A long-standing, not-so-secret mantra for the most efficient and effective people is “saving time via the delegation of tasks = saved money”. Optimizing the use of your time and focusing on your most high-value strengths not only allows you to reduce the hectic payload on your life but potentially allows you to increase income and stockpile more money.
The old-school formula associated with this particular delegation of tasks typically involves the outsourcing of daily chores: cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning, baby-sitting, picking the kids up from karate, and the like. However, with the advancements in communications and the proliferation of online job marketplaces like Craigslist, Elance, and Guru.com, the number of tasks that can now be entrusted to others has grown on an immeasurable scale.
For example: You’re living the life of an up-and-coming, stay-at-home entrepreneur running a hectic and sometimes chaotic one-man operation. Business is flourishing, yet you’re spending more time than you would like to on the phone fielding calls that could potentially be huge sales or absolute wastes of time. You’re working late hours just to catch up with every voice mail, email, and IM that is targeted at you, and dealing with this heavy influx of communication isn’t just stealing your time, it’s introducing a never-ending bundle of stress right on your shoulders.
Jonathan Fleming, a solo real estate agent, was caught in a pretty similar situation. However, instead of spending the time to answer each individual call, he optimizes his time through hiring a “virtual assistant” to handle all inbound calls, emails, and other communication. Jonathan’s contractor organizes and presents all of the potential sales leads in a summarized fashion for him to view at his leisure so that more of his time is spent showing property, negotiating prices, and closing deals.
“When people call me from seeing my signs, I dump the voicemails and emails into a database that my VA sorts and summarizes for me. She set up an Oracle database where I can remotely log in and access all the info I need when I am traveling. She can pretty much work with any type of system – she’s able to learn fast… 70% of my time is selling/showing property/negotiating versus responding to every email… Elance could change how most real estate agents work. Currently, assistants sit in an agent’s office or the agents spend time doing the admin stuff themselves. Working with a VA saves time and money, gets you leads and allows you to focus on selling and acquiring customers.”
But don’t limit your thinking to just administrative help. In fact, there are literally tens of thousands of experts who are ready to help with your marketing, research, writing, programming, software development, translations — pretty much anything and everything that you’re, well, not good at or don’t want to do yourself.
Now, before you click on the “Outsource Life Now” button, there are a few things to consider when deciding what should and should not be delegated to others. Diana Dring of organizeyourworld.com tackles this through four points:
First, keep track of all your activities and prioritize them. These activities usually fall in four categories: Priorities, obligations, desirable but unnecessary tasks, and time wasters.
Be sure to do this over an extended period of time – at least one or two weeks, but preferably longer. This will give you a quick snapshot of your daily and weekly routines and will give you a general overview of how you spend your time. You’d be surprised how much time you spend in front of the TV.
Second, analyze the reasons why you do these tasks yourself now. Exercise, recreational sports, or palates? Staying in shape and having some fun at the same time is great for your health and well-being. Errands like grocery shopping, dry cleaning, and even email handling? You’re probably doing this just because “you have to”.
Third, ask yourself this for each activity: “Could a subordinate, family member, freelancer, or service agency do this job adequately?” As Diana Dring states in her guide, “The key word is adequately… striving for perfection is usually a waste of time. ‘Ordinary best’ is typically good enough… On the other hand, after training and practice, your delegate may actually be able to surpass you at the job.” That’s something to think about when perusing through your list.
And fourth, if you’ve determined your job can be delegated, determine to whom it can be delegated to. Having someone to perform your delegated tasks isn’t enough – make sure the shoe fits before walking out of the store. Hiring someone with a horrible driving record isn’t the best idea when looking for someone to pick your kids after school. Trust me.
These all may seem blatantly obvious, but they’re all crucial steps in effectively deciding what can and should be outsourced. Once you’ve got it down, you’ll be spending more time doing what you should be doing and leaving the rest to the respective pros.
So the next time you’re pressing “7” a hundred times to delete yet another hundred voice mails, ask yourself, “How much is an hour of my time really worth?”
Giving yourself more time to focus on your high-value strengths doesn’t just boost your cash reserves; it gives you more time to be what you really want to be: An efficient, focused, well-seasoned professional.
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Alex Yoon is a guest-blogger from Elance. You can read more of his advice on outsourcing on the Elance Blog.