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Busy Being Busy: How to use Virtual Assistants to Manage Workload

You wake up. Immediately you notice how tired you are from staying up too late the night before “catching up on things.” One of the first things you do is grab your phone and anxiety sets in as you notice that somehow you already have over a dozen emails waiting for you! On the way to work you anguish over your growing to do list with items carrying over from weeks before. You sit down at work to start answering some of these emails and to your horror you find that they are coming in faster than you can send them out! Not only that but every time you send one out it’s almost like you get two back! Throughout the day you have voicemails, texts, social networking messages, meetings, personal errands to run, client follow ups, and a whole series of interruptions that constantly leave you feeling like you’re behind. Sound familiar? Ever think that just “keeping up” with everything could be a full time job? Guess what? You might be right.

This lifestyle is astoundingly and sadly common among ambitious professionals and it is created by the one common problem that many of us have which is a lack of systems to manage workflow. Fortunately there is a new modern solution; it’s called Virtual Assistants – or what I more appropriately refer to as “Virtual Assistance.”

The days of only top executives having assistants are over. In this internet age hundreds of thousands of people are turning to a rapidly developing trend of working with VAs. They are fairly easy to find, cheaper than you might expect, and if you know “the system” for working with them they can dramatically change your lifestyle. Here is the 6 step process for finding, hiring, training, and working with quality VAs.

Step 1 –Question Yourself critically. If you’ve been following my work for a while, you know that one of the antitheses of the disciplined “Take The Stairs Mentality” is what we call creative avoidance. That is creating busy work for yourself just to avoid doing things you know you need to be doing. No amount of VA will solve your lack of discipline so be brutally honest and decide first if you can eliminate some of these tasks or if there is legitimate admin work that needs more time than you have.

Step 2 – Inventory Your Workflow. Okay, busy bee. If you really think you’re that busy, then write out a detailed list of all of the activities that you are currently doing that could be outsourced to someone else. This does two things: it validates your decision on step 1 above and it becomes the game plan for training your VA(s). If your list isn’t incredibly long, then you are fooling yourself and you’re creatively avoidant which means you need to develop more discipline. Fortunately there is a guy who has a great blog full of articles that can help you with that and you can find it at www.takethestairstour.com .

Step 3 – Create Job Descriptions. Working off of the list you just created you can now come up with a list of skills and resources that a person would need to have in order to complete those activities for you. I suggest a two-paragraph simple description that summarize:  A. What types of things you need done and B. What skills you are specifically looking for in a VA.

Step 4 – Post To Virtual Marketplace. This is the magic of the internet. There are dozens of websites or virtual marketplaces (almost like digital flea markets) that are free and open 24/7 helping to connect people with skills looking for work, and people with jobs looking for help. My buddy Timothy Ferriss has lots of them listed in “4-Hour Workweek” or you can Google Virtual Assistants or you can use my favorites:

Create a free profile on any of these sites and “post a new job” where you paste in your job description. Set a budget for what you’re willing to pay for a person like this and for the number of hours you want them to work. (If your goal is to make $100k, then your time is worth $52/hr so pony up some dough to help you get there.) Of course, the higher skilled tasks you need accomplished the more you are going to have to pay. VAs are available from $2-$20 per hour. $5-$7 for overseas and $7 -$9 for US can get you some quality resumes.

Step 5 – Identify Key Characteristics. Think ahead of time about what type of person you want representing you. This depends on the amount (if any) of communication they’ll be having with your customers. I recommend you start someone with just a few hours as a trial basis but present the vision of building with them for the long term. Phone interviews are best, skype works, or many of the marketplaces have a live chat function that works just as well. These marketplaces score their providers so you can read testimonials of people who’ve worked with them in the past and how they’ve scored in specific areas on tests.

Step 6 – Begin Outsourcing. Start by delegating simple tasks first. See how your VA(s) manage. If you don’t like one, go get a new one. Create a to-do list each day for your VA to accomplish. It’s simple; create one for yourself first and then look to see which items you can outsource. Of course for some things you need a physical person but it’s amazing how much you can do virtually. Many VA(s) are experienced with online programs that can do things you’ve never heard of. Another simple way to get started is to start forwarding them emails from your inbox with specific instructions for how to complete the objective. If you want more tips on how to work with your VA leave a comment for me and I’ll consider posting more on this.

By the way, this post was written on a plane by me but then emailed to a team of virtual assistants who edited it, posted it, hyperlinked it, social bookmarked it, added it to my social networking profiles, and notified you that it was available. There are few things in my recent life that I appreciate more than my amazing team of VAs. They have given me my life back and improved my ability to do things that generate more money and maximize my passions and skills. They can free up your time so that you can do more important things like TAKE THE STAIRS.

This process does work and it will give you your life back if you have the discipline to implement it with consistency and focus like anything else. Discipline does not mean your life has to always be hard. Remember my theory: the short-term easy often creates long-term difficult but the short-term difficult often creates the long-term easy. VAs are a prime example of how being disciplined to take a step backwards will help you have a more enjoyable and productive life in the long run. There is much more to be learned about working with VAs. If you like this topic and want more information on it please leave a comment and I’ll take the time to explain more.

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See you in the stairwell,

Rory Vaden
Take the stairs – Success means doing what others won’t.

  • Great post – Just subscriped to your RSS feed.. Thanks
    Very interesting post – Might be old new, but it was new to me. Thanks.

  • Great to have you and glad you liked the post. Yes, it is a form of old new in that the majority of the concept comes from Tim Ferriss’ book “4-Hour Work Week” but it’s simplified and applied to professionals. I look forward to staying in touch. See you in the stairwell, Rory

  • Good tips. I don’t mind outsourcing projects, but giving out passwords, account numbers, etc is out of my comfort zone.

    Though it takes time to build trust on both sides.

    However, I know I need to outsource more. After spending dozens of hours editing “Make the Audience Laugh”, and having some sound editing problems, I wished I had just outsourced the editing for $70. I’ll know for next time.

    I liked your statement: “Remember my theory: the short-term easy often creates long-term difficult but the short-term difficult often creates the long-term easy.”

    Keep up the great posts!

    Arlen

  • Pingback: Advanced E-mail Strategies: Getting your Inbox to 0 — Part 2 « Take The Stairs()

  • Sounds like a great idea. Now…how to fit that into my budget….

  • Lmiller

    I would love to hear more about VAs and the types of tasks and work assignments that can be delegated in this way.

  • JWil

    This topic definitely bears updating and expanding upon. I’m just dipping my toe into hiring VAs and the worst part for me is that I keep hiring people and then making them wait because I’m too busy to train them properly!

  • Thanks JWil! You’re right that it is about time for an update. In fact I have a new book coming out related to this topic this coming January. In the meantime here is an archive listing of everything I’ve shared on working with VAs: http://roryvaden.com/blog/tag/virtual-assistants/

    And here is a list of everything related specifically to strategies for getting a bit more control of your time.

    Time: http://roryvaden.com/blog/category/time-management-tips/

    Hope this helps and look forward to stay in touch!

    Rory

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