One of the hardest things for any entrepreneur to get used to is delegating. Delegating “my stuff” to an executive assistant has been the hardest one to figure out. Delegation is a talent in and of itself.
A mentor of mine convinced me several years ago that it was time to offload administrative things I was doing and get someone to assist me. It was a watershed moment for me and eye-opening to figure out how many things I was doing that I didn’t need to be doing. Even still, I struggle to stay consistent.
The reality of it is that the best use of my time is focusing on valuable things that only I can do. It has taken some learning to figure out how to carve off those things that aren’t important for me to do.
Everyone is aware of the calendaring and administrative duties that you can pass on to an EA, but there’s really an art to learning to let someone else help you. Having an EA saves me 20-30% of the time in my week. If I was better at it, it could save me 40-50%, so I’m definitely still working at my time management strategies and learning to optimize.
Here are 3 lessons I’ve learned through the years that help me to optimize:
Your EA is your right hand (and your left). It’s one of the hardest roles to fill. Find someone that you trust on multiple levels. Jaci knows some of my passwords, more about my family than most, and has access to confidential documents. In addition, I trust her to get the job done – not just those I ask her to do, but those that she anticipates before I even think of them. She knows what makes me tick, and I trust that if I delegate something to her that I never have to think about it again.
Go “all in”
You can’t delegate just half of your administrative duties. I still struggle delegating some of my personal calendaring to Jaci. I feel a little guilty when she’s helping coordinate a lunch with my wife or plan a meeting with a charity I’m involved in, but, the reality is, if I don’t give her access to everything and allow her to fully manage my calendar, it’s nearly impossible for her to be successful. I don’t always fulfill this promise, but I try to go “all in” on things I choose to delegate.
It’s easiest for your EA to anticipate your needs and follow through if they know what’s going on. Find ways to keep them in the loop. Communicate openly (see #1) and allow them into your head. A good EA will learn to think like you and will anticipate your needs. He or she will only be able to do that if you’re an open book.
Is an EA for you? It’s much more of a possibility than you may think.
The discipline of learning how to think through what you should be doing versus what you shouldn’t be doing–of focusing on how you spend your time–is important for everyone, not just for executives. You can get virtual assistants who are fairly inexpensive; most people can afford to give it a try.
Figure out what an hour of your time is worth and what your priority is. Can you hire someone to do what you’re doing for less than what your hour is worth? If so, prioritize trust, go all in, and be open. You might just find that you’re not only optimizing your time, you are multiplying your impact on the world.