Would you pay $5 to never schedule another meeting again?

How I use virtual assistants to manage my life

For the past year, I haven’t had to send a meeting invite, find an open conference room, order groceries, or even schedule a haircut. And all it costs me is $5 per hour.

This is all because of the internet, remote work, and the beauty of a global workforce.

Last year, I felt overwhelmed with all of the work that seemed to be consuming my life. I did an exercise where I looked at everything I do on a daily basis. Every 15 minutes, I would track exactly what I did for 1 week. I realized that on some days, up to 80% of my time was spent on on administrative activities. These tasks included things like:

  • All things email
  • Scheduling meetings
  • Filling out expense reports
  • Booking dinner / lunch reservations
  • Planning vacations, trips, weekend stuff
  • Sending invoices to customers and following up
  • Going into Google Calendar to send meeting invites
  • Emailing people back and forth to find a time that we were both available to meet
  • Personal chores (ordering groceries, ordering supplements, scheduling haircuts, appointments, etc.)

Does this sound familiar? As I thought about my time working at Facebook and GE, I realized I spent a lot of time on these things as well. There was the constant frustration of finding an open conference room, coordinating schedules, and following up on tasks over email. If your average hourly rate was somewhere in the range of $300 an hour, even spending 10 minutes to find an open conference room costs you and your company $50. Does that make sense?

One of the previous CFO’s at GE, Jeff Bornstein, used to always say, “You should manage your P&L like you manage your own checkbook”. While this is great advice, it is applied much more practically when your P&L is the exact same thing as your checkbook. So now that I was in this position, I asked myself, “What was my opportunity cost of spending time on these things”? Is my time better spent analyzing real estate investments or scheduling meetings? Or could I free up time to relax, read, or hang out with my family instead of filling out expense reports? The answer was obvious.

Enter Lloyd.

Lloyd is my Executive Assistant (For fans of Ari Gold, the irony from Entourage is not lost on me). Lloyd lives in the Philippines. He works U.S. hours. I have trained Lloyd to perform all of the tasks that I didn’t want to perform. Lloyd gets to work from home and earns about $10k per year. For context, the housing cost in the Philippines is roughly $4k per year. Lloyd does all of the things in my above list, and more. Any task I have that can be delegated, is repeated, and I dislike goes to Lloyd. Even this blog post was published by Lloyd! All I needed to do was write this up in Evernote and Lloyd will handle the formatting and publishing on my blog. Lloyd is awesome. For me, the return is obvious. I am getting to spend my time on higher-value activities and also freeing up my time to spend with family and friends. For Lloyd, he gets great work experience learning the various aspects of what’s needed to run a business. His personal and professional growth over time has been spectacular. He has learned how to communicate effectively with people on the phone and over email, how to be extremely organized, and how to anticipate questions that I’m going to ask him ahead of time. If, and when, Lloyd moves to the U.S. he will easily be able to get an Executive Assistant role that nets him $150k/year.

Here’s a list of some of the things he does for me:

So, now you must ask yourself: Is this level of freedom, time saving, and opportunity cost is worth $5 an hour to you? And if so, how can you apply this to your life?

If you’re a founder of a startup or in a similar type of decision-making role, you should have made this decision by now. If you haven’t, do it right now! Follow the same process I did. Start with the 15-minute tracking and then identify the things you can delegate. Then jump to the last paragraph in this post and send me a message. I’ll send you exactly what you need to do to make sure you approach this the right way.

If you’re an employee at a company you should start with the 15 minute increment tracking exercise as well. Then go show your boss that analysis of how much time you spend on non-revenue generating activities or “low-value” activities. Come up with a cost-benefit proposal. If you have a smart boss they will go along with the idea. However, some bosses will say something to the effect of, “Look, we schedule our own meetings that’s just how it works”. In this case, you should just take on the cost yourself. Do the experiment for 1-2 months and then present your results. Nothing better than having some skin in the game and actually running a pilot to show your company how effective this is. At Facebook, we had a rule: “Move Fast and Break Things”. The CFO adjusted it to say “Move Fast and Break Things … under $5,000”. The rule was great and it simply meant, stop asking for permission. Go do something and if it doesn’t work out, you’ve learned something new. If you get in trouble, then ask for forgiveness. A $5,000 mistake should be viewed as a learning in the context of a multi-billion dollar company.

I’ve been able to spend my time so much more effectively ever since I hired an assistant. Instead of asking myself, “What I should do?”, I instead ask, “Who should do it”? Whenever there is a task that is teachable, repeatable, and I dislike a light goes off in my head. I know I have found something I never have to do again. I simply explain the Vision of the task to Lloyd, teach him how to perform the task, and delegate it to him. I review his work the first couple times he completes the task, provide any feedback if necessary, and then never have to think about it again.

If you do end up going this route, send me a message. I have written down my detailed process of how to find, interview, and select the right assistant. I also have templates and processes documented that provide your assistant with everything they need to start and for you both to be successful on your new path to freedom.