Category Archives: business

On this page:

Reflections on learning to be an entrepreneur

The other week, I focused on exploring ideas and becoming my own client. Last week, I focused on the systems I can set up in order to keep on sharing while I’m distracted by work or other needs. The other week felt happier and more self-directed, but on reflection, last week is great for long-term learning and growth as well. I just have to keep tweaking the balance. Some weeks might be more exploratory, and some weeks might be more focused on packaging things and building processes. I’ll probably spend more time on consultinfg going forward than I thought I would two weeks ago, but I can see the benefits of investing the extra income into building up my delegation skills and experimenting with business ideas. (Besides, my clients are nice, and I want to help them do well.)

2014-02-07 Adjusting the balance

2014-02-07 Adjusting the balance

Thinking about this balance reminded me of this conversation that I had with Ramon Williamson, who has been thinking about the differences between artists and entrepreneurs. He’s coming to terms with the fact that he wants to focus on just speaking and coaching, and he doesn’t want to deal with a lot of the other small things that are part of building a business. It’s like the way my dad focused on just photography while my mom took care of running the company. Ramon is looking for someone who can manage him. I think a lot of people are like that, even the ones who have been self-employed for a while. That’s why partnerships often make sense, and why people often struggle with self-employment or self-directed learning.

I think of entrepreneurship as learning how to build processes, then systems, then businesses. It turns out  actually enjoy doing this. I stayed up until 1 AM Sunday morning interviewing an applicant for a writing gig that I posted on oDesk. She seems fine, so I hired her and walked her through what I’m looking for. I’m excited about the possibilities. I briefly thought of agreeing to experiment with managing Ramon and using that as practice for developing my systems, but I’ve committed to doing public work that builds up my life brick by brick. So I’m going to invest in building up my processes and skills, but I’m going to do that with my own content. That will also encourage me to develop my “artist” side: writing, drawing, coding, sharing, and so on.

Does it always have to be a partnership between an artist and an entrepreneur, or can you do a decent job at both? It seems like artists need to partner with entrepreneurs, but entrepreneurs with artistic bents can sometimes pull things off on their own. I think it makes sense for me to focus on developing those entrepreneurship-related skills first. It might mean growing slowly as an artist, but I think processes can scale up art so much. For example, becoming really comfortable with delegation will allow me to imagine things that I can’t do on my own. This seems to be something that lots of people struggle with. Most people I talk to have issues with trust, perfectionism, and other barriers. That means that it probably doesn’t take that much effort to get good enough to distinguish yourself, so if I can get to that level, that would speed up my growth even more.

2014-02-08 Artists and entrepreneurs

2014-02-08 Artists and entrepreneurs

People’s interests and skills are unevenly distributed. In some areas, it takes a lot of effort to get good enough. In some areas, a little effort goes a long way. It reminds me a little of how one strategy for playing role-playing games is to be a munchkin: to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses in a way that allows you to exploit the rules of the game. While that can lead to games that aren’t particularly enjoyable (unless you’re playing a game that makes fun of munchkinry), in life, a little of that strategy might be interesting. So, in the areas where I have unfair advantages–and in particular, unusual combinations of unfair advantages–I might be able to recognize opportunities for uncommon contributions.

This enjoyment of building processes and systems is one such unfair advantage. Coding is another, and delegation is almost like a people-version of coding. Frugality lets me take advantage of compounding interest. Reflective learning helps me take advantage of figurative compounding interest, which is enhanced by speed-reading my way through other people’s experiences and insights. Satisficing and optimism allow me to avoid the dangers of perfectionism and make it easier for me to experiment and trust. Self-direction lets me use these advantages to my own ends instead of being limited by someone else’s imagination or by a job description.

2014-02-08 Unfair advantages

2014-02-08 Unfair advantages

It is a handy combination of advantages. You should be out there, Ramon said. Joining the ranks of infopreneurs (many of whom seem to make their money by telling other people how to be infopreneurs). Making things happen. Living the life. I’m a little meh about the idea. I’ll grow at my own rate and at my own time. Plus, I like the free-and-pay-what-you-want model so much more than the buy-my-training-course-for-$X-hundred-dollars. I like the way it engages generosity and acts from abundance, both on my side (here is a gift!) and on other people’s. (Here is some totally optional appreciation! Make more stuff like this.) I’ll either figure out how to make that work, or I’ll eventually come around to setting prices. In the meantime, I can focus on building up those unfair advantages at the same time that I’m building up the things I want to make with them.

For example: delegation. I like framing my work as something that people can flexibly do more or less of, depending on their schedules and energies. It’s the same freedom I have with consulting, and I think it makes it easier for people who work for me as well. So it’s not a fixed “You must work 20 hours a week” thing, but rather, “Here’s a board with all the different tasks waiting for someone to work on them. Pick something you want to work on. You can work more hours on the weeks when you want to, and you can work fewer hours on the weeks that you need to. Just tell me if you need to be away for a while, so I can make sure that work gets reassigned.” I’ll check in with my virtual assistants to see if this is working for them or if they need deadlines or set times for focus and motivation. Eventually I might work up to asking for consistent time slots so that I have an idea of turn around times, but the system seems to be working so far.

I’ve been adding more people to my virtual team. There’s a range of rates (anywhere from $2-12/hour), and I’m working on gradually getting more of my assistants to deserve and totally justify higher rates. I proactively give them bonuses and raises, even. Instead of micromanaging who works on what in order to maximize cost-efficiency (approach A: different people for different skills; see diagram below), I’m experimenting with putting all the tasks on Trello and letting people choose from the tasks based on their skills and energy. If I’ve got good enough rapport with the team, then people might focus on the stuff that really justifies the value in their rate. I want to get to the point where people are generally cross-trained, so people can take the task and see it through end-to-end (approach D). I remember from Toyota’s lean method that this makes work better (versus the assembly line, where you only see your small part).

I’m also working on chunking higher-level tasks – the delegation equivalent of going up a level of abstraction, writing procedures that call other procedures. (See my list of processes) For example, I started with separate tasks to extract the MP3, add metadata, upload to archive.org, transcribe the audio, etc. Now I’m testing the task of posting show notes, which includes all of those. Maybe someday I’ll get to object-oriented programming!

2014-02-08 Delegation and task efficiency

2014-02-08 Delegation and task efficiency

I started by mostly working on my podcasting flow, but I’m also experimenting with delegating other processes to support learning or sharing. For example, how can delegation support my drawing? My process is pretty efficient at the moment (aside from some cross-referencing data entry that I don’t usually get around to doing myself), but if I batch things up more, maybe other people can help me tag my sketches and turn them into posts.

2014-02-05 Delegation and drawings - where does it make sense
2014-02-05 Delegation and drawings – where does it make sense

Writing is another good candidate, too. Podcasting and drawing help with writing, so it all comes together. I want to get even better at pulling stuff out of my head and out of other people’s heads, and getting those ideas into a form that other people can easily learn from. That’s why I’m experimenting with getting writers to help me pull out ideas from Q&As in transcripts and from all these thinking-out-loud self-reflections that may be a little too long and rambling for most people to make the most of. For example, a reader-focused tips post based on this might just focus on building systems and omit the role-playing games references. The end goal for that one would be to have a blog that mixes shorter, focused tips with long behind-the-scenes notes, and to have e-books (and maybe even physical books!) that flow well. That way, it’s good for people who just want a burst of inspiration so that they can get on with applying the ideas to their life, and it’s also good for people who like seeing the verbose tracing messages as I think and learn.

It’s a bit strange investing so much in the processes and output without yet building up the kind of audience and demand that justifies it, but I think it’s the Right Thing to Do to have transcripts and follow-up blog posts and all that jazz. If I grow sustainably and keep an eye on my finances, I’ll probably get to that take-off point right when I have the skills and systems to support it – and more importantly, the community. I figure it’s much easier to build great relationships with confederates/tribe people (Hi!) and provide useful resources for searchers while I’m not distracted by the mainstream yet, and I might not even bother with going mainstream. I’m just going to focus on you, and maybe you’ll find it so awesome that you’ll bring in a few people for whom this is also a really good fit.

That seems to be the general pattern of how I’m learning about entrepreneurship. I’m investing in the capabilities now rather than waiting for demand to completely drive it – almost like my own little MBA. Still cheaper than $80k+ for an MBA at Rotman, and you’ll get better value out of my “class projects” (like this free PDF/EPUB/MOBI of my No Excuses Guide to Blogging guide). At some point, we’ll figure out a proper business model. Maybe it’s sponsorship. Maybe it’s pay what you want. Maybe it’s membership, although we’ll need to find something that doesn’t involve just exclusive access to content, since I like making ideas as widely spread as possible. Maybe more of a coaching program? If you want me to sell to you, tell me how you want me to sell to you. (Comment, tweet, or e-mail me!)

2013-11-17 Should I sell to people more - If so, how would you like that

2013-11-17 Should I sell to people more – If so, how would you like that

(Although to be fair, there’s probably a lot of demand already out there. People have been asking me for an Emacs book for years. Look! I’ve started drawing maps and other Emacs tips. It will happen. I just need to sit down and share more raw material. This means you need to sit down and ask me questions about stuff I’m taking for granted.)

Maybe it’s a weird sort of entrepreneurship that I’m growing into, but I think it will be fun. How can I use what I’m learning to help you?

Thinking about the systems I can put into place to scale up sharing

I waffle about whether I should scale back consulting and focus on making my own things, or if I should keep on consulting because the team clearly needs my help. Mostly I lean towards doing my own thing. Life is short. Although you can buy someone else’s time, you can’t actually buy yours. But actually it would be good for me to learn how to build processes and systems that will do the work that I want to do even if I don’t always have large blocks of good focused time. The time commitments of consulting and the mental distraction of other projects are great constraints to learn how to work around.

I want to figure out how to make sure that the things I would work on during core time still happen even if I’m not focused on them. Mostly I want to get better at packaging what I know, learning more from people, and learning more on my own. I’m really happy with the virtual assistant team that I’ve been putting together, and we’re going through my backlog of tasks at a steady clip. As I get used to delegation, I’m sure I’ll figure out a coherent process for pulling it all together, making sure that none of the effort is wasted because of my inattention.

2014-02-04 What systems do I need to put into place to do awesome

2014-02-04 What systems do I need to put into place to do awesome

What would wild success look like? I imagine that even if I spend some of the time thinking about other people’s work, I’d have enough notes and background processes that I could pick things up again easily when I come back to focus on my own work. It would be amazing to get that packaging and publishing process all sorted out, and the podcasting process too. For example, I might answer someone’s question in email or a Google Helpout. If I can capture that and send it through the process, maybe I’ll get a nicely formatted other-people-focused blog post at the end of it. Likewise, I might start with a series of sketches reflecting on a question I’m curious about. I can record a short video segment talking my way through the sketches, and then someone else could take that reflection, write it up as a blog post, and then translate it into tips that are useful for other people–another blog post.

2014-02-04 Thinking about idea development and possible blogging flow

2014-02-04 Thinking about idea development and possible blogging flow

I don’t want to delegate the core parts of sharing, but there are lots of non-unique things that I can gradually chip away through delegation or automation. If I can set up those systems to make it easier for me to get stuff out of my head and into multiple forms that other people can use easily, I think that might be worth the investment of time and money. Who knows? Maybe other people will find the processes useful too.

2014-02-02 A path for learning to delegate or outsource

2014-02-02 A path for learning to delegate or outsource

If you’ve been reading about my experiments in delegation and you’re curious about joining me on this adventure, maybe the path I’ve sketched above can help you get started. There are lots of small, well-defined tasks that you can easily outsource on micro-outsourcing sites like Fiverr.com. When you’re comfortable doing that, you might want to find an agency so that you can assign a number of tasks without having to hire specific people each time, and you might even move up to having your own assistant or team. I’d love to help you get to the point where you’re experimenting with it yourself. Then I can learn interesting things from the way you delegate and the processes that you have. Leave a comment with your questions or thoughts, or e-mail me at [email protected] .

Ramping up delegation

Committing to delegating 2,000+ hours turned out to be the key to blasting through those conflicting thoughts about delegation. I don’t have to think about whether or not I’m going to delegate. I have a box of 30-40 hours a week for a little over a year, and I want to fill it with as many good tasks as possible. It’s actually pretty easy to find things to delegate when I’m not arguing with myself about whether delegation is worth it. I’ve set up a backlog of tasks for people to work on while I document other processes.

2014-01-27 Finding tasks to delegate

2014-01-27 Finding tasks to delegate

It’s easier to figure out what I need to do if I imagine what awesomeness looks like. What would it be like if I were fluent at delegation? I’d have a process library with detailed instructions. That would be useful for assistants, but also for me (process improvement) and for sharing with other people who are curious about delegation. I’d also feel confident about choosing people and helping them grow, and I would have a consistent stream of work so that my assistants don’t have to worry about my sudden disappearance. We would track the status of these tasks so that important things don’t fall through the cracks. I’d be good at sharing my vision so that they could see the bigger picture. I would be confident about the return on investment, and I’d have a safety net for mistakes.

2014-01-20 If I were a master of delegation

2014-01-20 If I were a master of delegation

More specifically, what would this 2,000+ hour experiment look like if it succeeded? What would encourage me to continue delegating beyond the parameters I’ve set for it, beyond the budget I’ve carved out? Self-funding is the obvious answer: if I use this assistance to create resources that I wouldn’t otherwise have, and people value these resources and vote with their wallets, then it’s easy to keep creating. Even if I don’t have that sorted out, though, it might still be worth the additional reach. People often say that it’s better to spend on experiences than stuff. I wonder… It might be worth spending on scale, on other people’s capabilities. Like the way I have more stuff than I need, I haven’t even wrung out all that I can from the experiences that I’ve had. Scale sounds like a completely different category, one worth investing in.

2014-01-28 Delegation and helping people learn

2014-01-28 Delegation and helping people learn

What could get in the way of getting there? Trust is a big deal. It’s probably the biggest limiting factor for the things I can delegate. If I can get better at choosing people, trusting them, and keeping that safety net for myself, then I’ll learn more from this experiment with delegation. One of the things that I can do to make it easier is to separate my accounts so that I can see which tasks can be delegated at lower levels of trust. For example, I can share a Dropbox or Google Drive folder without granting access to the rest of my data, while other accounts (like Google) are intertwined with more of my digital life.

2013-11-27 Trust and assistants

2013-11-27 Trust and assistants

I can also think about a sequence of tasks that allows me to build up trust in someone. For example, I’d previously written about mapping a strategy for outsourcing my podcasting process. If I set up the right sequence of tasks, I can give people more and more work to do, and eventually remove myself from most of the process.

I’ve been thinking about sequences of tasks to help people build their skills. One of my assistants would like to improve his written English. Aside from assigning ESL exercises, can I come up with practical tasks that will help him learn on the job? How can I help him immerse himself in lots of good English and gradually improve his writing skills with feedback, while still meeting my own goals for delegation? Data entry and web research might be good starting points; then summaries, more complex questions, transcripts, and maybe writing…

2014-01-28 Delegation and helping people build their skills

2014-01-28 Delegation and helping people build their skills

While thinking about how I can organize tasks to help my assistants grow, I realized that I actually get a whole lot more out of delegation than the usual benefits listed in books and blogs. This is good. It means that I can transform the dollars, time, and attention I invest in delegation into things I can’t buy. Delegation is an excellent excuse to build and test a process library. I like the way that other people can take care of back-and-forth discussions as well as provide me with ways to work around resistance or things I don’t enjoy. (Doing something repetitive can be boring, but writing good instructions is fun like the way automation is fun… =) ) I can take advantage of other people’s skills, experiences, and perspectives, and their questions can help me clarify what I want. I get the satisfaction of helping people grow, and I grow as well through these uncommon experiments. Describing my processes and lessons learned is also a great way to meet people who are interested in delegation. The time leverage that’s supposed to be the main benefit of delegation is actually just a small part of the picture.

2014-01-28 What do I get out of delegation

2014-01-28 What do I get out of delegation

I think delegation will be worth the time I spend in ramping things up. I’m looking forward to building a massive process library that other people can learn from and use to build their own. I’ve met a few people who have process libraries of their own, but I haven’t come across any that are publicly shared. (Maybe people think of them as competitive advantages?) I think I’ll gain even more from the conversations than from holding these processes close, and I’ll eventually figure out how to make the processes even easier to search and access.

Who wants to pick my brain about delegation? Who wants to share their insights? Let’s figure this out together. E-mail me at [email protected] and we’ll set up a chat, or leave a comment with your thoughts!

Improving and delegating more of my podcasting process

I’m interested in videocasting/podcasting as a richer and more interactive way to get stuff out of people’s heads and into other people’s heads. I’ve come to terms with the fact that most people don’t write anywhere near as much as I do, but that they know all sorts of things that they might not have realized yet. Talking to people seems to be a good way to help them share that, because many people find it easier to answer questions than to share on their own. Likewise, podcasts recorded live make it easier for me to bring in other people’s questions (bonus: I learn more in the process!). So, podcasting, even though actually talking to people is hard. Maybe if I do enough of it, I’ll get desensitized to the anxiety and I’ll get better.

2014-01-09 What do I find challenging with podcasting

Along those lines, I’ve been doing a weekly show for Google Helpouts providers. It’s a community of maybe a thousand people, which is a tiny niche in the Internet. I used to have co-hosts, but they’re on hiatus for various personal/business reasons. I did my first solo show the other week, and my second was last week. So far, I have managed to survive. I like it because Google Helpouts is a new platform and everyone’s still figuring things out. I’m fine with talking tech and maybe a little online marketing/customer service, but other people know so much more than I do about business and education, so interviews are a natural fit. I’m getting settled into a decent workflow involving Hangouts on Air, the Q&A module, MP3s, and even drawing sketchnotes while the conversation progresses.

Sketchnoting is oddly calming. I had done it from the very first show, when I had a co-host handle all the niceties of reaching out to people, introducing them on air, and asking questions. For a kick, I tried seeing if I could do it even when hosting solo, and it worked out fine. You’d think adding one more thing to do during the show would drive me crazy from multi-tasking, but actually, drawing keeps me not-stressed-out enough to listen well, ask follow-up questions (since I have my notes handy!), and help people follow along with the conversation or catch up afterwards. Besides, it’s a good excuse to swap out my webcam image for the screenshare, so I don’t have to be “on” all the time.

So the interview itself is fine, and it will get better as I pick up more experience.

Then there’s all the rest of the processes around that. I typically stay up about two hours after the end of the show. I chat with participants off-air for 30-45 minutes (this is usually the most fun segment!) and then handle all the post-work, since I like it when the resources are posted right away. That way, I don’t have to go back and work on it again. Although it’s certainly possible to just let the video be automatically posted on my YouTube channel and be done with it, I like putting together the video, my visual notes, an MP3 download (for the people who prefer to listen to the podcast while, say, doing chores or walking around), and eventually a transcript. If I’m going to do something, I might as well use it as an opportunity to explore what awesomeness look like. =)

That said, wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to document my processes so that I can do them without worrying about missing a step, and so that other people could take care of making things happen? I’d love to worry less about identifying, inviting, and coordinating potential guests, too. Someday.

2014-01-17 How can I hack podcasting

Since many of the things I do involve my Google account, this probably means building trust carefully. I was thinking about what sequence of activities might make sense in terms of trust.

2014-01-17 Mapping a strategy for outsourcing podcast work

Come to think of it, I can improve my post-podcast process by parallelizing some of the tasks that take a long time to do. Maybe I’ll even figure out how to automate some of those tasks, like perhaps getting the ID3 information from a spreadsheet.2014-01-17 Planning my post-podcast process

Here’s a list that’s roughly in order of trust:

  • Typing
    1. If there are visual notes, type in the text of the images and send them to me.
    2. Create transcripts suitable for copying and pasting into the blog posts.
  • Tech
    1. Make sure the podcast shows up correctly in popular directories.
    2. Add the text from 1 and 2 above to the blog posts for greater searchability.
    3. Write the blog posts with the video, audio, images (if any), and additional resources; update the redirection in WordPress.
    4. Create the announcement in WordPress.
    5. Update the WordPress redirection information for the event.
    6. Download the video from YouTube and extract the MP3; add metadata and upload it to archive.org
    7. Create and share the Google+ event for the upcoming podcast.
    8. Copy the event to Google Calendar.
    9. Start and manage the Google Hangout. (Including starting the Q&A module, setting up the YouTube URL, etc).
  • Connecting
    1. Draft or send invitations to possible show guests. Coordinate acceptance and schedule.
    2. Do research on the scheduled guest. Compile a short report with their bio and possibly interesting questions to ask.
    3. Research and suggest potential guests, including reasons why.

The biggest risk, I guess, is that someone goes rogue with my Google Account. Goodness knows enough people have had that kind of problem with people breaking into their accounts. Working with assistants I pick myself (since I work with people who have a good reputation) and making an effort to be an excellent client could lower that risk. I’ve also separated my domain administration account from my regular e-mail account. At some point, I’ll just have to trust (and verify).

Becoming my own client; also, delegation

When I started this 5-year experiment with semi-retirement, I fully intended it to be a learning experience in entrepreneurship. I wanted to learn how to create value. I wanted to learn how to sell, how to build systems. Mission accomplished. I have the confidence that if I need to work, I can help people and earn money in return. I can deal with the paperwork required by the government. I can negotiate and make deals.

The more I learn about freedom and space and creating my own things, though, the more I think that this should be my real experiment, not freelancing or entrepreneurship. It is not difficult to freelance. Millions of people do it. There’s plenty of information about entrepreneurship too; no end to aspirational books encouraging people to break out of their cubicles and follow their dreams. But far fewer people have the space to simply create and share things for the sheer joy of it. Even the authors of those books on freedom work for their rewards.

It’s an interesting experiment to try. I could focus on working on my own things, going forward. I’ve been winding up my commitments and avoiding new ones. I still have a little bit of consulting to wrap up eventually. I’ve been telling myself that the money I earn increases my safety net so that I can take those future risks. Besides, I like the people I work with. I like the feeling that I am helping them out and making a difference. (And there, taking a step back, I can see that the desire for a clear sense of accomplishment may be distracting me from more difficult self-directed work.)

Really, nothing can buy time. Probably even if I stopped consulting now — or if I had stopped a while back, or never started — I could still spend an appreciable amount of time making things happen. Postponing this doesn’t make me live any longer. It doesn’t mean that I have more core time, those hours when I’m alert and creative and happy.

I hadn’t noticed for a long time because I had set too low standards for myself. I set trip-wires to trigger reflection: if I missed a commitment or started misplacing things, I knew I was overscheduled, and I cut back. The rest of the time, it was enough that family life was happy, blog posts were written, sketches shared. It was too easy to meet these conditions, so I didn’t notice.

2014-01-12 Being my own client - part 1 of 4

What would I work on? Visual guides to complex topics look like the most unique contribution I can make, and there have been quite a few updates for my blog (both technical and written) that I’ve been postponing for lack of attention.

2014-01-12 Being my own client part 2 - Projects

Details help me visualize what that might actually mean:

2014-01-12 Being my own client part 3 - Emacs, blog

I should treat myself as a client and as a contractor. If I were delegating this work to other people, would I be happy with vague specifications and without milestones? I wouldn’t hire someone to maybe possibly think about something that could help people learn. I would spend the time to come up with a clear vision and the steps to make it happen, and then I would make regular progress that I would report on. The high-energy hours I have are best used for this long-term work; everything else can go into the non-core hours.

So I’ll keep my existing consulting commitment to Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus whatever non-core time I can spare to help them get over this hump, and then we’ll see if we’ll continue or not. In the meantime, any consulting of mine will be with the commitment to replace all the hours I spend earning with at least the same amount of time in delegated work (plus whatever time I need to manage the delegation). The end result won’t be as awesome as having the same amount of core time (and to be fair, my consulting involves non-core time too), but it should:

  • build up a good library of procedures so that I can either delegate tasks to other people or work more consistently when I’m on my own (plus the benefits of process improvement and sharing)
  • help me learn how to take advantage of other people’s time — and better yet, how their skills and experiences differ from mine
  • allow me to support people as they build up their own businesses and the local economy

In fact, just for kicks, I’m going to backdate the experiment–to replace my original 5-year experiment with it instead of starting just from this point onwards. Since I don’t actually have a time machine, an easy way to make that commitment is to calculate all the time that I have spent earning so far. Fortunately, this is yet another question that time-tracking allows me to answer. The numbers in the sketches below are a little bit out of date now; the current ones are:

  • 1874.4 hours spent earning since 2012-02-19
  • 208.1 hours delegated through oDesk so far
  • 55.1 hours spent managing the delegation (including documenting processes, interviewing, etc.)

So my ratio is about 1 hour of management to 4 hours of other people’s work. A ratio of 1.3 hours should be enough to account for delegating the work, managing the delegation, delegating the time to cover my management, etc. That means that if I want to replace about 1874 hours, my goal is to delegate a total of 2437 hours. So far, I’ve delegated 208, so I have 2,229 to go. (Ignore the math in the sketch; this is the updated version.) That’s a little more than a full-time employee. I’m not quite at the point of having streamlined, documented processes that can take full-time assistance over a year (or enough faith in my hiring abilities!), but I’ll work up to it. (My first goal: delegate as much as I can of this podcasting process.)

2014-01-12 Being my own client part 4 - buying back time

It’s a little scary delegating so much, especially since I’m normally quite careful about costs – but I think it will be worth it. In fact, I’ve been giving some virtual assistants raises to challenge them to think of themselves as people who can earn that. It’s a little scary projecting the expenses, but if I commit to it and then focus on making the most of it, I’ll gain more than I would if I kept waffling on the commitment. The work can start by replacing the routine, but it would be interesting to use it to support new projects someday.

2014-01-17 How can I assign 30 hours of work a week

As always, it helps to keep the end in mind.2014-01-17 Thinking about delegation goals

I’ve been ramping up my delegation through oDesk, and I’ve also experimented with micro-task-outsourcing through Fiverr (with quite good results!). We’ll see how it goes.

2014-01-14 Ways to increase my delegation-fu

It would be great to share processes with other people. Timothy Kenny gave me a glimpse of his growing process library. I’ve posted a number of my processes at http://sachachua.com/business, but haven’t updated it in a while. I’ll share more as I hammer them out. I wonder what my end-state would look like. Maybe I’d just share this Google Drive folder, and people can copy from it into their own libraries.

Anyway, plenty of stuff to figure out. =)

Rock those meeting minutes

It boggles me when people don’t take minutes during a meeting. How do people make sure that all the important decisions and actions are captured? When people run from meeting to meeting or get buried in e-mail and calendar entries, it’s so easy to let things fall through the cracks.

In my consulting engagement, I’m the minute-taker because I’m the fastest typist in the room. (Also, it helps that I can type and participate in the meeting.) At higher-level meetings where the clackety clack of a laptop keyboard might be distracting, I’ll keep quick paper notes anyway.

Here are some tips for taking meeting minutes. (Click on the image for a larger version!)

2013-11-08 Note-taking tips for meeting minutes

Projecting the agenda/minutes (or sharing them shortly afterwards) helps keep everyone on the same page and catches many possible miscommunications. It’s good to remember that you can guide the flow of the conversation with questions. I often work with the meeting chair to make sure that we cover the agenda at a good pace, and that agenda items that need decisions or tasks are neatly wrapped up. You can create a lot of value by taking the minutes, so volunteer for this whenever you can.