The Virtual Assistant Solution: Come up for Air, Offload the Work You Hate, and Focus on What You Do Best is Michael Hyatt’s new e-book, and it looks great.
The concept of a virtual assistant was first brought to the forefront, it seems to me, by Tim Ferriss in his book The Four Hour Workweek. What Tim had limited space to talk about, Michael Hyatt now fleshes out for us in much more detail, going into why a virtual assistant is such a good idea and how to do it well.
Here is the table of contents:
1 Why You Need a Virtual Assistant
2 Why a Virtual Assistant Beats a Traditional One
3 What a Virtual Assistant Can Do for You
4 Answering the Most Common Questions
5 The First 90 Days with Your Virtual Assistant
6 Tools for Staying in Sync
And here’s a helpful overview from the introduction:
The term “virtual assistant” means a lot of things to a lot of different people. To be clear, I’m talking about someone who works remotely and with whom you contract for professional services like clerical work, meeting and event planning, project management and coordination, even marketing and social media. The idea is having help that fits your needs, your schedule, and your budget. And you can have it without the constraints of payroll, benefits, and recruiting.
Authors, coaches, consultants, creatives, doctors, entrepreneurs, executives, nonprofit leaders, lawyers, pastors, professors, and speakers— there’s a long list of people who could benefit from a virtual assistant.
But despite how many people could benefit, I’ve noticed that many are reluctant to take the plunge. As a result, they miss getting the help they need. Maybe that’s you. Maybe you think hiring a full-time, in-office assistant is your only option. Maybe you have no experience with virtual assistance (or have had a bad experience like I did) and don’t think it can work for you.
This book will clear up the misconceptions and allow you to be more effective with your time and talents. It will equip you to understand the dynamics of a virtual workforce, define how one or more virtual assistants can help you accomplish more than you ever thought possible, and offer practical advice on how to hire, integrate, and fully benefit from your new virtual staff.
(Hyatt, Michael. The Virtual Assistant Solution: Come up for Air, Offload the Work You Hate, and Focus on What You Do Best (Kindle Locations 96-106). Fleming House Publishers. Kindle Edition.)
You can also read more about the book in Michael’s post introducing it.
Productivity is not always a linear thing, and in today’s knowledge economy, lists and deliberate plans aren’t always what get things done.
A classic example is what I am doing right now. Usually as I work on projects and process my email throughout the week, I put key documents on my desktop when I don’t have the time to file them in the right spot immediately. Then, once a day or ever few days, I process those files just like I process my inbox, identifying any actions they might imply and putting them where they need to go. (Basically, it’s like processing your inbox because it is an inbox.)
Right now I’m processing my desktop from the files that collected there this week. One of the files on there had my notes from Catalyst Atlanta (here are the notes I’ve posted so far). I’ve had it on my list for a while to finish posting them, but have had some other projects I’ve needed to get done.
When I came to that file while processing my desktop tonight, though, it felt easiest to just finish posting the rest of the notes, rather than put them in their project file and rely on my list to remember to get the rest of them posted.
And that’s the semi-arbitrary nature of work today in our knowledge economy. There are so many things I get done simply by setting out to process my inbox, or email, or in this case my desktop, and I think that’s probably true for most of us. Seemingly mundane actions, that aren’t even very well defined (“process desktop”? — what a broad term that can take you down a thousand different paths), often result in getting some important things done.
You’d think that the best productivity results from highly detailed, deliberate plans. And, there is definitely a place for that. But a lot of our productivity also results from more cursory, spontaneous things. That’s in part because of the way email and computers are set up — you have these inboxes and desktops that aren’t good at natively organizing their content into natural groupings. As a result, a lot of things get done more randomly.
And, as long as you don’t do everything randomly, allowing that to happen is actually one of the subtle tactics for maximizing your productivity. When something is before you that you have the energy to do, just do it.
The article is in two parts. This is the first part, with the first five myths. The second part should be posted tomorrow or so.
(Update: Here’s part 2.)
As I wrote my book, I thought hard about the question of whether it is truly possible to stay on top of our work. Sometimes, there is so much coming at us that it seems like it actually might not be possible at all, and that the solution is to give up the hope altogether. Further, in one sense that solution can sound very “spiritual.”
There will always be times in our lives where the realities of the situation exceed our capacities. The process of writing the book was one for me. I simply was not able to keep up with all of my work during that time. If I had more money, I would have hired lots of help to keep my day-to-day non-book routines and actions in motion. But given the limitations I had, I often had to let my email and other tasks build up. I eventually got through them all, but it took a long time to catch up.
Extreme situations aside, it is indeed possible to stay on top of your work. This is our natural instinct to believe, and if we reflect on it a bit, we see that it is indeed correct.
For example, if I’m at McDonalds and the lines are going really slow, I don’t think to myself “well, it doesn’t matter; I’m just glad I’m able to get lunch at all.” Not at all. Unless there is a crisis, emergency, or other extreme need, that would be a truly horrible over spiritualization; a denial of the doctrine of vocation. I don’t have that mindset, and the manager of the restaurant, let alone the corporate offices, doesn’t have that mindset either. If things are going really slow and are held up, they find a way to fix it and resume their standard of providing fast service to people. That’s part of the reason they exist. If you look at most successful companies, they’ve developed systems that enable them to meet customer needs in a timely way. This is one of the callings God has given to businesses.
And if businesses are able to keep up with demand, you are able to, as well.
What I’ve found is that the key determinant in whether you are able to keep up with your work is whether you believe that you can keep up with your work.
If you don’t believe you can keep up with your work, then you’ll never be able to do it. But if you believe you can, you will be able to figure it out.
The challenge is this: the practices for keeping on top of our work are not widely known. Developing the capacity to keep up with things takes effort and creative thought. It doesn’t come automatically. But if you take the time to step back, retool, and learn the practices for managing your work effectively in the knowledge era, you can do it.
Though I didn’t start our writing this post with the intention of pointing to my book, one of the reasons I wrote my book is to help you with this. The book will be coming out in March, and hopefully you will find it helpful practices for getting on top of your work and, even more than that, an overall framework of thought for how to do all of your work, in every area of life, for the glory of God and good of others — which is, ultimately, the essence of true productivity.
If you’d like to keep up with plans for the book launch, receive any early excerpts, or otherwise stay in the loop on things, I’d love for you to be a part of things as we get ready for the launch. Subscribing to the blog would also be the best way to do that at this point, and I’ll have more details for how you can be involved down the road.
Part two is now posted, where we talk about:
- How to balance our competing roles in the modern age of knowledge work
- The importance of aligning lists with roles
- A process for reducing workload
- Spatial thinking as it relates to time estimates and priorities
- A realistic model of using plans
- The common but wrong disdain many Christians have towards hard work
- How we should and should not respond to someone who is having problems managing their time
- How workaholism and laziness both reflect idolatry
- The importance of rest in a biblical framework and how to practically incorporate rest into our lives
- A biblical call to mission statements and understanding our mission
- A fascinating, biblical approach to delegating out of love
- Some tips for delegating in the home and family
(You can also find part one here.)
I cracked up watching this interview between Justin Taylor and Kevin DeYoung regarding Kevin’s new book, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem. It is truly hilarious!
I’ve been reading Crazy Busy off and on over the last month or so, and I’ve been really enjoying it. It’s very well done and fun to read. As always, Kevin does a great job combining biblical truth with a very accessible and engaging presentation. I commend the book to anyone who is dealing with being crazy busy (which is all of us!).
Apple has brought together a helpful collection of some of the best apps for getting things done:
What I use:
- Keeping track of notes/ideas: Evernote
- Capturing quick notes when Evernote feels too cumbersome: Apple Notes (native on the iPhone and iPad — super easy to use)
- Calendar: iCal (native on the iPhone and iPad)
- Action and project lists: OmniFocus or Things
- Action lists, as a helpful supplement: Reminders (native on the iPhone and iPad)
And worth taking a closer look at:
- Things (I used this for a time)
- Remember the Milk
- Do it (Tomorrow): Looks interesting
- Calvetica Calendar: Looks intriguing
- PlainText: Looks as simple as Apple’s Notes app, with the added benefit that you can actually organize things
- MindNode: For mindmapping. Currently I use MindJet MindManager
Having pens you actually like to use makes all of your work go better. And even though we do so much digitally now, there is still a place for pens because some notes are best captured by hand and, beyond that, there are all sorts of occasions throughout the day when we need to physically write.
One of my pet peeves is pens that are annoying to use. Some pens skip a lot, while other pens leak out too much ink. So a few years ago I bought a bunch of different kinds of pens and compared them to find a pen that I actually like to use.
Here’s what I recommend: Uni-ball Vision Elite Stick Micro Point Roller Ball Pens, 3 Black Ink Pens. (You can also get them in a 24-pack.)
If you have these, there is no need for any other pen. They are awesome.
For more on why pens matter, the single most important rule in choosing pens, and the qualities of a good pen, see my post on Recommended Pens.
A good post by Scott Belsky at the 99%. The five types he discusses are:
- Reactionary work
- Planning work
- Procedural work
- Insecurity work
- Problem-solving work
“Which one thing, if I accomplished it, would result in the greatest number of all these other things that I also want to do also getting done as a result?”