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If you’re like many of the business folks I talk with, one of your struggles in deciding to work with a VA is knowing what to delegate. Your To-Do list is vast, and you have no real sense of what to give away and what to keep. You’ve been doing everything alone for so long, and you might even be convinced that everything needs your special touch in order to be perfect. Everything seems to circle back to everything else. It’s hard to focus and make headway. Sometimes, the enormity of it all keeps you up at night.

Does that sound familiar? If so, know you’re in good company. If I filled a room with 100 people, I’d bet that most of the people in the room would say the same things. Take heart…there really is light at the end of this tunnel. You can figure it out, and I’m going to help you.

Let’s start with the big question: what to delegate?

Believe it or not, this has a very simple and direct answer. You need to delegate every single thing you don’t personally need to touch. Truly. EVERYTHING.

If you want to focus on that thing you got into business to do and that you love and feel deeply purposeful about, you must give the rest away, or it will eat you alive.

But how do you make a list everything? (cue the crickets)

No one knows that. We may as well be asking how to capture all the grains of sand in the oceans.

But fear not; I can help you get a ton of it on to a list and give you a strong start. You can then update as you grow.

And that “grow” thing is important. There’s what you need today, and what you believe you’ll need for the future. Some of the future stuff is smart to add to the today list, because you can see that it’s going to be needed sooner than later. Something like that might be getting a basic email marketing service because by year-end you want to be regularly sending out a newsletter.   But there’s also stuff that’s not coming anytime soon, without Divine intervention. Something like that might be getting Infusionsoft for email marketing, which no one just beginning this journey needs now. That stuff can be put on a different list for safe keeping. As you grow, you’ll add it in. Got it?

Step 1: Explore

What I recommend is that you commit to exploring—for a solid week—what those things are that belong on your “now” list. Use a pad, if you like writing. Use a notes app on your phone, if you prefer it. Use whatever floats your boat, but the game is to make a note of every single thing you did, touched, or talked about that you didn’t need to do, touch or talk about. Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass. Yeah, it takes up precious time you don’t have. Yeah, I’ve heard every BMW comment (bitch, moan, and whine) about this exercise, but do it anyway. And to make it easier, consider how amazingly fortunate you are to get to do it. You could be miserable in a cubicle somewhere, you know?

Then, because you only did it for a week and there are likely other things that happen in your world that didn’t happen during the time period of this exercise, look at this list to see if any of this needs to be added to what you already have. If so, add it

Step 2: Break it down

Armed with your big list, break it all down into sections for easier understanding. No one wants to try to process a list of 400 things jumbled together, including you. So put them in sections to create some ease. The section headings don’t have to be perfect, they just need to describe what’s included. You might have General admin, Travel, Speaking, Training, Branding, Money, Marketing…you get the idea.

Here’s the interesting part (and I feel a little sneaky for not mentioning it before, but it tends to gum up the process), everything on that list isn’t meant for your VA.

Every single one of us wishes there were a magical unicorn of a person who could do it all. But we all know better. If you think about it, you’ll recognize you already knew that. No one can do it all. No one wants to. Not really. And that goes twice for your VA, although she’d likely be happy to help you find the other people who should be doing the stuff she won’t be doing. That’s a good thing, ‘cause with her as your sidekick, you’re not in this alone and you aren’t going to have to figure it all out on your own.

Step 3: Bigger containers

Take your sections and decide what kind of work is in each. Think bigger containers like Operations, Design, Research, Personal, Financial? Move your sections under the appropriate kind of work heading.

Surround yourself with people who make you better

Step 4: Look at your list and consider the types of people you need to handle things for you

Look at your list. Admin, operations, and personal…whatever you created that correspond with these concepts, those are the things you most likely should be giving your VA. Everything else is probably better done by different sorts of professionals; your bookkeeping, for instance, by a bookkeeper, and your graphic design needs by a graphic designer.

I know it may hurt your head to think of having a bunch of people helping you, but if you create a team of well-fitting, appropriately skilled people around your work, you’ll get better results, than if you try to get services from one person that just allow you to squeak by. You wouldn’t bring in a plumber to refinish your Aunt Nelly’s prized china closet, even if she said she “could,” would you? Let’s hope not. Create a list of professionals you need.

Step 5: Share it

Now, share your list, sections, containers, professionals, and all, with your VA (we are going to assume, for the purpose of this post, that you already work with a VA). Start with the stuff you really hope she can help you with herself. If you need to move some of the stuff in her Admin/Ops/Personal list to another section, do it. And then ask her who she knows who might be a good fit for the other things. You’ll want to be thinking who you know, too. Chances are you know far more people than you think you do!

Step 6: Looking and finding

Talking with folks and choosing is probably the longest and most complex part of this process, and may be the most difficult for you. Do a good job. Choose for fit, first, then skill (skills can be learned; fit can’t be faked!).

It will take some time to get folks in place, and you’ll want someone to watch over everything who may or may not be your VA. But I promise you that when you give it all away, good things come back to you ten-fold. You’ve heard the saying, “If you want to create opportunity, clean out a drawer?” This is that, on steroids.

I have another one for you: “Surround yourself with people who make you better.”

These people I’m suggesting you bring into your work aren’t just any old people; you deserve better than that. These people are not just doers, although they do things for you. These people are amazing, bright, fabulous balls of life and energy who do things for you while loving, believing in, and diving into your vision, wanting you to succeed as much as they want their own successes, and who are happy as clams to be involved with you and your business. They make you/your business better. If they don’t, they’re the wrong people.

In case it’s helpful, here’s how my team shakes out:

  • Nicole is my VA. She handles me, and everything administrative and ops related.  She also *is* the person who looks out over the team for me.
  • Kelly and I collaborate on our social media. It helps to have someone to co-create with, and to help watch over our engagements. While I feel committed to engaging as myself, I also trust Kelly to engage as our brand voice. By not having to do it all, I do my part better.
  • Mindy is my graphic designer. She makes us pretty (and better!), and cohesively so across all channels.  She’s like Stacey and Clinton on What Not to Wear, except for design, and without that horrid 360-degree mirror thing.  Enough said.
  • Jon is.. well, a genius :)  He builds things, codes things, makes things work, fixes things that break, does audio editing, works with music, and probably 100 other things I can’t pull out of my head at the moment. I say, “Jon, is it possible to ________?” Next thing I know, it’s pretty much done. Like I said, a genius. Everyone needs a Jon.
  • Pat does video captioning for me. It’s a seemingly little thing, you’d think, but it takes a real eye for details and some great discernment skill to know what to caption, what to leave out, and how to make me look good.
  • Lori, Heather, Gayle, and Amy are our mentors. They brilliantly work with the VAs who enroll in our program, guiding them to create smart, sustainable businesses with heart.  They model high standards in their businesses and lives, holding space for the newbies we work with to grow into successful VAs..

(If you’re interested in learning more about them…look here!)

All contractors, in case you wondered.

I also have an attorney, bookkeeper, accountant, tech dude (my DH who does that stuff in his career), a variety of coaches I call on depending on need, and business friends who keep me straight.  Nic looks out over all of it except this group; I interact with those folks on my own.

Uncomfy?

You may look at that and think, “Holy crap, Anastacia, that’s 10+ people. I can’t even imagine it!” To that, I’d say that you have to remember that AssistU is nearly 20 years old. So it makes sense that the team is what it is. When I started, I had a VA who took care of a lot of what I needed, but I still did everything else, myself. As we grew and things became painful, with doing it that way, I added on. What’s in place now is what I need now. When the need changes, the team changes.

OR, you might look at that and think, “Holy crap, Anastacia…how do you do it with so few people?” Perspective. It’s a game changer, right? I mean, I run a pretty little business, and I love it exactly as it is. And you might be planning on taking over the world and are thinking about this from that perspective, and knowing that you’ll need dozens of people to help. The good news is, you can start wherever you are, and grow into who you become.

This never has to be an all-at-once or all-or-nothing scenario. Start where you are and move into more when it’s time. In fact, I urge you to not do this lightly or quickly.  With the wrong people, the outsourcing and delegating that was meant to set you free will feel more like a prison…a truly ugly prison. With the right people, everything will be easier.

You’ll still need to work on your business (and I’ll be doing a post about what this work will look like in the coming weeks), but you will absolutely also be far more free to do what you love, and what you always imagined you’d be doing in your business.

Let me know how it goes. :)