Church leaders – we’ve got a great (and free!) event coming next Tuesday to help you lead with financial confidence and increase your regular giving.
Miles Advisory Group (parent company of eaHELP) is proud to partner with The Rocket Company in presenting “Fund the Vision God Has for Your Church,” a free online event next Tuesday, March 11, from 1 to 4 p.m. Eastern. Featuring six church leaders from around the globe who’ve learned how to inspire generosity and giving in their congregations, they’ll share how you increasing giving and service in your church and get your members fired up about being part of something bigger than themselves.
You’ll hear from:
- Perry Noble of Newspring Church
- Chris Hodges of Church of the Highlands
- Brian Houston of Hillsong Church, Sydney
- Casey Graham of The Rocket Company
- Carl Lentz of Hillsong Church, New York
- Troy Gramling of Potential Church
If you’ve got a vision for your church that’s bigger than what you’re seeing now, you’ll want to be part of this event! Register now, and we’ll see you on March 11!
You know what’s crazy? When I look back over the list of elective classes I took when I was in graduate school, not one of them was entitled “Managing the Egos of Everyone on Your Team”.
And yet, when I moved into a new position after I graduated with my MBA, I instantly found myself tiptoeing across a minefield of personality conflicts, organizational history, and power struggles that I had no idea existed in my company. Nothing I read in any class prepared me for that – it was all on-the-job training from then on out.
Here are a few of the things I learned from navigating some pretty treacherous organizational waters during that period of my career:
- Conflicts were rarely about me. I was managing a pretty high-visibility project surrounding some new banking regulations, and tensions were running high – we had major changes to make to our systems, we had a lot of complex information to communicate to our customers, and lots of questions were flying. I was the face of that project, and got caught in the crossfire of lots of conflicts surrounding it. When the project was finished, I was able to step back and see that those conflicts had nothing to do with me, but were coming from the stress others were feeling about getting this project done. It felt personal, because I was the one getting the pushback, but it really wasn’t about me or my abilities.
- You’re going to step on some of those landmines. Even if you’ve been in your present position for years, and have developed strong relationships with your colleagues and leaders, occasionally you’re going to step on a landmine and find yourself in a storm of personality clashes and conflicts that have been brewing for years. Once you’re there, the best thing you can do keep your cool, focus on the project (not the personality conflicts), and wait for the calm after the storm. It will come, and you’ll have better insight into where you’re headed next.
- Don’t let a fear of conflict hold you back. It may seem easier to stay away from the difficult people or teams in your organization, but that decision will have longer-term consequences than just this particular project or conflict. A long-term strategy of never engaging in conflicts or standing up for your viewpoints will get you a reputation in your organization – you’ll be the one who can’t push things through and get things done. And it has long-term psychological consequences, too, when it comes to your confidence in your abilities and your self-esteem. Dealing with people in conflict isn’t ever going to be easy, but you’ll definitely be a better person on the other side of it if you take the time to learn from it.
Welcome to this week’s episode of Virtual Assistant Podcast! Watch for new episodes every other Monday, highlighting how eaHELP clients are using virtual assistants to take their businesses further faster. We’re pleased to welcome Nick Loper as our guest this week.
Nick Loper runs an extensive virtual assistant (VA) review service called Virtual Assistant Assistant. Nick has been working with VAs on a number of different business and projects over the years and brings a wealth of industry understanding to the podcast. This episode is packed with helpful insights for people looking to leverage their time better through the use of a virtual assistant. Nick gives us his perspective on working with a VA and some insights into the broader movement as a whole.
01:37 // Nick has staff all over the world
03:00 // “I was too busy chopping down the trees to sharpen the saw’
04:50 // Initial investment of time for training
05:20 // VA takes care of daily website maintenance
07:53 // First outsourced project was the building of his website
12:00 // “You need to be working on your business, rather than in it”
13:54 // Start small with a five-hour-per-week VA
Planning Process // Keeps an iPhone Notes list
How does he protect his time? // Aggressive email filters, Unroll.me
Fun Story with his VA? // VA was recognized as in the top 20 Elance VA in Macedonia. Text messages from Pakistan while he is skiing.
Rich – Alright, well welcome to the The Virtual Assistant Podcast. The place for busy leaders looking to delegate more, so they can focus on what’s most important in their business. My name’s Rich Birch, the host of the show and today we have a real treat. Our guest is Nick Loper – an expert, really, on the entire virtual assistant industry and you are going to hear more about that. But Nick, welcome to the show.
Nick – Hey Rich. Thanks for having me.
Rich – Nick, why don’t we start with… kind of give us a sense of your business, tell us about all the various aspects of Nick Loper International.
Nick – Well, it is an international operation. I’ve got my VA who is in Macedonia. She’s been with me a year and a half. I’ve got a development team on the East Coast and in India. And I work with people all over the world just from my little six-square-foot office work space here. It’s pretty fun. So my background in the virtual assistant industry is creator of Virtualassistantassistant.com. It’s a review platform, kind of a YELP for all the different VA companies out there, whether they are in the U.S. or overseas. It’s been a ton of fun to put together. We are closing in on probably about 100 companies on there now, and closing in on probably 500 user reviews. It’s been a ton of fun to watch that grow and be a part of the industry from that perspective.
Rich – Nice. Yeah, that’s fantastic. Obviously you have a great insight in what’s happening across the board in a bunch of different avenues. In your own world, we are going to talk about you personally on the show today, in your own world, what was happening when you realized gosh, I need to get a virtual assistant to help me .
Nick – It’s this kind of common, entrepreneurial overwhelm, right. In my business, I like to use the metaphor, “I was too busy chopping down trees to sharpen the saw.” And even when looking at hiring a VA, I was like, I don’t have time for that, because it’s going to take training away from doing the work that needs to be done. On top of that, I didn’t know where to go. Should I hire somebody locally? I work from home, I don’t really want someone sitting at my kitchen table. If I go to the gym or the grocery store during the day that would be weird. People had recommended, why don’t you just, because we were right next to the community college, why don’t you just go and post a little thing, a marketing internship, something down there and hire somebody locally. I don’t know, I am terrified to death of the California regulatory burdens, payroll and all this nonsense, so that’s when I started looking at some of these virtual solutions and haven’t looked back since.
Rich – So you said your current assistant has been with you 18 months or so. Has that been the extent of it, or before that have you had some other assistants working with you?
Nick – I had had three real long-term hires. So my first experience was with a company called Timesaver out of Pakistan. At the time they were doing something ridiculous, it was like a full time employee, six days a week for $850 a month it was.
Rich – Crazy.
Nick – It was just nuts. Business was booming and so I was like, this is a no-brainer. Let’s bring somebody on board. We are going to invest a bit of time up front. Maybe they aren’t going to work as fast or as high quality as me, but hey, maybe they are going to work four hours a day. Shoot, that’s awesome. And the guy turned out to be really, really good and a loyal worker.
Rich – Now what are the kind of, if you could name two or three things that you consistently delegate to your VA’s, what would those things be?
Nick – So the biggest things for me would be the daily website maintenance. So this was kind of routine stuff, that was not rocket science, but it was taking up a lot of my time on a daily basis. So she runs the incoming products and dealing with the outgoing products as I generate some broken links and stuff, so she works on fixing those and she runs the live chat, customer service side of things. Which may or may not be necessary, but she has said multiple times that this would be pretty boring if I didn’t have some kind of interaction. So that’s an excuse to talk to people and have a bit of interaction during the course of the day.
Rich – That’s cool. Tell me more about the live chat, customer support. How does that work? What’s a typical interaction look like?
Nick – So we’ll get people, so this is on a shoe price comparison site, so she’ll get questions, do you have this size, or I am looking for something for a wedding coming up, or hey, just a heads up the price is wrong. We get that a lot. So then we have to go in and manually correct the price and stuff like that. One thing about live chat, I will add, is when it’s just sitting there idle down on the screen, the take rate is very low. But once you add in this proactive invitation ‘Hey, we are here to help you, just let me know.’ We saw a ten-times increase in people who chose to engage. So I thought it was a cool way to show there’s real people behind this site. And to add an extra layer of legitimacy and touch to it.
Rich – Right. It’s nice on a, particularly a retail conversion like that, you don’t want, if it’s just a simple question, you need to find this information, the people who are there, they can take action right away. That’s great tool to add to the mix for sure.
Nick – Ya, so what she’ll do, now we don’t have the greatest tracking system in the world, but when she thinks she’s made a sale, she’ll put it in Google Docs, so every now and again I go through and bonus those out. Some sort of sales incentive to do good customer service.
Rich – Now is there anything else you have been outsourcing? Maybe out side of the realm of VA-ing. Maybe something a bit broader. What are some of those that you are also finding someone to help you with?
Nick – Well, to get the website built from day one that was my biggest outsourcing project. That was probably one of the biggest bets I had to make to get started. It was a five-figure investment. That was a little bit of a roll of the dice. I had done some sort of validation in advance, but that was a little bit risky. So yeah, all sorts of stuff: web development, different WordPress tweaks, content creation, research, you name it, graphics. I’ve dipped my toe in the water of a lot of outsourcing ideas.
Rich – Now on that side, how have you found workers across the board? Have you kind of been o-Desk, Elance, that sort of thing? Has that been the avenue for finding help with those kind of tasks?
Nick – So I started out on a site called Guru.com, and actually haven’t used them since but have been working with a team off platform since we have built up that trust. But I’ve had the best success in finding long term people on Elance, surprisingly because they are kind of known as project-based platform. But taking a risk with some people without a ton of feedback on the platform, because if I’m looking for someone indefinitely, I don’t care that they have like 10 jobs in the last five months, I want to see someone who has some longevity. I’ve tested a number of VA companies, including Fiver, which is probably my favorite place to start for tiny one-off projects. Just last week I was getting a bunch of different website tweaks done, hey this category isn’t showing up right, or I’d really like it if this box was over here. Stuff like that. It’s a great place to go for these kind of minor little tweaks.
Rich – Well I know a lot of times for entrepreneurs, it can be hard to give up control and to help someone else take a piece of their business, or to delegate to someone else. What has been the most difficult to delegate, and how have you overcome that?
Nick – From the very get go, I’m running in to my ceiling, just spinning to get through my stuff. But then there’s this fear of giving up that control. And there was a lot of other fears and excuses too. Like someone’s going to steal my idea. They are going to do a crappy job. But since we were doing a lot of pay-per-click advertising, this was giving someone access to my ad-words account which has my credit card. If they screw something up, they can blow your budget out of the water in an instant. It’s only happened once or twice where we’ve done the wrong key word and you see it spike for a day and it’s like whoah, you can’t turn it off fast enough. There’s alerts and stuff you an set up for that, and different permissions levels and stuff like that. One tool I have been using to share passwords securely is called LastPass. Definitely recommend that. You can share browser plug ins and you can give them access. If something goes off, you can cut them off with one click instead of worrying what 15 sites did they have access to instead of having to change all these passwords.
Rich – Right. Now what, when you’ve come to that trust issue, of giving up something, or building trust with a VA, how have you done that? How have you built trust with your VA over time? What does that look like for you?
Nick – One of the biggest things that helped me was reading the ‘The E- Myth Revisited” and this mindset shift that you really need to be working on your business rather than in it. And so it’s kind of this idea, and I talk about it a bit in my VA book, you take control by letting go. It’s intimidating and it’s scary, but it’s also freeing and you really have to focus on now this is something I don’t have to worry about. I’m going to spend a day or two training this person and then I don’t have to worry about it ever again until some exception comes up.
Rich – Very cool. What what have you been able to accomplish in the rest of your business since you’ve kind of given up, since you’ve given some trust over to other individuals? What other things have you been able to do, that you wouldn’t have been able to do without them?
Nick – Sure. So actually, The Virtual Assistant Directory started as a Side Hustle project that never would have had time to do if I was still neck deep in shoes all day. So that’s one really fun project that’s come out of it. And then in just this last year we’ve started this Side Hustle Nation Blog and Podcast and since that is very much a passion project (I can’t call it a business yet since there is no revenue there), but that’s something I really believe in the long term viability. Building a personal brand and spreading the gospel of this lower risk brand of entrepreneurship, I don’t think that’s something I would have had the time or the appetite for if I was still working 12 hours a day on the shoe biz.
Rich – Absolutely. Now before we jump into the lightening round, anything else you want to share about working with a VA? What would you say to someone who maybe doesn’t have a VA and is just thinking about it? What is something that you wish you would have heard a couple years ago when you first stepped out on this journey?
Nick – You don’t need to start out with somebody full time. I would start with somebody maybe just five hours a week, like eaHELP has in their base package. And just practice this art of delegation, because it get’s easier over time and for me, this is my first time managing an employee. So now I’m managing an employee who’s halfway around the world, who’s full time, who’s not speaking English as his first language and there’s a lot of challenges that came up there. I would say, dip your toe in the water, start a little bit smaller and see if it’s something that’s going to work out for you.
If you’re like most leaders, you operate in “full” mode – you’ve got a full calendar, a full task list, a brain full of more ideas than you’ll ever have the time and resources to accomplish. You’re running on a gear that’s very close to overdrive most of the time – but how often do you stop to think about why you’re doing the things you’re doing?
What’s your “why”? What’s really behind the tasks you accomplish from day to day? Why do you get up and tackle everything on your list every morning? When was the last time you thought about that – deliberately stopped the constant whirl of tasks and activity to think about your “why”?
If you do make that effort, the results will be convicting. You’ll either realize that your efforts are contributing to something bigger and more impactful than yourself – or they’re not.
It’s an easy thing to say in a pithy little 300-word blog post, but it’s true – and it’s something we live out every day here at eaHELP. Our mission statement says that we exist to glorify God by sourcing the people and services that ignite a leader’s possibilities and results. That’s our “why” – to provide the people and services that enable leaders to change the world. And when we stay focused on that, and look at everything we do through that lens, we see it happening. We’re seeing leaders achieve greater results because of what we do than those leaders could ever achieve on their own. Those results have consistently exceeded anything we could have expected when we started three years ago. That’s our “why”.
So – what’s your “why”? Why are you doing what you’re doing? If you don’t know the answer, take the time to find out – or find something else to do. We guarantee it will be worth it.
Suzie Barbour had been living the fast-paced life of a busy executive assistant, leading a team of assistants who served C-level executives for a nationally-known motivational speaking company. Their speaker list included marquee names like Colin Powell and Rudy Giuliani, and Suzie loved interacting with these world changers. But it came at a cost – Suzie and her colleagues regularly logged 60-hour work weeks, even after Suzie became pregnant with her first child.
“I worked 60 hours a week, right up until the week before I delivered,” Suzie said.
However, when Suzie and her husband lost their newborn son in December 2010, her priorities came into sharp focus.
“I knew that my life had to change at that point,” Suzie said.
She’d been a longtime fan of eaHELP client Michael Hyatt, and had read about how his virtual assistant helped him achieve his goals for his speaking and writing business. She applied to eaHELP, and in one of those twists we love here at eaHELP, Suzie now supports Michael and Greg Ligon, vice president of the Leadership Network and founder of the Ligon Group – while spending plenty of time with her healthy, beautiful 10-month-old baby girl.
Suzie handles email correspondence, calendar management, travel arrangements, blog maintenance, event planning, and even personal tasks for her clients. Aided by an in-home childcare assistant, Suzie is working a much more manageable amount of hours, while still seeing her work make an impact.
“The thing I love most about supporting these two leaders is that they really are changing the world,” Suzie said. “I really loved what I did before – leading a team, supporting such impactful leaders. I thought that I would have to give up doing what I loved, in order to find more of a work-life balance. But, the best thing about working with eaHelp is that I still get to support the vision of these amazing and influential leaders, while prioritizing my family.”
Suzie and her husband, a financial executive who “moonlights” as a pastor, are active in their church in their hometown of St. Petersburg, Fla., and they love to travel as much as possible – including missions work in Haiti and Guatemala.
Suzie, thank you for the commitment and passion you bring to your clients and to eaHELP!
If you’re a church leader looking for ways to fire up your fundraising, and reach the vision God has given you for your church, we’ve got a great (free!) event for you coming up on March 11!
Miles Advisory Group (parent company of eaHELP) is proud to partner with The Rocket Company in presenting “Fund the Vision God Has for Your Church,” a free online event on Tuesday, March 11, from 1 to 4 p.m. Eastern. This event will feature six church leaders from around the globe who’ll share how they lead with financial confidence and increase regular giving.
- Perry Noble of Newspring Church
- Chris Hodges of Church of the Highlands
- Brian Houston of Hillsong Church, Sydney
- Casey Graham of The Rocket Company
- Carl Lentz of Hillsong Church, New York
- Troy Gramling of Potential Church
If you want to learn how to increase giving in your congregation, and increase your confidence in your financial leadership of your church, you can’t afford to miss this event! Register now, and gather your staff for this event on March 11.
We covered dozens of really useful topics in graduate school – financial reporting, company analysis, global business strategy, employee management, and more. But no one ever talked, in any of my dozens of classes, about how to manage the new workload that would coming our way once we moved up the organizational ladder.
When I began studying for my MBA several years ago, I was just about as low on the ladder in my department as you could get. I was the one all the tasks got delegated to, not the one making decisions about what tasks could get delegated to someone else to free up my time. But as I moved into a new role after graduation, I started looking at the way I handled my workload and the way my managers effectively (or ineffectively) delegated. And as I observed, I found some fallacies that kept my managers (and me!) from realizing our full potential through delegating.
Fallacy 1 – “I’m too busy to delegate.” If you think you’re too busy to delegate, you’re probably right – and it’s your own fault. You’ve likely waited too long to to think about delegating, your plate is too full, and you’re stressed out about it. I watched my manager send out emails at 2 a.m. about research reports that I could have completed for him – I had the knowledge, the experience, and the access to the data, but he hadn’t taken the time to tell me what he needed to report. He didn’t think he had the time to tell me, so he ended up doing it himself in the middle of the night. By taking a few hours to determine what I could do for him, and training me in those processes, he could have been getting a lot more sleep. But it took him months to realize that.
Fallacy 2 – “No one else can do it right.” No one else can do it exactly like you do, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. As my responsibilities increased when I took on a new position after graduation, I had to hand off several of my responsibilities and it did make me nervous. My colleagues didn’t follow my exact schedule and formatting, but the data still got sent out to the right people at the right times. Once I saw that happening, I was happy to have those reports off my plate and to be able to move on to something else.
Fallacy 3 – “If they could do, they’d already be doing it.” I couldn’t read my manager’s mind, and I certainly couldn’t read my manager’s email. I didn’t know what demands were being placed on him, and he wasn’t telling me how I could help. Once he did, and turned over several of the regular reports he’d been doing to me, I successfully got them done each and every month. And the more reporting I did successfully, the more he gave me and got off his plate permanently.
Do you hear yourself saying any of these things on a regular basis? What other fallacies are you embracing that keep you from offloading tasks to others?
For tips on how to more effectively delegate your workload, check out our Resources section!
Welcome to this week’s episode of Virtual Assistant Podcast! Watch for new episodes every other Monday, highlighting how eaHELP clients are using virtual assistants to take their businesses further faster. We’re pleased to welcome Craig Jarrow as our guest this week.
Craig Jarrow is the author of Time Management Ninja and is one a mission to help individuals and companies reclaim their time. Craig is an expert in time management, productivity, and goal setting. This episode is packed with helpful insights for people looking to leverage their time better through the use of a virtual assistant. Craig gives us an inside look at his business and how he delegates more so he can focus on what’s most important to him.
01:13 // Real live ninja on the line!
01:30 // Craig explains his business
02:07 // Two factors that lead to needing a VA
03:12 // The tasks that got handed to Craig’s VA
05:55 // Craig wants his VA to be able to represent his business
06:30 // A VA should free you up to work on the core revenue building tasks of your business
07:55 // Find tools to help maintain communication with your VA
Planning Process // Monthly calendar of open projects, editorial calendar.
How do you protect your time? // Use VA to be the first layer of communication, holds him accountable to say “no”
Ninjas vs. Pirates // Ninjas – every time!
Craziest thing asked of VA // She signed three paid advertisers for his blog in the first month!
Rich – Welcome to the Virtual Assistant Podcast. This is the place for busy leaders who are looking to delegate more so they can focus on what’s most important in their business. My name’s Rich Birch. I am the host of the show today. Today we have Craig Jarrow. We are so excited to have Craig on the line. Craig, thanks for joining us!
Craig – Thank you, Rich. Glad to be here. Appreciate you inviting me.
Rich – We have a real ninja, a real live ninja on the line. This is amazing. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever….You don’t have your mask on today though.
Craig – No, but thank you for that Rich. I get that a lot.
Rich – Nice. Well, Craig, why don’t you tell us a bit about your business. What is it that you do in life? Give us as sense of your context.
Craig – Absolutely. I run a website, as you alluded to, called Time Management Ninja. It’s a productivity, time management blog. Talk about everything from motivation, to productivity, to technology. I’ve been running it for about four and a half years. I have grown it from small to quite a big audience today. As it grew, that was kind of what lead me down the path of needing a Virtual Assistant…needing an extra set of hands to help run the website.
Rich – Nice. Why don’t we start there. What was happening? What were some of the factors in your business, and then in you personally that were going on when you realized, “Gosh, I need to get a virtual assistant here to help.”
Craig – Absolutely. I think there was really kind of two factors. First of all, I do run my website as a second business. So it is something I do in my spare time…nights, mornings, weekends. Things like that. So I do have another job, so you can imagine there, boom, I’ve got a lot less time to run this website. And then second of all, when you start your blog you want it to be big, but when you start to grow, that’s when you start to see the tasks start piling in. All the inquiries start to pile in. Once you have an audience, that’s when you start to get people knocking on your door whether it be to advertise or guest post or whatever it may be. I quickly found myself starting to drown in some of the administrative tasks such as email, such as inquiries, and less time to work on the creativity, on the material, on the website.
Rich – Absolutely. I can imagine that. Everyone wants success, but when it comes to you, gosh, now you have to deal with…figure out what do we do to make sure it doesn’t run you over. What are a couple things, maybe a two or three things that you delegate to your VA?
Craig – OK, I can definitely talk from a blogger’s point of view here. A lot of my administrative stuff was definitely the first thing that I passed over to my Virtual Assistant. All inquiries through my contact form. I set up an admin inbox that basically catches those contact form inquiries. So anything from the outside coming in went straight to my VA and gets screened by her. Her name is Kelly. She does a wonderful job. It’s screened by her before it reaches me. So you take out the silliness, spam and other stuff, but also some of the inquiries are kind of outrageous, and kind of not worth the resources. That doesn’t even reach me. And only the serious inquiries, the stuff that requires my business attention, ever gets past that first filter. As well, I was able to have my virtual assistant take over the simple repetitive admin tasks that would free me up to do more writing, to do more business creation. She runs my weekly newsletter that goes out to several thousand people each week. She sets that up in AWebber each week. She does some basic WordPress tasks for me on our website. This kind of ties into that first one I just mentioned but she handles all my outside correspondence with companies, with vendors, with advertisers. She basically runs my ad program on TMN. So you can see it takes a lot of that administrative stuff off of me so I can concentrated on writing, product creation, things that bring in revenue.
Rich – Nice. Now what of those things, or maybe there are other things, what was the most difficult for you to delegate? To be able to hand over to your VA?
Craig – I think the one that always hits people first is the email. You don’t want to give, you’re thinking ‘Wow, I’m going to let someone else read my email before I read it.’ But I do maintain a separate email address for myself, but again, the main email for TMN goes through the VA first. So I think that’s a big letting go point when you start working with a VA. You have to be able to let some of that communication go. And we live in this hyper-connected world where you want to respond to that email instantly, you want to pick up that phone instantly. I think that’s the big turning point for a VA relationship, is you have to be able to pass off some of that communication.
Rich – So how does that work? Give us an inside look on how you guys have set up that relationship to manage, to have her manage your email.
Craig – OK. So as I mentioned, we have her manage an admin email box. So anybody who fills out a contact form, tries to contact the administrator of the website, goes straight to that box. That’s maintained by Kelly, that’s maintained by my VA and she answers all of those inquiries, filters, even deletes stuff like that. But as well we both maintain separate email addresses. She has an email address at timemanagmentninja.com so she can represent my business. And that’s been a big, big thing for me is to have my Virtual Assistant actually represent TMN to vendors, to advertisers and such. And then I maintain a separate email address at my domain. So again, anything main goes into that admin box and is filtered by my VA and she responds from her branded email address right out to any inquiries, or advertisers or such like that.
Rich – Nice. So what have you been able to accomplish more of since you have been able to had some of those tasks over to your VA?
Craig – Again, it really has freed me up to work on the core. And that’s where I think, whether you are running a blog, or running a business, a VA lets you work on what your talent is, whether it’s the creativity, or the sales side or whatever it may be. In my case it’s the writing, it’s delivering content to my viewers. Actually it’s even doing consults because I do some coaching and things as well from my site. But initially out of the gate, when I got Kelly on board as my Virtual Assistant, it let me do more writing. I was able to get a little bit ahead on some of my editorial calendar. As well, I was able to work on an eBook, actually a couple eBooks that we now have on Amazon. So again, some of those more tangible things that I can do, while she’s running the more behind the scenes work.
Rich – Very cool. Before we jump into the lightening round, is there anything else that you want to let people know about what it’s like to work on the inside of a relationship with a VA?
Craig – The only other thing that I would pass along to your viewers Rich is, we’ve reached this stage where there really is a virtual work world, and there’s tools out there and more than just setting up an email relationship, you need to have some tools in place that really let you and your VA be a team. Even if you don’t talk to them very often, even if they are remote which they will be. So I will give you a couple examples. We use a projuct management app. I highly recommend you have some kind of home base for your projects. There’s a lot of great ones out there from BaseCamp to Asana. We use Trello. We love it. I use it on my computer, on my mobile. It allows us to keep all of our projects where we can both see them and touch them and everything like that. As well, we use a weekly status call. This is maybe not a technology thing, but we use a weekly status call where even if we only get on the phone for 15 minutes, or half an hour each week its a thing where a VA relationship to have that touch point each week. And then finally, we use a great app called 15Five which is a status report that my VA tells me what she’s been doing, what her challenges are and how I can help more. Those kind of touch points that fall by the wayside so 15Five is based on the idea that status reports should take no more than 15 minutes to write, and no more than 5 minutes for me to read. It kind of again, just connects those dots so we know what each other are doing.
We all want to feel like we have everything together – that we know what our goals (both personal and business) are at all times, and that we are on task to completing or reaching them. Many of us use to-do lists, project management software, and other organizational applications to help keep us on track. But how many of us organize our desks, cars, offices, etc., like we do our task lists?
I was reading EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey recently and he spoke about this topic. He says, “Your physical desktop represents the organizational condition of your mind and maybe even indicates the organizational condition of your whole company.” After I read this, I got up from where I was sitting and walked over to my desk. The image was quite terrifying.
I asked myself how I had let it get to this. Every day in our business lives we are inundated by incoming projects and tasks, and if we are not good at delegating and organizing it can be overwhelming, and we lose control of our workspace.
I realized at that moment that the state of my desk represented the organizational condition of my mind. I was running to tasks and projects in a reactive manner, instead of being intentional about my processes and long-term project goal completion.
There are certain things I need at my desk. My computer, my headphones for calls, and a pad and paper.
I certainly did not need a Roger Federer hat, 10 magazines, a stack of bills, car keys, a pocket knife, a Starbucks napkin, a JBL bluetooth speaker, a kitchen towel, the Zappos Culture Book, Dial Hand Sanitizer, my Comcast Xfinity welcome packet, a remote control, and four books about branding.
I immediately decided to clean up. It was amazing how quickly transforming my desk in an organized manner translated to my mind’s organizational state of being (see the top of this post).
Just having a clean and detailed workspace helped me think more clearly. It made me FEEL more organized.
So the big question now is how do I maintain this going forward? We all know the to-do list is going to pile up on us again. I try to take the following actions to avoid going back to that state of disorganization:
- For five minutes at the end of each day, I organize my desk.
- No dishes or wrappers left overnight, ever.
- Only ESSENTIAL items are allowed to stay on the desk.
- Keep my Moleskine there at all times, easily accessible.
- Use the trashcan/recycling bin!
- Keep it simple.
- Put away everything when you are done using it.
- Use a whiteboard.
Bill DeMartini, MAG Marketing Director
While I was getting my MBA several years ago, I became a master at squeezing out every available moment in my schedule to get my reading done and prep for the next class assignments. (There was that take-home statistics midterm that took 12 hours, but we’re not going to talk about it. I’m still having flashbacks about it…)
But when it came to my schedule at work, that was pretty much a free-for-all. When I became a product manager after getting my degree, my calendar felt like it wasn’t mine at all – it became the territory of project managers, senior leaders, team leaders, co-workers, everyone but me.
Since I went out on my own as a freelance writer and editor, and began working with the eaHELP team, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about calendar and time management that were never touched on in my business classes – or in my work in the corporate world.
Your time is your most valuable resource. As a leader, whether it’s of a project, a team, a department, or a whole organization, the most valuable thing you have is time. And like any resource, it’s limited and lots of people want it. You have to actively work to protect that resource, and make sure it’s being allocated to the right places at the right times. A virtual assistant from eaHELP can be a huge help in this process, serving as a “gatekeeper” who can help you stick to your previously-established time boundaries.
Your time really is your own. As a leader, it’s easy to feel that you “owe” your time to your team. And to a certain extent, that’s true – they do need your input and expertise. But there’s a fine line between being a leader and a martyr, giving up your time and resources to your team members at the expense of your own career and goals. You don’t have to accept every meeting request, especially if the request is unclear and comes without a clearly-defined agenda and set of objectives. Set the expectation with your team and colleagues that each request for your time needs to have those elements included, or it won’t get accepted.
You have to be the one to hold yourself to your schedule. As a freelancer, I don’t have anyone watching the clock to see when I come into the office and when I leave. But I have clients who will most definitely know if I don’t get my work done. I have to set my own schedule, and exercise considerable discipline to stick to it. The flexibility of self-employment means I can take time in the middle of the day to pick up my niece from pre-school (which is awesome!), but that means I’ll be working another hour that night or early the next day to meet my client deadlines. As an organizational leader, if you’ve earmarked time to work on a large project or corporate initiative, you have to hold yourself to it. The longer you put it off, the more likely it is that your team will notice. And that’s going to damage your organizational credibility at some point.
These principles have been life changing for me. I almost wish I could go back into the corporate world to walk these out in front of other colleagues – well, almost. Those pre-school runs are pretty awesome.
Who or what rules your calendar? Is it you, or are you at the mercy of others to dictate your schedule?