We’ve all been told “you can’t make more time.” Of course, in almost every sense, that’s true. But what you can do, through a virtual assistant (VA), is make a part-time you, which can then do some activities you currently do. This frees up your schedule and in a very real way “makes more time” for you on a practical level. But if this is true, why do so few people choose to get a VA? They don’t have a starting point.
So, fair disclosure, we do have a VA firm, but this article isn’t to convince you to use us, but rather to give you some starting points on the how and why of a VA.
The fascinating Pareto Principle makes for good conversation whenever it’s brought up, but it makes for even better brainstorming with high performers as they disclose how they’ve gotten to their critical 20%. If you realize that the 20% is where you likely add the most value, where you generate the most income, you then also realize that 80% of what you’re doing can be outsourced and handed to someone else.
This 80%, not general busy work, is what you should focus on first. Go through your day, then your week, then your month, and note down all the tasks you have. Once you have that complete list, parse them by whether they are part of the vital 20% or the outsource-able 80%. Once you’ve done that, prioritize the 80% list into order of importance. While it’s very tempting to just dump a bunch of work on someone now that you have an outlet, remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and that a great way to discourage someone from the start is to dump a bunch of work on them with little to no direction.
In previous articles we’ve discussed the importance of not throwing someone into the deep end when they first start. They need feedback, need you to model things for them, but also need to be trusted to work on outcomes rather than on mimicking the exact way that you do something. Remember that it’s your 80% for a reason. You may be convinced that it’s something you do really well, but given that it’s not where you add the most value (and hence why you’re bringing on someone to help you with it) you should be open to the idea that someone else can not only do it better, but much better than you. Therefore by loading them down with “your way” of doing something you may be stopping them from finding a better way. Delegate outcomes, not tasks, and give time for people to adjust. If you’re going to have a long-term working relationship with someone, they need to gain some small wins first. Help them do that.
So now that you’ve taken the time to separate out that which can be delegated and in which you don’t provide the greatest value, you can focus on the 20% that delivers 80% of your results, income, and fulfillment. In his book Zag Marty Neumeier uses the phrase “the best _____ that _____” or “the only ____ that _____.” Take a look at what is on your 20% list. Are you the best at that particular task, or the only person that can do that task? If so, keep that task on your list. If not, the item should be added to your 80% list, albeit probably at the top, since you originally considered it part of your 20%.
So now you’re left with what is truly the most important on your list you can lean into them. As you continue to work with you VA to take more items from your 80% list, the time that you have left to work on your 20% increases. Since that 20% is where you add the most value and generate the most income, your influence and income will necessarily grow. Highly productive people learned this lesson early on, though in past ages they would have needed to find a secretary, probably tied to where they lived for most of the time. With today’s nomadic entrepreneur and a global workforce, not only can you find someone to help you nearly anywhere on the globe, but he/she can, due to time zone arbitrage, be working on things you need while you sleep, so that you can wake up to items you need to help you perform even better.
So it still remains generally true that you “can’t make more time.” Except, with a VA, you really can.