Think You’ve Only Got 5 Hours of Work to Delegate to a Virtual Assistant…Think Again!
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In this episode, Barbara and Matt talk listeners through some honest truths when it comes to deciding just how many hours per week you ‘think’ you can delegate to a virtual assistant.
This episode takes a look at the essential factors to bear in mind when deciding to onboard a VA and how, if you are truly committed, you could easily find at least 20 hours of work for a virtual assistant to do in your business, every single week!
Some of the areas covered include:
- The only way to really know what to delegate is understanding where you’re spending your time
- The importance of changing your mindset to “Stop Doing” certain tasks, so you can focus on more of the things you love doing
- How putting ‘positive stress’ on yourself can help your business grow faster
- Bringing in specialists for ad-hoc tasks can also help reduce your workload, freeing up valuable time for more important, revenue-generating tasks
Let us know what your key takeout has been from this episode and join the continuing conversation over in the Virtual Success Facebook Group.
Resources mentioned in this show:
The Stop Doing List – www.stopdoing.com.au
In this episode:
00:55 – So I ‘think’ I only need 5 hours a week from my VA
03:28 – If you think you’ve only got 5 hours, you’re not committed enough
04:32 – Changing your mindset to ‘stop doing’
06:59 – Are you in business, or have you just created a job for yourself?
09:30 – How to ‘Time Log’
11:35 – Ask yourself – “How can I stop doing?”
14:30 – Positive stress
16:43 – Shifting your focus
17:45 – Pros of committing to a full-time VA
18:47 – Bringing in specialists for ad hoc tasks
22:51 – Wrapping things up
Barbara: Hi, everyone, and welcome back to another episode of the Virtual Success Show. I’m joined again, as always, by my co-host, Matt Malouf. Matt, how are you?
Matt: I’m well, Barb. How are you?
Barbara: I’m great, thank you. Great. Enjoying this a little cooler weather we’re having in Sydney now, which is very nice. I love this time of year.
Matt: I know. But its beautiful blue skies today. We’ve had a lot of rain over the last few weeks …
Barbara: I know.
Matt: … and so very interesting.
Barbara: Very enjoyable.
So I ‘think’ I only need 5 hours a week from my VA
Listen, on today’s show, everyone, we thought a really interesting thing that I’ve wanted to delve into on the show for a quite a while, actually, because we get quite a lot of customers coming to Virtual Angel Hub with this exact question. They’ll sort of hit up our Facebook page, or our live chat, asking, “Look, I only need five hours or so a week with a VA. You have a minimum of 20 hours a week. Is there anything you could do for me?”
What I find interesting about this question is that, for me, five hours a week, having worked with a lot of virtual teams and in various different businesses, five hours is actually not very much and, obviously, some smaller businesses will think, “I only need that much time.” My feeling is that well, I know that within a few weeks of joining Virtual Angel Hub, so many people who thought they would never fill 20 hours can’t believe how quickly it got filled up when we actually helped them to sort of see what else they could be doing.
Matt: Yeah, and I think I’m just going to be real direct to our listeners straight upfront, is if you only think you’ve got five hours to delegate, you’re not trying hard enough. You really aren’t. Because I think too often these days, we get caught up in being busy and, so, we think that the busyness is important. Yet, in actual fact, a lot of the tasks that are causing the busyness are either not necessary, or not of high priority and can be done by somebody else. They need to get done, but they can easily be done by somebody else. In our shows around Mindset that we did early on, I think that it explains a lot around this.
But I think, honestly, if you only believe you’ve got five hours a week, and that’s at any phase of business, and I’ve coached businesses from start-up to $55 million turnover businesses, so I’ve seen the whole gamut. The reality is, even in start-up mode, you can easily delegate a minimum of 20 hours, which gives you time to focus on the most important. Also, it’s what I phrase as the genius tasks. The genius tasks being those that you love doing, that you’re really good at, but have a positive financial return to you in the business.
If you think you’ve only got 5 hours, you’re not committed enough
Barbara: Well, you know, Matt, because this is interesting. Because when this question comes into us, I’m glad you said it because I often feel like, well, really, you know, I just don’t think you’re committing enough to the business, if you’re thinking that you only have five hours a week, and I’ll tell you why.
When I first started my first business, like from day one, I hired a full-time VA, because I knew that I wanted to be out speaking, networking, talking to people. I needed somebody there all the time to be managing my website, getting my content up, like all I was doing was producing content, a bit like what we do here. My VA was doing a full-time job in the backend, keeping the social media alive, keeping the whole presence alive. I definitely got business out of that because my online presence was so heavy and it was so good, so I do find that difficult to understand if you’re … We have plenty of start-ups that come to Virtual Angel Hub and hire VAs fulltime straight away because they’re focusing on scaling their start-up from day one.
So this is my big mindset issue there. I mean how do you get people around that?
Changing your mindset to ‘stop doing’
Matt: Well, I think, first and foremost, it’s starting to get clear on what you’re doing, and we’re going to do a show on this, which is the book that I’ve just released, the Stop Doing List. But if you go to stopdoing.com.au, there’s a free tool that associates with the book that helps you actually step through this.
The only way to really start to understand what to delegate is you need to know where you’re spending your time and, so, what I recommend is that you, firstly, start with doing a two-week time audit, which is, literally, just writing down what you do in a day. What you’ll find straightaway is there is, number one, a whole lot of distraction in your days often and, secondly, is there’s plenty of things you could get a virtual assistant to do. From there, you need to start to work through that process of getting clarity on the task, understanding whether there’s a system for the task, but also how long the task takes.
I think that’s a really interesting piece there, how long the task takes and the frequency because a lot of daily tasks, repetitive tasks can be delegated to a virtual assistant. If you think about it, you only need to have four 15-minute daily tasks, then all of a sudden, there’s your five hours. If you can’t find four 15-minute daily tasks or eight or 10 or 20 of those, again, like we said earlier, I don’t think you’re trying hard enough. But, it’s also understanding that your time is valuable, your time is worth money, your return on your time is better spent in other areas, and having a virtual assistant doing these things for you is going to be way more profitable for you in the long run.
Barbara: I just thought of something as you were talking there, Matt. It’s almost like, you mentioned all the things that we talk about on this show, which is systems and processes and sitting down for two weeks and doing a time audit on yourself. So I’m thinking to myself – I think what happens to a lot of people is that they immediately think, I don’t have time for that. I just need the VAs to take this five hours off me because if … the stuff you were talking about requires somebody to take a little bit of responsibility and accountability for creating processes and moving to the next level, whatever that level might be, in the business.
Are you in business, or have you just created a job for yourself?
I think what I would say to listeners out there is if you are feeling this right now, then you really need to think about are you in business, or have you just created a bit of a job for yourself that you think is a hobby? That you think is a passion thing, but you’re really driving yourself into the ground if you’re doing it that way.
Matt: And to add to that, this is part of strategic thinking, that in order to grow companies, more time needs to be spent in strategic thinking. It’s that quadrant that Stephen Covey calls the “Important, Not Urgent”. I think it’s Quadrant Two in his Time Targets.
A time log is never urgent, it really isn’t. However, it is such an amazingly simple tool that gives you such clarity. I actually did it for an entire year, every day, every week of an entire year, and my productivity and efficiency went through the roof. Because it’s all the little things that you start to realise, I could get this person to do that, I could get that person to do that, and it’s just amazing. It really is.
Barbara: It actually happened to me recently because, as a lot of the listeners would know, I had a baby last year, so my lovely little Ruby is now seven-and-a-half months old, and I was tying myself in knots with a new lead gen project that we have running. I really thought to myself, but really, I’m the only person who can do that. I was talking to a team member who is really keen to step up and do more with us and I said to him, “The only problem is I kind of have to do that job and I kind of have to do that.”
Then, I thought to myself, a few days later, I thought, do I really? I have to ask myself this question. I’m in this little small lead gen programme at the moment that is actually taking me step-by-step through some stuff that we need to do. I thought, well, why couldn’t I have him do the programme and get him to step up into this programme and actually, if he wants to do more with us, let go of the reins and maybe just guide and mentor him through that process, rather me actually do it? So it is a mindset thing and it’s that, you know, just thinking, do I really need to be doing all this stuff, or is it a mindset problem that I need to get over?
But what I’m interested to ask you, Matt, so the time log thing, can you talk to me about the tool you have, and how do you actually do this? Because I did that sort of mentally, I didn’t actually do a time log. Is there a thing that you need to do in order to do a time log?
How to ‘Time Log’
Matt: Yes. In the download that’s on the site, I’ve created a tool where you can … it’s in Excel form and you need just literally keep the … from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, in 15-minute increments, what are you doing. It’s just sort of high level, so I was doing emails, I was on a phone call, I was surfing the net, looking at Facebook, I was writing an article, I was in a meeting, whatever it might be, and you’ll start to actually see …
The thing I see when I’m sent these is two things. Number one is there’s a lot of wasted time on unnecessary tasks that somebody could easily do. Second thing is that a lot of people don’t have a good flow in their days, so they’re jumping and changing from so many things. Whereas, if they had a person that could take care of all those little things for them, they would get into a better flow and be far more productive.
Barbara: I think as well with that, I mean I love those [inaudible 00:10:04] because I know that a few years ago I was terrible for that jumping around, multitasking, which is just a terrible way to do anything. Even if you think you’re a good multitasker, it’s just not a good way of doing anything. So I had to change to this energy-batching idea, which is to say, for example, I will do all of my financially-type stuff in the one batch, so if I have to do … and this is all of the stuff I probably should delegate. I’m just thinking as I’m talking about it.
But, let’s say, I have to do a bit of, you know, I’ve got to figure out some stuff in my accounts, or I’ve got to do some affiliate commission payout or something like that. I’ll actually do all of those things on the one day because in that day, I’m in that energy field and it’s better than … I can’t switch from that to writing a blog post, which I used to try and do, and I did it very badly.
Matt: But I think what was interesting as you were just talking then, Barb, was that even in that starting to think about what you’re doing, you’re, like, I should probably delegate that, and there’s probably half a day’s worth of work that somebody else could do, hence, now that you only have to do half the work to get the same outcome.
Ask yourself – “How can I stop doing?”
Barbara: Well, I think, you know, and I want the listeners to do it. This is a little trick I do with myself a lot. Every day, I actually say to myself “How can I stop doing …?”and I know your books called that. How can I stop doing this task, that task, and it’s not because I’m that busy, I’ll be honest with you.
It’s because I want to spend more time with my daughter, so I always think, how can i outsource more things, or delegate more things in my business, so that I can actually take on the job I really want to do right now, which is the mother job? I don’t want to delegate that to a nanny and do everything else myself. I’ve actually made the decision that I would like to do more of the motherhood one, and delegate more of the other stuff, so that’s an interesting mindset shift that I’ve gone through.
Matt: Let me share a little bit of the tactics behind that. I remember when I hired Vanessa, who works with me. I said, “If any of your friends are like you, want to work like you, you’re amazing, let me know. There’s always going to be an opportunity.” One of her friends was looking for some work, I interview her, she was an amazing candidate. I was just about to go on leave for three weeks and I’m, like, this woman couldn’t afford to wait three weeks to get a job and I was, like, okay, I’m going to take her on.
I took her on and I remember putting these two Post-It notes on my computer screen. One Post-It note said, “What must I stop doing today?” and the second said, “What could I get Shahani to do today?”
Barbara: Yeah, that’s really effective.
Matt: And they were just staring at me all day, all day, so … and you know, I do a bit of travel so I had the Post-It notes on my office computer, on my laptop, so anytime I was in front of my computer, these two Post-It notes are staring at me, and believe it, before I knew it … and I didn’t actually have a role for her, at the time. I just thought I knew that I was going to need someone in the near future, she was a good candidate, I’m going to take her on. Before I knew it, and we were talking about this before the show, I had probably five, 10 hours of work, initially. I needed to get the next person within three months because my focus was, “What do I need to stop doing now, and what can I get Shahani to do right now?”
Barbara: Well, that’s interesting, Matt, actually because this comes back to the strategic thinking thing again. Guys, the listeners, I just want to sort of highlight something that Matt talks about a lot in the show and he’s very good at the strategic thinking part of business, where, if you are just caught up in the day-to-day doing, you’re never going to have a chance to be strategic. But if you know that you’re launching something, you know this year’s plan, and you know what your 20 … we’re in 2017 right now. You know what you 2018 plan is, which I know in my business what way that’s going over the next one, three and five years, what I want to achieve.
Sometimes what happens to me is, you know, in our business, obviously, sometimes clients will have to, for various reasons, they may have to cancel their account or they may have to pause their account because their own business needs change. Sometimes when a really good person comes back into our pool, I’m faced with the decision of, oh, it wasn’t in my plan yet, but that person is really good and we invested a lot in training that person. They’ve just come off an amazing account that they learned amazing stuff, and I’m pushed into a position of going I don’t want to give them to another client because I want that person on my team.
All of a sudden, I find I also get overstaffed very quickly and for a month or two, they might actually not be doing much, only a few research projects for me, but before I know it, my plans move closer and my business grows much faster because I have the resources in order to be able to push myself into up-leveling quicker. So sometimes it can be a good thing, I think, to hire a little bit early when you know what your strategic plan is for the future.
Matt: It’s what we view as a positive stress. You put the positive pressure on yourself to grow faster because you understand that, with this person, you’ve now got this opportunity, but if you don’t grow, that you’re going to have to let them go.
Barbara: I have in my situation then, what happens me, is I have to let them go, then, my plans come to fruition when I want to do the things I want to do and I have to bring the new person who doesn’t understand our brand, who doesn’t, you know, I have to train. The training is much harder. Whereas, if I had somebody already floating, that’s already been trained by Virtual Angel Hub, I just love to take them on my team because we backed them in the first place to a client, why wouldn’t I take them on?
Matt: Exactly, exactly.
Barbara: Sometimes, I’ll be honest with the listeners here, there might be some listeners on this who’ve done this, sometimes our clients let very good VAs go because they can’t make it work themselves and, then, I take them on and my business explodes. I want listeners to realise that sometimes this is actually a major mindset block with you, as a business owner, and not necessarily with the person that you have not been able to make it work.
Shifting your focus
Matt: Absolutely. Now, one last thing I just want to say on this topic is I think one other thing that holds a lot of business owners back from delegating more is they go, “If I could just get these five hours, then my day wouldn’t be as busy,” rather than focusing on, “If I can get rid of half of what I currently do, I could do more of the income-producing or maybe the things that I love.”
We’re constantly focusing on, “Okay, I don’t want to overwork or burnout, so I’ll just get rid of this little bit, and that way, I can just keep the rest of this, and it’ll be nice and neat and tidy,” as opposed to actually thinking bigger here and going, “If I can just wipe out 50% of what I currently do, and have that go to somebody else, that will probably do it better than you will, anyway, then I can focus on the things that I love doing, that tend to be more income-producing.” Number one, you’re making more money. Number two, you’re happier in your business, not just because you’re making more money, but because you’re doing the things that you actually wanted to do when you set this business up in the first place.
Pros of committing to a full-time VA
Barbara: Also, just an add-on comment to that, think about it from the VAs point of view or whoever it is that you’re hiring. It doesn’t matter if they’re a VA or wherever they are, put yourself in their shoes. Let’s say they’ve got you for five hours a week and, then, they have this other massive contract that took them on for 40 hours a week. Where do you think their energy is going to be? Because often clients would say to us, “Once I get going, I’d like to take them on full-time.”
I go, okay, do you think that VA is going to sit there with no income until you decide that you’re ready to take them on? No, they’re going to go and get another contract. So either we have to give it to them, or they’re going to go online and pick one up somewhere else. With all due respect to the people who love their business and want five hours, that person is really not going to have … their central focus and their main commitment is not really going to be to you because you’re not really committing to them.
Barbara: That’s just my view. You’re not going to get the level that you’ll get if you really commit to someone, and bring them into your vision properly.
Bringing on specialists for ad hoc tasks
Matt: Just on the flip of that, too. If you’re only looking for a few things that you want to have done, there’s no reason why you couldn’t have someone just take care of certain tasks on an ad-hoc basis. Like I know with all of my slide presentations that I do for my speaking gigs, I don’t need someone full-time on the books to be able to do that. I have a regular contractor that I use on Upwork and we’ve got a pre-agreed price because I’ve been working with him for the last four years. It works for me, so that task doesn’t need to consume somebody within my team. I can get a specialist to do that piece of work and that works in that fashion.
I think just on the flip of all of this for a second, if it’s specific specialist tasks, you may need something designed, you may need a PowerPoint presentation, whatever those little sorts of one-off type of things, again, these are things that you would normally sit there and probably do yourself. Put it into perspective, to do a full-day presentation would probably take me a minimum of three to four days of sitting there and constructing it and putting it all together. I can pay 48 cents a slide and have them produced, animations done and I get it back within 48 hours and all I have to do is provide a mind map. It’s unbelievable.
Barbara: Yeah, that’s brilliant. Yeah, that’s a great tip for those people who do just want to have that little ad hoc-type stuff…
Matt: But in reality, just to back on to that, my belief is that every business owner could have somebody doing a minimum, minimum of 20 hours a week for them, and it really is life-changing, in my opinion. It really is.
Barbara: Well, I’ll be honest with the listeners. People would often ask me why do you not do a pay-as-you-go service? Why do you not do a smaller contract of less than 20 hours? I’ll be brutally honest. We want clients who are committing to their business and committing to our business and our VAs, so we want long-term contracts for our VAs and that’s the business that we are in. Everything outside of that, I’d feel is, like what you are doing, it’s a project, it’s ad hoc, it’s here and there. That’s kind of why we don’t do that because we just feel it’s businesses that are committing more heavily to their strategic direction that we’re sort of playing in that space.
Matt: But I’ll also add just one last thing to that, Barb. Having someone just for 10 hours a week in that capacity, it actually doesn’t work.
Matt: Even if Barbara did offer that as a service, it doesn’t work. I remember we had the discussion about this in the infancy of Virtual Angel Hub and we were like, it actually doesn’t serve the business owner in the best. I know that’s one thing that Barb is extremely passionate about, is providing the service that serves the business owners’ best interests, and a 10-hour VA is actually not in anyone’s best interest, in my opinion.
Barbara: No, and I’ll tell you something. The other person it doesn’t work for is the VA. If you think about it, if somebody wants a full-time job, a 40-hour-a-week job, which every VA that we have has the right to have a full-time income with us, we need to put them on four different contracts to get 10 hours each. Their mind is so scattered it’s very overwhelming for them. Usually, a person who buys 10 hours will try and overload that VA a little bit more than 10 hours, so we get very stressed-out VAs that want to resign from the client, and not from us.
I’ll be open about that, that’s the reason, so it’s two-fold. It doesn’t work for clients long-term, even though they think it does. It doesn’t work for the VAs and it causes enormous pressure on our team in Virtual Angel Hub. That’s why we don’t do it. I’ve just realised the answer to that whole question is … I might even do a blog post on that because …
Matt: It’s a lose-lose-lose strategy. Nobody wins in that strategy.
Wrapping things up
I guess in just wrapping up for today, I think the most important message that Barbara and I really want you to understand today is that you can easily find at least 20 hours of work for a virtual assistant to do in your business if you commit to it, if you focus on it, if you start to work through and understand, number one, where you’re spending your time, number two, where your time is better spent, and number three, just having some prompts in front of you that remind you, hey, what could I get somebody else to do right now? What do I need to stop doing right now? If you follow those simple little tips, as I said, before you know it, you’ll jump from five hours a week to having a 40-hour-week person.
Barbara: You will, and go to stopdoing.com.au if you want that tool that actually helps you to take you through this process. It’s a fantastic tool, so it’s over Matt’s new website, buy the book…
Barbara: Stopdoing.com.au. Matt, thanks very much. That was great insights. I know this is something a lot of particularly smaller businesses really struggle with, so I think it’s a great topic to help people get over that hurdle.
Matt: I agree. I agree. If you’re enjoying the show, we’d love for you to leave a review and also share the show with others, but also write us an email and let us know if there’s any other specific topics you’d like us to talk about. We’re always looking to ensure that the topics we present to you on this show are for our listeners, so if there’s anything specific you’d like us to talk about, please feel free to write it in. Otherwise, Barbara, thank you once again.
Barbara: Thanks, Matt. See you on the next show.
Matt: See you, then.
Matt Malouf is a passionate business coach, speaker, author and entrepreneur on a mission to help entrepreneurs around the world break the shackles of mediocrity and reach new levels of personal and business success.
Barbara Turley is the Founder & CEO of The Virtual Hub, a company that specializes in recruiting, training and managing superstar ‘Virtual Assistants’ in the social media, digital marketing and systems automation space.