Resolutions) so I like the idea of small changes. 🙂

  • Reply acdalal October 10, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    I just started a part-time administrative position (I’m in academia) and I so get your struggles with delegating! My role is brand new and I have 2 brand-new staff positions working with me, and I find myself fighting the urge to just do things myself instead of taking the time to delegate/explain/train the staff. Telling myself that my dean *expects* me to delegate helps a bit, as does reminding myself that a lot of the things I am not delegating are in fact better suited to the staff. Hang in there and good luck!

  • Reply Erica S October 10, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    The phone habit … it’s such a problem. I want the phone nearby to document the cuteness but then I get sucked into instagram stories.

  • Reply Meg October 10, 2019 at 3:07 pm

    Hi Sarah! Regarding delegation tactics: Several years ago I worked with a team member who came into my office every few days and asked me “What can I take off your plate?” I would share a few things I was working on and he would say, “I can take care of that.” He essentially trained me to delegate. Now when I have a new team member start I tell them, “I need you to ask me this question every few days because I tend to hang on to things that I don’t need to.” It’s changed my work life!

    Thank you for all the work that you and Laura have done on the podcast. It’s helped me normalize some of my frustrations and joys as a full-time working mom who loves her job and her kiddos so very much. Keep up the great work!

    • Reply LEE A HILLHOUSE October 10, 2019 at 8:27 pm

      That is an awesome idea to tell staff to do that, and to explain it in exactly that way.

  • Reply Liz B. October 10, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    GAAAAHHHHHH!!!! I LOVE JAMES CLEAR’S ATOMIC HABITS!!!! The opening story is so chilling!! I have been on a mission to create better habits for myself and to focus on small things I can change that have a huge impact in the long run.

    As far as delegation, I have always had a bit of a problem with this, even though I have supervised many SLP-Assistants and graduate students over the past several years. Like some of the readers above, I have worked with many who have been ready, willing, and more than capable of performing tasks that don’t require my professional skills, but I have also worked with some who just didn’t quite hit the mark, despite training. In those cases, I tend to revert to my “it would be easier if I just did it myself!” mentality, which isn’t always the best solution.

  • Reply Katie October 10, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    I love these habits! I have some pretty deeply ingrained habits, like reading for bed (nearly every single night since I learned how to read!). I would like to get much better about planning out my days like you do. I get easily overwhelmed visually by planners though, so I’m trying out a bullet journal. I find I tend to stick with it for 2 weeks or so and then wear out. But I know if it could become automatic for me to plan, it would be SO much easier on my brain! Just not something that comes super naturally to me.

  • Reply Helen Thomas October 10, 2019 at 9:58 pm

    Have you tried dip powder manicures? I do my own, but plenty of salons offer it. I know lots of times nurses etc. cannot have anything on their nails, but I don’t know what your job requires of you. You can’t pick this off without damaging your nails, but it’s also super strong so you’d likely stop trying.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger October 11, 2019 at 4:32 pm

      Ooh I’m scared of putting something on that requires a salon visit to take off!!!

      I did treat myself to a regular mani (short nails, clearish polish) totally inspired by my own post 🙂 I will never bite manicured nails but I don’t think weekly manicures are ever going to be a thing for me!

      • Reply Helen Thomas October 11, 2019 at 6:24 pm

        I remove it at home no problem 🙂 definitely hard when you have littles, but I love it!

  • Reply Margaret October 12, 2019 at 7:25 am

    Habit I’m most proud of:
    Lunches and work/school bags the night before. I took me a while to do this and no, I don’t always want to but I find reframing the question in terms of my future self helps. “Have you ever woken up dissapointed that the lunches and bags were all ready?” Answer to that is a resounding “nope!” I find this future reframing to help me with habits a lot. Will I be glad to come home to a load of wet laundry in the washer? or would future me really appreciate the fact that I took an extra few min to put it in the dryer.

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