I am in the process of onboarding a part-time executive assistant service and in support of that, this week I read a book by Michael Hyatt titled Your World-Class Assistant (Hiring, Training, and Leveraging an Executive Assistant).
Each of us has key accountabilities that drive our success. These are our highest level priorities. And yet, we are buried in a wide array of work and personal tasks. It isn’t always clear which directly supports these priorities and which don’t.
More Time. More Impact.
The whole point of having an EA (and other forms of support that free up your time) is leverage. You and I are really amazing at a few things, competent (but not stellar at a bunch of other things) and frankly terrible at some stuff. And then there’s the question of interest or passion in that task type.
Imagine getting more leverage; more time to focus on what’s important … your professional key accountabilities as well as your core priorities outside of work. You’d generate:
- More Impact: You’d have the opportunity to spend more time in your zone of genius, doing your highest-impact work. Results would accelerate.
- More Progress: We can easily get bogged down as a result of having too much to do, or spinning our wheels on tasks that are not our cup of tea. Create progress on your key outcomes through greater leverage.
- More Margin: Create some time and cognitive margin for yourself. You’ll feel better, be more creative, and more present.
Think Like an Entrepreneur or Executive
If you’ve taken ownership of the trajectory of your career, you owe it to yourself to find ways to work more in your zone of genius. Here’s a basic approach to help you get more leverage and focus:
Step 1: Identify Your Key Accountabilities
Start with work and then wrap in personal and family and community. What are your highest level accountabilities?
Step 2: Inventory Your Work
How do you spend your time? What tasks/projects are you performing doing daily, weekly, monthly?
Step 3: Categorize Your Work
For each of your tasks determine a) how important it is for your key accountabilities and goals, b) whether this is an area of strength, average competence, or weakness, and c) whether you like performing the task.
Step 4: Assign a Leverage Strategy to the Task
There are four strategies you can pursue to get leverage: get more efficient, automate, eliminate, or outsource. Go through your tasks from step 3 and
Get More Efficient: We can all find ways to be more efficient. For example, I check-in on email far too many times each day. I’m working on batching my email into condensed blocks of time. Imagine finding additional hours each week just from noticing and then re-engineering some of your repeating tasks. Here is one tactic: create an inventory of pre-written template emails that can be copy/pasted with just a few keystrokes.
Automate: Automation is a version of efficiency and worth mentioning separately. This usually won’t free up hours a week, but you can find ways to reduce your cognitive load through automation. Auto-reminders. System back-ups. Online scheduling software. Programming auto-payment of bills and numerous other approaches.
Eliminate: What isn’t necessary? What can you get rid of and what can you start to say “no” to? Of course, you need to use your discretion here. As you gain clarity and confidence in your highest value activities, this might be an evolving discussion with your manager.
Outsource:If you can figure out ways to “outsource” work a) that is a bad use of your time (someone else can do it cheaper), b) you are not competent at (someone else is better at it, and loves doing it), or c) that is a distraction (you like doing it, but aren’t great at it), what could you do with the resulting 5, 10, 15 hours a week? Here are a few tactics to get started:
- Perhaps you have a colleague who is brilliant at X and you hate X. Maybe there’s an opportunity to trade-off work.
- If you have direct reports, there are likely opportunities to let go of work to empower them more and give them work as developmental opportunities.
- Interns and co-op students can be another source of leverage.
- You can outsource key personal projects to experts. Clients hire us, for example, to develop resumes, cover letters and LinkedIn profiles both for our expertise and to leverage their time.
- Leverage the increasing variety of specialized service providers popping-up.
- Tap into admin support in your company, shared or full. You might be able to make a case for the ROI of having some admin support (booking travel, calendar management, reporting, etc.) if you focus on your highest value activities.
- You can leverage the numerous online markets putting the project work of clients together with individual providers (99Designs, UpWork, TaskRabbit, etc.)
- And you can invest out of your own pocket in a part-time EA (virtual or otherwise). You could start at 10 hours a week with a laser focus on gaining time and leverage.
The point I wanted to make is this: greater results in your career will come from increased attention on your areas of unique strength and highest impact activities. Place a value on your time and attention. Find ways to get leverage. Invest those hours in what matters most.