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Start Off The New Year Right

Emily Niemiec

The holidays are a wonderful time of year. A time to relax, de-stress, and be with your family. Unless you find yourself in the position of already having too much to do and not enough time. In that case, the holidays (with all the time off and extra commitments) are rough! Ironically, the reason for starting your business was to gain flexibility and freedom, so you’d have MORE time when the holidays roll around.

With the new year beginning, now is the time to think about how you’re going to work smarter, not harder, in the year ahead. One of the best ways to do that is by delegating work. Hiring a Virtual Assistant is a great way to start. It’s a low commitment, low cost way to sharpen your delegation skills (in comparison to hiring an in-house employee).

Here are a few mistakes people make when getting help for the first time:

Mistake #1: Delegating Tasks Instead of Responsibilities

When delegating work, focus on the responsibility first, and the task second. Empower the virtual assistant doing the work. For example, when delegating a regular blogging task you should think about:

  • The schedule. How often should this task be completed?
  • Where do the topics come from?
  • Are there specific keywords to focus on?
  • Roughly how many words per post?
  • Do you want images and where should they come from?
  • What is the tone, or voice of the writing? On a scale of “The Onion” to “Harvard Business Review”, where should content be aimed?
  • At what points in the process should you be updated? At the beginning, middle, and end? Or only after the post is published?

These are overarching questions about the responsibility of completing a blog post on a regular basis. They are not about the specific blog post you need this week.

Mistake #2: Giving Up Too Soon

After putting a lot of time and energy into a system or process, it’s easy to get discouraged if the task doesn’t come back right the first time. It’s important to keep in mind that your instructions are not as clear as you think they are. For proof of this, check out “The Curse of Knowledge” from the Harvard Business Review.

You should be revising instructions and making improvements each time the task is completed incorrectly. It’s also important to keep mistakes in perspective. You can drive yourself crazy if you are always thinking “that’s not the way I would have done it.” Stay focused on the end result, and whether or not it helps achieve your ultimate business goal.

Give any mistake three chances to be resolved. As Julia at would say, “People don’t fail, processes fail.” If three rounds of revision to the process don’t show dramatically improved results, it’s time to question the capability of the person you are delegating to.

Getting into a groove can be difficult, particularly if you’re inexperienced at delegating. But in the end, the economy of scale makes delegation a very worthy investment. It may seem like a lot to invest 4 hours into delegating a 1 hour weekly task, but over the course of a year that investment will return you 52 hours.

Mistake #3: Not Giving Positive Encouragement

A good virtual assistant, at least the ones in our office, are intrinsically motivated to please. They want to do a good job, they want a client to be really happy. They pour more heart and soul into completing tasks than most of our clients realize. As a virtual assistant, it can be a real motivation killer to feel like your client doesn’t understand or care about the effort you put in.

Email is a very cold method of communication. The voice in your head does not come through in the text. If you are happy, but only send negative feedback, the virtual assistant can easily perceive that you are very dissatisfied. When giving feedback:

  • Try to include two positive comments for every negative one. If you have a lot of negative comments, then start your email with a positive comment, and end with a positive comment.
  • Frequent phone communication can go a long way towards keeping everyone on the same page.
  • Make critical feedback actionable and not personable. Professional people love to get feedback which they can implement to be better at their career.

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