Never Normal Newsletter

Hiring Help, Dancing for the Queen, and the World’s Best Breakfast

Hello again from Turkey 👋

Last week I wrote about a few of the travel lessons I relearned on this trip.

I’m still here and enjoying the beautiful weather, fragrant flowers, some of the world’s best breakfasts (I’ve probably eaten my bodyweight in gooey honeycomb, hot bread, and tangy cheese), and…

…working hard!

Since I joined the founding team at Genki it’s been full on. We’re growing even faster than planned, which is great, but it also means that there’s a lot to do and think about.

That’s left me with less time for writing and recording new Never Normal podcasts recently. But there are still tons of ideas I want to share and people I’d like to interview (read to the end for a HUGE 👑 update from a previous guest).

Maybe it’s time to hire some help… 🤔

Virtual Assistants: Helpful or Overhyped?

I’ve been down this road before. Ever since reading Tim Ferriss’s seminal Four Hour Work Week, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of hiring a “virtual assistant”.

The term is a bit of a misnomer — virtual assistants are real people, unlike Siri. They’re just not sitting in the office next to you. Offshore assistant would be a better name…

Whatever you call them, the idea is pretty simple. If you’re a busy founder or freelancer, chances are that:

  • you value your time
  • you have plenty of work and other stuff to do
  • not all of that work is highly specialized work that only you can do

So, why not hire someone else to take that less specialized work off your plate, leaving you with more free time to enjoy yourself or focus on high value, specialized work?

It sounds great, in theory…

So why doesn’t everyone do this?

I’ve tried a few virtual assistant services over the years, like FancyHands and Zirtual, but I’m not sure if they really made me any more productive or gave me any extra free time.

So why am I revisiting all this again?

Over the past few months I’ve come across a few newer and (more premium) services that sound promising, Shepherd and Athena. Both companies specialize in helping busy founders hire dedicated virtual assistants based in the Philippines.

One thing I’ve learned is that delegation requires both skill and patience. Hiring someone creates more work in the short-term. You have to be willing to spend a lot of time training, explaining, and creating/documenting processes.

It doesn’t matter how smart they are. If you’re not willing to spend that time upfront, then you end up deciding “it’ll just be easier and faster to do it myself” every time something comes up, and that never changes. Instead of reducing your workload, you end up with “find work for to do” on your task list. Not ideal.

I like that both of these companies recognize that challenge, talk about it upfront, and help their clients work effectively with an assistant.

Eric Jorgenson recently interviewed Robert and Chris from Athena. They covered a lot of best practices for working with an assistant, as well some of the creative ways their customers make use of their assistants’ time — things I would never think of, like having an assistant act as a community manager for their family WhatsApp group chat and using an assistant as an accountability partner.

Shepherd founder Marshall Haas wrote:

I repeated this cycle for years:

Get excited by the idea of offloading mundane tasks -> hire an assistant -> get annoyed at how it felt like more work than the time it saved me -> cancel -> repeat.

Ultimately I never stuck with hiring someone to help me personally. Looking back, I was the problem. Not the assistants I hired. Why did I struggle so much with hiring someone for myself?

To help clients overcome these challenges, Shepherd offers a free course on delegation. Seems like a good starting point for giving this another go.

My internet friend Nick Gray has a great blog post detailing how he works with his assistants (hired via Shepherd).

What about you? Do you use either of these companies? Or have you worked with a Virtual Assistant? Hit reply and let me know if you have any recommendations or lessons learned.

From Punjab to the Palace

Vikram Seth joined me on Never Normal episodes 18 and 20 to share his journey from being burned out at his corporate office job to taking a sabbatical, going on a silent meditation retreat in Japan, and turning his passion for movement and dance into Bounce Bhangra.

Today, Vikram and his brother/Bounce partner, Manu, are dancing in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant Parade in London. Not too shabby!

That’s all for this week… More soon.

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I write occasional emails to share what I’m thinking, learning, and doing. It’s all related to the idea of breaking free from the “default plan” in life.

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