Category Archives: delegation

Process: Update my IBM meeting calendar

  1. Log on to and to in two windows. Arrange them so that you can see both windows.
  2. Click on the IBM Upcoming Events label in the mail window, and open the e-mail for today.
  3. Click on the down arrow next to the IBM meetings calendar in the calendar window, and choose Display only this calendar. Switch to the Agenda view for convenience.
  4. For each item in the list, verify that it is on the IBM meetings calendar. Create it if necessary. Review the next three days of events and remove events that are no longer listed in the e-mail, including the removed events in an e-mail to me.
  5. Restore my Google Calendar view by clicking on all the other calendars so that all the calendars are displayed.
  6. If you notice conflicts for meetings over the next three days, include those conflicts in an e-mail to me. Do not e-mail me if no conflicts or removed events have been found.

Thinking about how I can make the most of editing; The world is an amazing candy-store of talent

I’ve been thinking of ways to get even better at communicating. Blogging and volunteering to do lots of presentations has helped me figure out what I want to talk about and how I want to talk about it, and I’m looking forward to exploring this further over the years. What could really help me take this to the next level, though, is working with a professional who can bring experience and a critical eye. An editor can help me distill my blog posts and presentations to the essential message, hold me accountable when I dither or when I skip over things that should be explained, and challenge me to express myself more clearly and vividly.

Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that kind of detailed writing or presentation feedback. Teachers are typically too busy to help each student figure out their core messages and refine them through successive drafts. At work, I’ve bounced ideas back and forth, wordsmithing with others, but nothing like what I hope to learn by working with editors.

I want to know:

  • What’s the key message people will find valuable, and how can I communicate that message more clearly?
  • Where am I skipping too quickly over things I should explain further? Where am I spending too many words on a concept?
  • Do the words and paragraphs or slides flow well? What could improve the structure?
  • Where can I be more vivid or more precise? Where do my words distract from my message?
  • How can I express these thoughts more clearly and more memorably?

I don’t just want feedback on typos or suggestions for individual word changes (unless those make spectacular differences), just as I don’t want my speaking evaluations to focus just on “ums”, “ahs” and vocal variety. ;) I want to get to that deeper level of value.

Considering the benefits of great communication skills, I think this is well worth using my opportunity fund—particularly if I can figure out how to create even more value with the results. (E-books? Articles? Awesome presentations?)

So, three weeks ago, I posted a quick job ad on oDesk:

I’m looking for an editor with an excellent command of English, a familiarity with blogging style (short, conversational, personal), a knack for presentation flow, and the ruthlessness to cut and rearrange words until a piece flows well and is no longer than it needs to be. I want someone to help me trim the occasional blog article and presentation until it’s clear.

You will not need to write content (or fake reviews, or astroturf comments, or do other icky things). Just edit to make sure that every word counts.

Turnaround doesn’t need to be immediate – you can fit this work around your other work.

When applying for this job, please submit before and after samples of your editing. The best applicants will have examples of both edited blog posts and edited presentations, and an innate hatred of business jargon such as “utilize”,  “incentivize,” and “leverage” (when used as a verb).

If you would like to see my writing style to see if we’re compatible, check out for my blog posts and for my presentations. I write a lot of raw material which I occasionally refine into more useful articles, and I would like to take that writing to the next level. I also tend to obsess a bit about the logical flow and organization of presentations, and I would love to be able to bounce ideas off an editor who knows his or her work and who can provide fresh perspectives.

Looking at the list of candidates, I can’t help but want to hire them all. =)

It always amazes me that there are so many people in the world who can do things so much better than I can, and that with a little investment of time and money, I can tap their skills. Someday, I want to learn how to create even more opportunities to create value. I want to be able to bring people together to build even more complex things. Wouldn’t it be amazing to find and solve problems or make new things possible, working together with people who are doing what they love? The world is a candy-store of opportunities and talent, and I can’t wait to explore it further.

But first things first, of course. How can I work with editors so that I can learn what I want to learn, and how can I use this opportunity to practice creating value?

I’ve written a lot on my blog, and it would be interesting to review that archive, figure out what might have some kernel of value for others, and learn more about my thoughts and my voice. As I do that, I can pick the most promising posts, send them to this team of editors, and ask their feedback using the questions above. If their suggestions are enough to prod and inspire me, I might go and try to implement them. If I think there’s some more potential that I haven’t been able to reach, I can ask them to apply their editing magic to it, and I can learn from their example.

So that’s my plan. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from it! Have you thought of or done any similar experiments before? I’d love to read your thoughts!

Editing feedback on the Shy Connector

Reflecting on how I can create value

I reviewed my past eight years of blog posts and dusted off some articles that I think still have some uncaptured value in them.

Public speaking and presentation skills

  6. or

The particular quirks I bring to this are:

  • I link presenting with blogging and connecting, which is a particularly good combination for introverts
  • I’m comfortable giving virtual presentations
  • I love thinking about presentation organization
  • I love flipping the dynamic for presentations (not just “speaker as expert”)
  • I like sketching, and that’s become part of my style

I can create value by:

  • helping other introverts and novice speakers identify their core passions through blogging/writing, and develop presentations around those topics
  • helping speakers make the most of virtual presentations
  • sketching explanations for other topics, and helping build a visual library of metaphors and examples

Connecting / networking


The particular quirks I bring to this are:

  • I’ve figured out a lot about how I can connect as an introvert (speaking, social media)
  • I’m a geek, and I tweak my system

I can create value by:

  • sharing tips for other introverts
  • sharing tips on connecting through writing, speaking, and using social media
  • connecting the dots



The particular quirks I bring to this are:

  • I’m comfortable delegating tasks and projects, and I’m learning more about that
  • I enjoy practicing relentless improvement

I can create value by:

  • Sharing tips for personal delegation
  • Sharing my process improvements and ideas

Looking at these lists, I think I’ll be able to create the most value by making presentations (and writing accompanying articles) about presenting and connecting. Presentations spread much faster than blog posts and they also help me practice visual communication, so my output will probably focus on that. Blogging is a great way for me to think through the topic out loud, organize my thoughts, and figure out what should go into the presentation. Editing can help me pick out the key messages for the different topics, express them more vividly, figure out what’s missing or redundant, and improve the presentation flow.

Although virtual presentation skills meet a timely need at work, the Shy Connector series and other networking tips would benefit a wider audience. I want to make a set of presentations and blog posts that can help introverts and extroverted newbies make the most of conferences, blogging, and other ways to connect.

Okay! Next step: get in touch with potential editors, explain my goals, and do a trial run of reviewing/revising one major post each.

Learning how to write



I want to write better so that I can learn and share even more. I outsourced editing so that I could get an idea of what “better” looked like. The first editor couldn’t think of how to significantly improve what I sent her. Maybe I’ve hit the “good enough” gap. But improvement isn’t just about polishing something until it shines.

I can write more. If my instincts are good, then I’ll get better the more I write.

I can learn more. The more I experience, the more I can share.

I can draw more, so I can make stories even richer.

Looking forward to sharing the adventure!

Editing feedback on The Shy Connector

Here’s the detailed feedback from one of my editors on The Shy Connector. Lots of stuff to work with here! I look forward to improving the presentation. =)

I really think the presentation is pretty awesome. Others obviously do, too, from reading the comments.  :-) I think if you left it as it is, it’d be just fine. However, I’ll write down my observations, from line-by-line editing to overall suggestions. You can then accept or implement whatever you like and ignore the rest. :-) Having not gone through and read every archived blog etc on your sites, I hope I don’t miss the mark by pointing anything out that’s already been covered in another post. And I figure that while most of the observations might seem obvious, the more you give people so the less they have to think upfront, the happier they are. And it should be presented as if going to someone who’s never read or seen anything you’ve done before. So…
My editing suggestions are more along the lines of making a transition smoother or just simplifying so the reader’s brain doesn’t have a chance to stumble. No glaring errors. :-)
Editing thoughts:
On slide #3: Add “They say:” or “I’ve heard:” before “2000 Twitter…”
Slide #4: Change “I’m an introvert.” to “But I AM an introvert.”

  1. 8: Change “You’re okay.” to “You’re okay as you are.”
  2. 14 & 16: add , before too: “and help you, too.”
  3. 17: Change “liked” to “like” and delete “great” in “(checkout people’s great comments!)”

For the overall suggestions:
Would it be too much to add some info on WHY I need to be a shy connector? Why do I need to be able to talk to strangers? How does that help me? Who would benefit by that? Why bother? In other words, what’s the value of connecting?
You have a “How?” slide. Would some of the above points be answered with a “Why?” slide and subsequent answering slides? (Define the value of connecting and why you want to help them overcome their fears.)
What about a section on “What if I’m so shy that the ideas you suggested simply terrify me?” or “What if I try and fail miserably?” or “How can I measure if it’s working?” That sort of line of thought…
Specific points:
Slide #7: You say it took you “a while to figure that out.” I assume you meant it took awhile to figure out that you’re shy. Did you think other things were wrong with you before that revelation? Did you blame others? Have any successes despite the shyness? How DID you figure it out?  Anything you can add here that would bring others in deeper (cuz they have that in common with you)?
“Maybe I can help you or somone you know.” Can that be expanded? Some thoughts a reader might have: Do I need help? Is there something wrong with me? What can you do for me?
Slide #10: Excellent!

  1. 11: I like having all the points together but it is fairly crowded. Any way to reorganize so the text fits more easily with the appropriate images? I read it a couple times before I saw the lines linking the images to the text. Afraid of messages getting lost in the crowdedness.
  2. 12: Same thing here. From the layout, with the line dividing the slide into top and bottom, my eye wants to read the whole first block on top, then the second block on top,then go to the bottom. The text, however, seems to make more sense if I read the top left 1st sentence only, then the whole second block on top, then the bottom of the first block, then jump down to the bottom sections.

That is, it makes the most sense to me this way: What can you bring to a conversation? You can ask good questions that draw people out and make them think. You can recommend books and websites that help people learn. You might not be the life of the party but… you can remember (should it be “find out”?) what people need. As you learn more and as you meet more people… you’ll be able to put the pieces together.
However, the layout, I think, makes it read this way: What can you bring to a conversation? You might not be the life of the party but… You can ask good questions that draw people out and make them think. You can recommend books and websites that help people learn. You can remember what people need. As you learn more and as you meet more people… you’ll be able to put the pieces together.
It doesn’t make any LESS sense this way, I guess… just food for thought.

  1. 13: Can you link somehow the first point and the sub point of that: “Write it down”? Again, eye wants to read top top, bottom, bottom. I like the green text inserted for highlights but I think that’s why my eye automatically moves to the right instead of down for the subpoint (it sees 4 blocks each with green and assumes left to right, top to  bottom).

What about inserting the “people, ideas, tools, books….” in parentheses into “The more you add [insert here], the more connections you can make”??  Only one block of text so easier on the eye and brain to put it in logical order: “The more you add (people, ideas, tools, books, links, blogs, interests, groups, patterns, notes …), the more connections you can make.”

  1. 14: Excellent
  2. 15: Excellent

Only thing here is should it read “the happier you’ll be!” or “the more connected you’ll be!”??

  1. 16: I like the idea of the summary slide. But then the presentation “message” just ends abruptly. What about taking the last point on this slide, “share your tips and read more” with the star and links, and moving it to its own slide after thie summary?

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll keep it in the back of my head and send anything else I think of along to you. Let me know if you want me to do more or less or whatever.

What do I delegate, and why?

Delegating to virtual assistants started out as an interesting experiment in learning how to tell people what to do. In the ten months since I started, I’ve learned a lot about working with virtual assistance for personal tasks. Here’s a brief reflection that might help if you’re thinking of exploring virtual assistance yourself.

For an entrepreneur or a small business owner, delegating to virtual assistants makes perfect sense. You want to focus on revenue-generating activities, and you can’t waste your energy on tasks you don’t enjoy. But even if you’re not self-employed, you might find virtual assistance useful.

I work with different kinds of virtual assistance services. For generic skills and routine tasks, I use Timesvr, which charges USD 69 for “unlimited” 15-minute tasks (really, 6-8 tasks per day). Here are some notes:

  • Setting appointments: Great. They follow up with people and manage my calendar. People’s reactions are fun, too. ;)
  • Following step-by-step routines: Good. Because the task is done by any available assistant, I sometimes benefit from different perspectives, and sometimes get people who overlook a step. I’ve given my routines one-word shortcuts so that I can e-mail complex requests easily.
  • Comparison shopping: Okay. It’s a good idea to specify which stores you want, and even better if you can specify the item you’re looking for. I’m in Canada, so I need to remind them to check if retailers will ship to Canada and to factor in shipping costs when comparing price.
  • Web research: Hit or miss, unless the search is very specific. Maybe it’s the 15- to 30-minute “task window” they work with, or differences in approach, or even English skills. Still, it’s a decent way to get started on a task, and even wrong results teach me more about what I’m really looking for.
  • Calling for information: Good. I don’t have Web access on my phone, so if I’m out and I need to confirm information that’s not on my iPod, I can call them. It’s a US call, though, so I ask them to call me back with the results. The turn-around time is decent.

I really appreciate being able to stop worrying about some things, like following up on appointments and renewing library books. I also like saving a lot of clicks when it comes to checking out multiple books from the library, saving the time it would take to log in, find the book, check it out, confirm the request, etc.

My routines include four daily tasks that probably take a total of half an hour to do, three weekly tasks that take a total of another half hour to do, and one monthly task that takes all of five minutes. This works out to around 17 hours a month, or about USD 4 per hour. Then there are the one-off tasks I assign as well, which are included in the USD 69 fee. Even when you add in currency conversion and other fees, it’s not bad. If they raised the price, I might shuffle my budget, or I’d automate more of my tasks (time to break out Perl!) and go with a dedicated assistant instead.

For specialized skills such as editing and illustration, I hire people on oDesk, mostly on an hourly basis. I post job openings, review people’s profiles and portfolios, pick several candidates, pay them for short trial runs (because spec work is not nice!), and keep track of providers I like the most. I love hiring people who are much better than I am at something, because I learn so much in the process.

Works for me. =) If you’d like to learn more about delegating to virtual assistants, leave a comment or contact me!

(Thanks to Dror Engel and Irina Patterson for the nudge to write about this!)