The ultimate cheat sheet to outsourcing your life and being more productive

Do you ever feel like your life is a traffic jam and you’re constantly battling to get more and more done with no light at the end of the tunnel? Does that traffic jam ever feel like a 40 car pile up?

We have all this technology readily available that is supposed to make us more productive. We’ve got methodologies like Getting Things Done to make us more efficient. Plus, being more connected than ever should mean we’re able to get even more done in less time.

The issue isn’t that we’re in a traffic jam, the issue is that we are the traffic jam.

“If you eliminated all of the things distracting you from being productive, you wouldn’t need tips on how to become more productive.” – James Clear

Even though this post is about how to outsource and leverage technology to get more done in less time, it’s important to start from what I believe is the essential point. There is a big difference between getting things done and making shit happen.

Getting things done is checking things off a check list. Making shit happen is about tilting the world toward you. Getting things done is instant gratification, hammering out 10 emails in 10 minutes. Making shit happen is working on things that really move the needle, that require weeks or months to see an impact. It’s also about having time to do the things that you may feel guilty about having the time to do because they don’t feel like work. But that’s where we should all want to get to, a place where the work doesn’t feel like work.

I’ve broken this post down into four parts:

1. Anti-distraction techniques.

2. How to prepare.

3. Where to outsource.

4. How to leverage technology and become more productive.

This is not a short post. You’ve been warned.

1. Anti-distraction techniques.

You’re outsourcing so that you can get real meaningful work accomplished, not so that you have more time to scroll through Facebook or browse Reddit. In order to succeed, we need to control our flaws and develop our weaknesses. A short fuse is a flaw so we work to control our short fuse. Not being good at focusing on a single meaningful project for a long period of time is a weakness so we develop our focus. A lack of focus is a weakness that can be fixed.

Here are three ways to help you stay focused:

a. Please, for the love of God, for peace on Earth, and to help you stay focused turn off all the notifications on your phone. You do not need to be notified when someone has liked your picture on Instragram or when someone has sent you a message by Facebook or even text messages. I do not have a single notification on my phone and I promise you, I survive. How about this, just try it for a week. Deal?

b. Install an extension on your browser to help you stay focused and ignore time wasting websites. Here are three examples:

Stay Focused – This Google Chrome Extension limits the amount of time you spend on time wasting websites. You determine the restricted websites and how much time you’re allowed to spend on them per day. If you go over your time limit, the extension blocks access to those sites for the remainder of the day.

Waste No Time – This extension is available for Safari and Chrome. Waste No Time tracks where you spend your time online and how much time you spend on each website. You can lockdown your browser and enjoy limited Internet access. You can also set a time quota that will block websites after you spend your allotted time on them.

Self Control – This app allows you to block websites you deem distracting for as long as you want them blocked. Set your determined amount of time, select the sites to block and press ‘Start’. It’s that easy.

“The most dangerous distractions are the ones you love, but that don’t love you back.” – Warren Buffett

c. Use the Pomodoro Technique for 25 minute sprints of productivity. The basic principle is work on one activity or project for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, repeat. The app, Focus Time, is my app of choice for this strategy. Keep in mind though, spending 25 minutes powering through emails is not a project or worthy of using this technique. Use Focus Time to work on something that requires brain power and could use a dedicated period of uninterrupted focus.

“Multi-tasking does not exist, it taxes your judgement and reduces the quality of work being produced.”

2. How to prepare

If you want to do anything well there are generally two parts – the plan and the execution. The execution is essential, but you can’t execute vapour, so a plan is essential. Some of this is going to feel like overkill, but trust me, if you want to be successful in outsourcing parts of your life you need to put a good amount of work in ahead of time, otherwise you will go back to doing it yourself.

The first step to think about is what are the most time consuming and irritating things you do each week. Here are some examples:

Managing your schedule
Booking travel
Grocery shopping
Paying bills, managing household and personal finances
Filling in spreadsheets

Or what are the things you wish you had the time to accomplish but never get to. Like writing notes to customers, friends and suppliers or doing deep research on a customer or competitor.

At first you may say, “only I can do that”. Doesn’t matter, put it on the list anyway. Get every idea out of your head and written down without judgement.

Why not keep a list of everything you do for a week to figure out how you are actually spending your time. The average person only works on MSH (making shit happen) work for about one hour a day. Instead, they are distracted by time consuming tasks that aren’t contributing to moving the needle.

When you build a factory there are architects, engineers, designer, contractors, and a lot of planning. Things get written down, standard operating procedures are laid out so that everyone knows what to do.

Once you’ve determined what you’re going to outsource, the second step is documenting how the task is to be done.This is laborous and intensive. For example, ‘how to use my calendar and set appointments’ is a two page document, right down to what colour different types of appointments should be.

I have a weekly shopping list that includes pictures of the products I want. This not only ensures that am I going to get exactly the right yogurt, but if I need to switch to another Task Rabbit I don’t have to retrain them. The hard work is already done.

I have documents on how to pay my bills, book and manage my travel, how to clean and organize my house, and many more. This sounds like overkill, it’s a lot of work up front creating these standard operating procedures, but in the end it saves me time so that instead, I can make big things happen.

3. Where to outsource.

Now that you’ve figured out what you’re going to outsource and how each task needs to be completed, you need to find someone to do it.

Here are some of the services I’ve used:

FancyHands – Fancy Hands allows you to buy a monthly subscription that includes a set number of tasks. Your task is routed to one of their 3000 US-based assistants. You do not have one person assigned to you. I use FancyHands for dozens of tasks each month. Let me give you a few examples and you’ll quickly see how much time FancyHands saves me. This allows me to instead spend the time on MSH activities.

“Please research the top restaurants in Charleston, make me lunch and dinner reservations for next Friday and Saturday, and update my calendar with times and addresses.”

“Please research and send me a list, using Google Docs, of all cloud-based point of sale systems available on the market place, there should be no fewer than 20.”

“I am moving, please call and notify the gas, hydro and cable companies of my new address. You will most likely need me on the phone at some point to authorize the change so just call me when you get to that point in the conversation.”

Zirtual – There are a few dozen virtual assistant companies out there that assign you a single point of contact. With Zirtual you can choose from three monthly packages based on the number of hours you require. I use Zirtual for only two functions – calendar management and travel.

As I already mentioned, I did the hard work up front and created a two page document on how I want my calendar managed. It includes things like, “If I am flying somewhere please set a time in my calendar for home or office departure”. Similarly, I created a two page document on travel that includes things like, “Please check me in 24-hours in advance and choose ‘email boarding pass’ so I can upload into Passbook”.

Worldwide101 – Virtual assistants who are skilled professionals to help you run your business. They take care to match your business with a professional who is friendly, efficient and possess the skills you need.

Timesvr – Perfect for productivity specialists, entrepreneurs and just really busy people. Timesvr is cost effective and available 24/7. For individuals, you can sign up for just $69/month and enjoy unlimited access to their assistants. If you’re hiring them for your business or for longer projects, it’s just $700/month and you have access to a dedicated assistant.

Handy.com – Living in a city and being busy, it’s difficult to know trustworthy businesses to call for home repairs or cleaning. Handy gives you access to both cleaners and handymen who are available next day. You also pay online.

Task Rabbit –  Task Rabbit is perfect for getting things done around your house. They claim to do all the things that you don’t want to do: clean, run errands, clean your oven, put furniture together, decorate your house for the holidays, and so much more. You pay online, they have transparent hourly pricing and they do background checks and in-person interviews to vet the people they send to complete your task.

AskforTask – The AskforTask website and app lets anyone post to-do list items. Once the task is posted, the Asker will receive offers from the nearby Taskers. The task will be assigned to the right person based on the price and reviews of their previous work.

Fetch – Know what you’re looking to buy? Tell fetch what you’re looking for or send them a picture and their buying assistants will search the web for what you’re looking for at the lowest price and send you the options. Once you pick the item you want, buy it directly through the app and the buying assistant will complete your purchase for you.

Felt App – Send personalized, handwritten cards to your friends, family or customers. For only $4 per recipient, customize a card and handwrite a personal message inside. Do it all from your phone.

Bond App – I bet you can type way faster than you can write by hand. Bond is a great service to use to help you connect with your customers on a very personal level. Bond’s secret sauce is that it’s classy, or at least classier, than a printed message, because its cards are hand-written. The company actually built a machine that handwrites the notes, which arrive in an elaborate wax-sealed envelope. Upload your handwriting to their site then simply type out the message you want them to write in your personal handwriting and mails it to your customer. If you don’t like your handwriting, they will even take yours and make it better!

4. How to leverage technology and become more productive.

Your tasks have been outsourced and you’ve suddenly found yourself with lots of time to work on MSH. Now you need to start using your time efficiently to get as much shit done as possible.

Here are some apps and extensions I use to help me complete tasks efficiently:

Yesware or Toutapp – How often have you found yourself typing up something you know you have created before? Doesn’t matter how simple, if you find yourself trying to remember how you said something previously you should be responding with two clicks using Yesware or Toutapp. I have template replies to simple things like someone asking for my time and I need to say no, I have a template for someone asking me to invest in their company and for investors wanting to know more about my company because they may want to invest. I also have a template for every objection a customer could give me (38 to be exact).

Pocket – This app is perfect for keeping you on task. Anytime you come across something on the internet that you want to read, just add it to Pocket to come back to later. Then, when you’re ready go back to Pocket and view the articles you’ve saved.

Wunderlist – I use Wunderlist for creating, managing and sharing lists. I hear about a book I should read, there is a list for that; I hear about a movie I want to see, there is a list for that. I also use Wanderlist for big important lists that have subtasks and check lists. It is a GTD dream tool. When I was moving I had a list called “moving” and check lists for every task I needed to get done. You can share any list with a friend, spouse or a virtual assistant.

Evernote and Drive – I don’t even know what Microsoft Word is anymore. All my word processing is done in Evernote and Google Drive. Modern day instant cloud backup, on every device, incredible collaboration tools and simple interfaces. Most importantly I can access from my phone anytime, anywhere

Gtasks – This simple to do list app helps you manage your Google Tasks. Share them with your friends, family and co-workers, set reminders, and make sure you never miss a single task again.

Box – Similar to Dropbox, Box is a cloud based file storage website and app. Securely share files and access files from anywhere on any computer with an Internet connection. Box gives you 10GB of space for free.

Dropbox – Dropbox lets you share photos, documents and videos anywhere. Create an account, upload a file and then share that link with anyone. They will be able to download and use the file immediately. Use it like any file on your hard drive and back up your files here. Everyone gets 2 GB of space for free.

Trello – Trello is a collaboration and project management tool. Easily see who is working on what and where something is in the process of your business. Share project lists and boards with your collaborators, tag each other in updates and create checklists to make sure tasks are being completed on time.

Clarity.fm – Need an expert but don’t know who to ask or where to find them? Clarity.fm gives you access to over 30,000 experts from all over the world. Pick from the available experts who have what you need, schedule a call, then connect, talk and pay. Experts set their per-minute rate and they get paid for their time. I use Clarity when I need an expert to help me with a big challenge and I also have people reach out to me to use me as an expert on go to market strategies.

Quora – Have a simple question you need an answer to? Quora is the place for you. Post a question to the community of Quora users and they will answer. You can also browse the site for previously asked and answered questions. They are organized by topic and quality. Quora is a treasure trove of information from “How do companies use KISSmetrics” to “What is Arcade Fire’s net worth?”

Cutting out distractions, choosing what to outsource, where to outsource it to, and then learning how to use your time efficiently. This is not a simple process. Handing the reins over to someone else is difficult in and of itself. Your inner control freak will panic.

However, if you plan carefully and thoroughly you’ll be able to save an incredible amount of time and direct it toward moving the needle.

If you can save two hours per week grocery shopping and organizing your calendar, you can use that time to work on projects that are both fulfilling and worthy of your time. Or, perhaps you spend your new found time developing the important relationships in your life – the ones with your family and friends.

I would love to hear your thoughts either by replying to this email, commenting on the blog or by tweeting me @morerants