Achieving Without Assistants, Part 1

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Last updated on February 5th, 2024 at 10:37 pm

Shortly after really getting to know Niya, I realized that I’d likely discovered the female version of ME. However, unlike yours truly, she’s organized, she doesn’t take CRAP from ANYONE, and she’ll hold you accountable for whatever you do.

So who better to educate you on the ways you can sort out that crazy life of yours without an assistant?

No one, that’s who. Enjoy her 5-day series—you’ll be a better person for it!

The second logo for Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad

First off, I’m so thrilled that I’ve been allowed to write not one, but five (yes, you read that correctly!) guest posts for Casey! It’s quite the expression of trust. Hopefully, you find this series as useful and informative as you find the regular content here. Frankly, I was a bit intimidated at the thought of writing this many guest posts since my blog is a rather eclectic collection of musings, inspiration pieces and thought triggers. I knew that just wouldn’t do for this exercise. Then I realized I actually had stellar inspiration for this series of posts.

I often joke with Casey that he should get an assistant. He does so very many things and could use at least one, perhaps even two. I’ve actually had this conversation with a number of incredibly bright, talented, charismatic young men who take on the world every day, and are really committed to making a huge difference in their spheres of influence. Given that I may be unemployed soon, I’ve offered them my services, but I know I can do better than that. I can give (and you) some insight into how I’ve made my life incredibly workable, without an assistant.

Of course, you may wonder what makes me qualified to give this sort of advice (other than the fact that Casey likes and trusts me enough to publish this). I’m one of the co-organizers for Toronto Bakes for Japan, a weekend-long bake sale for the Japanese Red Cross Society. We recently raised over $30,000. My partner planner and I put it together while holding down full-time day jobs, making it to the gym, going to our extracurricular activities (she’s taking FSL classes, I sit on other planning committees) and maintaining some semblance of social lives. We were nice to people, and to each other during the whole process. And no, we don’t have assistants. Granted it was only a bake sale—but it’s a great example.

So here’s how you can change the world, or just make your life more workable, without an assistant.

  1. Plan
  2. Words with Friends and the importance of keeping them
  3. Networks and the importance of mobilizing them
  4. Maintaining the Vision
  5. Inspiring support

I’m a big fan of planning and I love lining up dominoes. Knowing exactly how the story is going to progress and end is the biggest rush. I know not everyone feels this way. Some of you are far better at executing plans (I’ll confess to getting a bit lazy when it comes to this) and others of you like the spontaneity of diving headlong into things and figuring it out as you go along. These approaches work for some things—but if you’re going to change the world, or if you don’t have someone to take care of all the little things (like booking appointments, following up on correspondence, doing laundry) entropy will eventually take over and life will get chaotic and stressful. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I’m not saying you’ve to plan out every last detail, though I won’t ever advise against it. I am suggesting you take a page from your favourite project manager’s book and come up with a project charter.

Define exactly what it is you are going to do. This means the scope for your project (and sticking to it within reason!). Set your objectives and be SMART about them if you can.

Determine your resources. This means time, manpower, budget, supplies, mentors etc. This will help you see what holes need filling (which is important for part 3 and 5). This will help when you allocate tasks.

Figure out your tasks. Sure you know what you’re going to do…but how are you going to make it happen. Everything is a process, and processes are historical. If you’ve never done whatever it is you are going to do before, look it up. Better yet, talk to someone who has already done it. I know you’re fabulously innovative, wonderfully unique and that there’s no possible way anyone could have done what you’re setting out to do…but just like there are no original thoughts, just fantastically creative amalgamations, someone else has probably done something quite similar to what you’re going to do. And it really couldn’t hurt, so tamp down that ego a bit, and talk to people.

Delegate. You can’t do it alone (that’s why you think you need an assistant) and you have friends. They have skills, so ask for their help, and then trust them to do things that you need done. Remember that they aren’t your assistants, but they are your friends. So long as the arrangement has some degree of reciprocity or reward, your friends will want to help you succeed.

Schedule! This will make all the difference. Use whatever scheduling tool you know works for you. I like my Moleskine, because I can layer in lists, drawings, business cards etc. Maybe you love your Google Calendar or your smartphone. Whichever you choose—make sure it’s one you check regularly (by which I mean every few hours/once a day). I prefer to schedule every last thing because the devil is always in the details, but you know yourself best. Track. Use a Gantt chart, build a critical path, or create a work-back schedule. Remember to build in buffer days so that things can go awry and you can fix them. Put the dates in your calendar of choice (with reminders 48 hours before the deadlines).

So now you have a plan. Congratulations on getting into action on creating a workable life that you can live with grace and ease. Watch for my next post on realizing this plan. I’ll fill you in on the surprising importance of words with friends.



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