An old friend of mine recently told me “you’re going to die with your inbox full, you know.” I started to vehemently deny it, then I remembered a quote from the Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön, who opens one of her books with “You are never going to get it all together.”
When I first read that sentence, I closed the book immediately. I didn’t pick it up again for a year. That’s how deeply invested I am in getting things in order.
But honestly, many things in my life are not in perfect order. Not even a little. I hate this, and I’d like to deny it, but I am coming around to the idea that it might be better to just admit failure… and finally ask for some help. Some outsourced help.
Fortunately for me (and you?), whether it’s help with business or help with life, there’re thousands of outsourcing services available. It’s possible to farm out darn near everything imaginable.
That’s great, but a lot of you may have immediately dismissed the idea. You immediately thought of something that desperately needs to be done, but is so specialized, so highly-skilled or so “one-off” that there’s no way you could find someone to do it. And finding someone to do it, would take practically as much time as just doing it yourself, right?
I think this might be the real problem with outsourcing. It’s the idea that no-one can help. Our projects are too specialized. Our quality requirements are too high. And the whole thing might end up being a hassle anyway.
Or is the real problem that we’re unwilling to let these things go? Perhaps our desire for excellence has morphed into a stifling perfectionism.
At a certain point (perhaps when you or I actually walk into a wall because we’re so tired) you might become willing to consider some outsourcing. You might – just maybe – be willing to try to get some things off your plate.
Honestly, you’re never going to be able to get everything off your plate. You (and I) may never get it all together. But that doesn’t mean some of it can’t be delegated. There’re tasks and obligations that someone else could do. Here’s how to identify them.
Write your “stuck list”
Any task that’s been on your to-do list for more than a week qualifies as something that’s not getting done. Of course, you’re resistant to outsourcing, so the one-week time frame won’t be enough. You (and I) may only be willing to outsource stuff that’s been on the to-do list for a month or more. Maybe a few months. Maybe even a year. That’s the stuff that’s so obviously not getting done. We might be willing to change tactics.
Some of these to-do items that aren’t getting done may not have ever made it onto a to-do list in the first place. Because you know there’s no way you’re going to be able to get to them. The magic window for these tasks is a long way off – like maybe retirement. Or some magical year when you take a long vacation and finally get to “all that stuff”.
To finally get some movement on these stuck tasks, simply write them down. Write down five to ten items that have been on your to-do wishlist for a month or more. This is your “stuck list”.
Define what’s getting done, but that you know you could outsource
Simple things in life take up a lot of time. Like buying and preparing food. Or finding sharp clothes. Or walking the dog, getting rid of clutter, and a thousand other things.
Come up with at least five tasks you really don’t take much joy in. They should be reasonably simple and repetitive. Or something you know you should be doing, but aren’t. Even really personal stuff, like exercise and saving, might belong here. Now type up both lists on your computer.
Find your providers
Find outsourcing services for every item on your two lists. This is easier than it sounds – a few Google searches are usually enough. And if you can’t find a service that can help you, ask a few of the virtual assistant companies. They tend to know a lot about outsourcing services and can often direct you to the right place. Here are a few ideas on where to look for outsources services:
- “5 Time-Saving Services for Small Business Owners on a Budget”
- “What To Expect When You Hire Content Creators”
- “How To Know When It’s Time To Hire An Assistant”
Send your queries
Email each one of those services. Ask them if they can help you with your list. Ask them how much it will cost, how long it will take, what they will need from you and how they plan to complete these tasks. You get extra credit if you include 2-3 sentences for each task that describe what you want the final outcome to be. None of those outsourcing services will be able to help you with everything, of course.
Set your budget
The most common reason people give for not outsourcing is that they don’t have enough money. This is perfectly understandable, but the wrong way to think about the problem. It’s not specific enough.
Instead of saying, “I can’t afford it,” decide what you can afford. $50? $200? $500? How much can you carve out to outsource some of your work so you can focus on high-value, income-generating tasks?
Figure that out, then budget accordingly. At least a couple of the responses you got back should fit within your budget. Start with those. Again, you don’t need to outsource everything to get freer. Just starting with 2-3 tasks, or 2-3 hours a week of free time will make a difference.
And, of course, I expect you to take the information these services send back, and then do nothing with it for about a month. Until the next time you’re so tired you walk into a wall.
But I have faith in you. You’re smart, and you’ve done your homework. Eventually, that knowledge – knowing who could help, how they could help, and what that help would look like and cost – will work its magic on you. Every time one of those undone things comes to mind, so will the solution. I believe that at some point you’ll give in and try even one or two of those services.
What’s cool is we don’t have to outsource everything to feel dramatically better and to get our best work done. Freeing up even a few tasks (once you’ve gotten your control-freak little claws out of them) will make a big difference. Here are two excellent ways to reduce your dawdling time:
- Consider how much energy you are putting into procrastinating
- Plan your funeral
In Games of Thrones parlance, death is coming. Which one of your heart’s desires are being set aside to do these non-essential tasks? If you need more inspiration, read Die Empty by Todd Henry
When we say we can’t outsource things, we usually cite the expense and the hassle and the possible lack of quality as why we won’t move forward. But is that really the problem? How often do we hold on to these filler tasks just because we insist on having total control over them?
What do you think?
Are you on the fence about outsourcing a few tasks? Or have you already taken the dive? Leave a comment and let us know where you’re at on this.