May 4, 2009

Bulk view

Weekly report: Week ending May 3, 2009

From last week’s plans:

  • get better at making design documents, thanks to my team members’ feedback They’re happy with the design documents I wrote, AND I learned how to use the documents to improve my programming thinking, too!
  • prepare background research for upcoming talks More talks to prepare! =)
  • develop a presenter’s guide for internal conferences Put some basic notes together, yay!
  • spend some time going through some of the great learning resources we have at work Haven’t done so, but blocking out time to do this on Saturday
  • mentor a colleague on Drupal application development It’s fun to help!
  • sew a skirt Finished my red wool skirt =)
  • sew a muslin for a blouse Haven’t started
  • sketch five new stick figures Drew some cats
  • … and continue to have and share tons of fun! Totally!

I also:

  • Submitted my personal business commitments and individual development plan, with plenty of insights from my mentors (yay!)
  • Got the hang of playing Chopin’s Prelude Op. 28 No. 6, yay! Next: Pachelbel’s Canon, then Memory.
  • Planned and planted our garden: garlic (from last year), rosemary (from last year), basil, oregano, thyme, hot peppers, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, strawberries, and mint. We’ll see how many of them survive this week. =)
  • Played lacrosse catch with W- and J-. Fun!
  • Handled more errands on my bicycle.
  • Learned a little about playing the flute.
  • Attended Isaac Ezer’s totally awesome house party. Feeling the urge to attend social dancing sessions again.
  • Attended a charity gala. Interesting excuse to dress up in a terno. Made a wrap myself using some pretty (and inexpensive) sheer blue fabric.
  • Coached people on virtual conferences.
  • Helped out at a training session in SecondLife.
  • Hired another virtual assistant (hi Mylene!).
  • Discovered that Linda Ristevski’s also into sewing clothes. Looking forward to swapping stories and pictures!
  • Chatted with Dries about Drupal, fun!
  • Read a whole bunch of books, improved my book workflow a little bit more (borrowing idea from Mel about using Goodreads+VA to manage to-read list)

Next week:

  • Work: Merge development changes into release-4
  • Work: Build event calendar system
  • Work: Get feedback on presenter guide
  • Work: Attend speed mentoring event in SecondLife
  • Work: Mentor more people on Drupal
  • Garden: Encourage plants to survive
  • Piano: Learn Pachelbel’s Canon, Memory
  • Sewing: Pin-fit blouse pattern, start making muslin
  • Sewing: Make spring skirts
  • Blog: Write monthly report

Getting started with virtual assistance

When people ask me about virtual assistance, I usually start off with a few stories about things my assistants do, like:

  • Renew my library books and e-mail me a list of the books they couldn’t renew
  • Look up information in my e-mail and call me with it while I’m out and about
  • Call stores to find out if something I’m looking for is in stock
  • Double-check the dates and times of appointments and talks, because I sometimes mess that up and it’s embarrassing

My reasons for experimenting with virtual assistance are to:

  • Learn how to delegate
  • Understand and improve my processes
  • Learn how to scale
  • Help other people grow

I use Timesvr for 15-minute tasks and well-specified processes, and I work with virtual assistants I hired through oDesk for more specialized skills or more extended projects. Definitely worth the experiment, and quite affordable considering what you can learn and how you can help yourself and other people grow. =)

To get started:

  1. Make a list of things you do and things that you’ve been meaning to do.
  2. Identify things you frequently forget to do, don’t like doing, or can delegate to someone else easily.
  3. Set aside some money in your budget for outsourcing. Timesvr costs USD 69 + tax a month, and oDesk virtual assistants can go from USD 3 – USD 20 or more per hour. The virtual assistants I work with generally charge about USD 5 per hour, with specialized skills like illustration costing more.
  4. Try to estimate how much time it would take to complete each of those tasks. If your list has a large number of 15-30 minute tasks on it, consider signing up for Timesvr. If you have extended projects or projects that need specialized skills, consider posting on oDesk. You might even try both.
  5. Try a few small tasks. Timesvr has a free 3-day trial, and you can hire people on oDesk on an as-needed basis (< 10 hours a week, with no charges if you don’t assign them work).
  6. Think about your processes and your outsourcing experiences, and look for ways to improve. You can ask experienced assistants to help you learn, too. For example, I have Timesvr e-mail me a list of sample tasks every day.
  7. Lather, rinse, repeat. =)

Resources for people getting started:

My experiences


Check out my blog category about managing virtual assistants, and feel free to ask questions or share your experiences through comments or e-mail!