Turns out Magic Assistance Aren’t So Magical

When I first got into productivity I wasn’t that into the idea of outsourcing. I didn’t like the idea of giving up control over my work. However, once I gave in and tried it, I fell in love with outsourcing. So much so that I have written several posts about it, it’s one of my top productivity tips.

That being said, I recently had an experience that left me questioning my outsourcing beliefs. I have used several websites that outsource your to-do list like Fancy Hands, TaskRabbit, Zirtual & many more. My experience has always been generally positive. So when I heard of a new, similar company called Magic I thought I would give them a try.

The idea behind Magic is that you can use a virtual assistant to organize any task or issue you might have. All you pay is 53 cents per minute the assistant spends on the job. Seems simple enough, right?

As I’ve written about in my previous post I hosted my own Lights Camera Expert Live workshop recently and I decided to use Magic to help me organize the catering. Being the producer that I am, I had pretty much sorted everything myself already, I had downloaded the menus and decided what I wanted, at what time and for how many people. All they needed to do was put in the orders.

Magic assistants keep you up to date on their progress with your tasks, which is good. But in this case that didn’t really help very much. There seemed to be a bit of back and forth with one of the restaurants as the assistant had difficulty getting in touch with the person in charge. It happens, I get it. But what I didn’t understand was how they had managed to spend so much time on this job. Magic is not supposed to charge you for the time they spend waiting for someone to call them back, only the time they spend on the call.

So I was pretty shocked to find that they had racked up over 2 hours on this task, without any sort of conclusion in sight. When I asked for the time breakdown I discovered they had spent 40 minutes researching the websites of the restaurants I had picked. But why? I had already chosen from the menus and provided them with contact numbers so I still can’t figure out what exactly they were looking for on the websites.

Not wanting to be too pushy I decided to let this slide, hoping they would manage to sort it all soon. By the next day they had managed to rack up 4 and a half hours worth of time on this task, when they still hadn’t even booked anything. Completely fed up, I requested they end the job and decided to sort it myself. They did issue me a full refund after I complained but I still had the task to complete.

In the end I got someone else to  book the catering and it took her all of about half an hour, which is about the amount of time I would’ve spent on it too. It left me wondering whether I really needed to outsource the task at all. But I just didn’t want to do it! I still can’t figure out why it would have taken the Magic assistant four hours though.

Either way it taught me a valuable lesson, sometimes it is just better (and quicker) to do it yourself!

Have you had any outsourcing mishaps?

Start UnBatching Your Tasks

Every three months I do an accountability call with the students  from my Listful Thinking Masterclass. We discuss the ways they’ve implemented the course into their day to day lives, and we also talk about their latest ventures in productivity.

Recently, one of my students explained how, after being inspired by a LinkedIn article, he has started avoiding social media on Tuesday. Why Tuesdays? He just picked it and now Tuesdays  are his most productive day.

I really like this idea. I often promote the idea of batching tasks together. So the same way you wouldn’t do laundry one sock at a time you shouldn’t pay bills for instance one by one. Instead batching them together weekly is a much more effective use of your time! But I think the same principle can be applied to ‘unbatching’. Putting together tasks that you’re not going to do! Read more

Be Lazy and Get More Done

Laziness gets a bad rep. I may not be the kind of person to spend her entire day in her pajamas, but even I like to indulge in a bit of laziness every now and again.

“I will always choose a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

You know who said that?

Bill Gates! Even he approves of a bit of laziness. Read more

So What’s the Big Deal Over Dot Journaling?

Thanks to listproducer.com I’ve met a lot of people in the productivity community and the more people I meet the more I find we have in common. We tend to be stationary nerds, who love Marie Kondo and are always looking out for the best way to get organized. So it’s no surprise that the latest to-do trend, that combines a to-do list with a planner and a diary, has become a big success in the productivity community. I’m talking, of course, about dot journaling.

If you don’t know what that is, dot journaling is, simply put, making a lot of bullet point lists. (You’ll quickly find with dot journaling that there’s a lot of overly complex names for simple things.) While I normally think it’s better to keep your lists separate, dot journaling allows you to put all your long and short term goals, as well as daily tasks, into one notebook. And you use a code-type system to keep everything from getting muddled together. Read more

Get Everything Done and Make It To Happy Hour

When I was in my early 20s I loved to watch Sex and The City. I was working weekends at the time and I would sneak episodes while I was writing or producing for the news. I hoped it was an accurate picture of what my life would be like – brunches and after work, get togethers with the girls. However watching it back these days I can tell you my life is not really like that. Did those girls ever actually work?

While we can’t all live the glamorous lifestyles of Carrie and Samantha, we can still make it to happy hour. Provided of course, that we get all our work done. When we’re buried under a heavy workload the chances of leaving work on time get slimmer and slimmer. But it is possible, all it takes is a little planning.

Here are some of my secrets to help you head out the door at 5!

  1. Make a roadmap of your day – Every day, when I’m nearly finished with work I create a “roadmap” for the following day.  I’ve stolen the idea from my time as a live news producer.  We always have a rundown to keep us on track during a live show.  Your work day should run the same way. Having this roadmap means I can hit the ground running and everything goes so much smoother when I get in the following morning.
  2. Don’t answer the phone Only answer if it’s absolutely necessary. That means the person who is calling can give your information about the task you’re working on or you have an appointment for the call right then. It’s far too easy to get wrapped up in conversations that go nowhere! You’ll get back to them later – just add it to your list.
  3. Break the day up into chunksGot some mammoth task you’re really not looking forward to? Split it into smaller chunks and distribute it throughout the day. Giving yourself a chance to look at emails, etc in between will help to ease your frustration.  Breaks are our friends. But don’t get sucked into other projects. Give yourself specific time limits.
  4. BacktimeI’ve talked a little about backtiming before. It’s a concept I got from working as a TV news producer. You start at the end goal and work backwards. So what do you need to have done in order to get out of work on time. Make a list of all these things and how long they will take. If you incorporate this with your plan from the night before you can create a schedule for your day.
  5. Make a meeting checklist – The biggest time suck in the office is not people checking their social media or chatting by the water cooler, it’s meetings. Who hasn’t been in a meeting that has gone on for an hour longer than it needed to? Meanwhile the mound of work on your desk just piles up. By having a meeting checklist you can make sure all the important things are covered, but it can also help to move the whole process along!

So now the only thing left to decide on is  what you’re drinking when you get to happy hour!