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The Art of Less Doing

Lesson 7 of 19

Integrating Productivity Tools

Ari Meisel

The Art of Less Doing

Ari Meisel

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Lesson Info

7. Integrating Productivity Tools

Lesson Info

Integrating Productivity Tools

These all integrate the human our responders just one example then I'm gonna give about how this stuff kind of all goes together so I sort of a loser this before but the human auto responded er is one of my very proud of this because it it reduced the amount of email that I send by sixty five percent in one month there is a boomerang effect to email where the more you spend the more you get back which makes sense what you say you know, thanks a lot they say no problems or you confirm something and someone confirms again it's like you can never get off the phone kind of thing so the last e mail you send the last email you're gonna get makes sense I think so with the human correspondent what what I was doing was I was trying to have as much foresight as possible so that if somebody is going to ask me a question, the answer would already be provided and the easiest way to do that of course with a auto responders but really doesn't work because I have multiple businesses you guys probably ...

multiple businesses or you've been multiple roles so you can't possibly right one long you know, auto responder that answers everybody's question because most people are goingto stop in the second sentence and not really get the answer that they want so how do you deal with that using gmail and tea and virtual assistance, I have created the human auto respond er and it's something that you can all do as well. So in my evernote I have a note that is the sin my processes folder and it's got all the information that I can think of so far and I've added to it many times that somebody could possibly want to know about me or my business or any of my business is so originally this was just going to be if somebody sent an e mail through the contact for my website and then if we get a response that but now it's I've taken it to a whole nother level on basically any email that matches a certain key words will we'll get a response this way so this is how it works I get an email in gmail and I have t record oh and sorry and it recognizes certain key words that I've found you know whether it's crones or speaking or productivity or certain combinations and you can think about what those might be for your specific case and of course it's a living thing is a work in progress, right? So if it sees any of those keywords I have t t takes that information it takes the original email and it forwards it to fancy hands and it includes a line that says please refer to this evernote notebook for task instructions that's got the earl to be shared every known notebook okay, so that's set up it's done now all I have to worry about is that ever no note and having the right information there and what that ever note note says is if somebody is if you've got this email you know use the information in this ever note note to craft a an appropriate response I have initial paragraph that I included therein the paragraph which I had written by someone else horse uh says very honestly that mr mizell gets an enormous amount of email every day and he wants you to have a rapid response so it's not that I'm not going to read your email and it's not that I'm too important it's certainly not that at all but it's that I might take twelve hours to get back to you about this thing whether it's because I'm busy or I'm traveling whatever it might be and I want you to have the information you need you don't need a personal response for me to answer your question and I have found and I've gotten a lot of feedback that people really respect that and appreciate that it's not that they feel they're being snubbed because someone else has answered the mail for you it's that you're being honest I want you to have the answer in two minutes I don't want you to even have to wait a half an hour and then if that's not the answer you want, I'm gonna answer your email anyway so that ever no note says, look that paragraph so says mr michael gets all these emails, but he wants to have a quick response, so here we go and then below that I have at this point about thirty lines and it's like if the person is asking for my biography and a high res profile picture go here if they're asking about how I overcame from disease, refer them to this block post if they're curious about coaching services or corporate speaking, refer them here if they're asking about a real estate project with this address, then refer them to this person and because virtual assistance, aeryn there basically in customer service business, they end up writing really nice responses that you know, which is way better than you writing your three line answer and then having it say like, oh, I'm on the go and typos and don't mind me because I'm on my iphone, I don't think that flies either, by the way, I don't like that when you see that because either you take the time, answer it or you have something else set up to do it for you, so what that means and I love seeing this I love seeing the way that the virtual systems respond on my behalf so what that means more importantly is that if I walk out of here at the next break and I've got ten emails in my inbox it's possible that six of them could be answered by the by the virtual systems and you just get better and better at it because then someone asked a question about this like oh yeah well I can refer them to this information and even if you're providing eighty percent of the information that they want that may be enough so it's almost it's not triage that's not the right kind of way to look at it but it's really like is damage control in a lot of ways you know, so that you're only dealing with the ones that you have to deal with so I received last month and I know this because arrest you time in the month of october I received um it was something like twenty seven thousand emails in the month of october I sent three hundred thirteen emails so it's pretty good eso which which is kind of scary because that means if I had sent four hundred does that mean I would have forty thousand but that is a perfect example of how you can integrate all of these tools does that make sense everyone is it sort of following? Okay, we have some questions what just a basic auto responder work or do you really need someone's hand and voice in as a response depends how much information you need to share that's what I was saying before is that for me, if I were to answer, if I were to provide in an auto respond or all of the information that was in that ever no note, it would probably be like a three page email and think about what you want to get that and have to find the answer, and they're no, you really probably want a quick response, and you want the information you're looking for, so it really depends on your situation. If people are asking about one thing, they're just emailing you're saying, like, oh, we're gonna find out about this then, yeah, great, all responders perfect, but once you get to be on that, you really do need to start crafting more specific responses. There is a way to automate this to some extent where you could create canned responses and auto responders based on specific keywords. But again, you run the risk than of somebody knowing it's, another respond, er and people do have an issue with that it's really odd, even if someone is getting response for someone who's, not you, they seem to take it better when it's a personally crafted response and then here's another question, it sounds like the platform that you've chosen caters teo us audience we have a global audience here and they're asking, do you have solutions of varvara says, can you please comment on virtual assistant solutions and other countries? They're actually from russia. Okay, well, there's, no reason why you can't use any of these virtual assistant services if you're in russia or if you're in australia. The assistance that work for both of the companies that I mentioned are u s based, but that doesn't mean that they're limited to us customers. As a matter of fact, I know that fancy hands has a big following in europe. There are certainly other virtual assistant companies around the world, but I promise you that for the value and the level of service that you're getting, then these are the best ways to go and there's absolute reason. But if you're saying that in your case, if you need someone who's a russian speaker, then you probably want to go for someone specific and, uh, I don't offhand no, a russian virtuous is the company, but I am happy to toe follow up with you on twitter or facebook or however, after because I do have a list of resources personally of virtual assistant companies in other countries, and russia certainly has some of their own companies, so and actually you conform a relationship, I'm sure with perp particular assistance and you can put a call out for I'm looking for someone that has this skill that could speak this language, right? Right and that's another thing, too, is that there's no reason why you couldn't have someone who is in america, who speaks russian, if that's the need that you're only four, of course, thank you and officials in that. Yes, so I'm going back to how you kind of first started everything, and I know you're saying, just do it, but so you created the notebooks or the note and ever know, right? So your virtual systems can refer to that. So did you monitor what questions were being asked? The frequently asked questions, and then you started riding that content or you said someone else wrote that for, you know, I wrote that someone else wrote the intro paragraph. Oh, hey, eso eso yes, I was seeing a lot of commonality. I mean, in my case, you know, it was a lot of people asking about crones. A lot of people are asking about productivity stuff, so there's patterns, but I'm sure in your life and your business, you can think of patterns where people are asking things and you know you may write something down that never gets used but because you were wrong but it's okay asshole east is there so you just try to cover all the bases and that's the thing is that you can have that brain dump you know you don't have to be right because someone else is going to be providing that filter for you in that case as faras starting with virtual assistants ah mission mother service which called talk to and that's going to be in the resource lists but it's t a l k t o dot com talk to is not a virtual assistant service but it allows you to try using a virtual assistant which I hope they don't have an issue with me talking about that because it's not a virtual assistant service but it works almost miraculously like that it's a free service and it allows you to text any business in the us and receive a text response time. So it's meant for you to do things like very basic things like make reservations see if something is in stock in a store check pricing maybe make a dentist appointment those kinds of things things that are pretty basic and of course not every business in the u s will have the ability to text with people but you can tax any business in the us and that's because I talked to agent will call the business and then respond to you by text as if they were the business. They don't hide this very transparent about it, but the point is, is that as little faith as I have in people and myself to multi task texting while you're doing something else? Or, you know, can I have a reservation this time, then go back to what you're doing and waiting for response that's pretty much okay, but what it also allows you to dio, which is a really cool function of virtual assistance is something that has to do with time shifting, so this is going to seem really basic to people but it's actually pretty important let's say nine o'clock at night. Actually, this is true on nine o'clock at night, a lot of times is when I have this amazing mental unload I've done my I done this a couple hours before that so that's great! And then nine o'clock comes around and I basically send off ten emails of things that virtual systems need to do for me and it's like it's great because you're done even if it hasn't been finished, the task hasn't been done, the thing is not completed, you're done because there's, nothing more you can do at that point until they get back to you, so nine o'clock at night, I want to make a dentist a point I don't know why I'd want to do that but I want to make a dentist appointment the dentist office does not open for another twelve hours and nine in the morning why should that be on my plate? Of course I'm going to be sleeping for hopefully some of that time but why should I be thinking about the appointment that I need to make tomorrow? Why should I wait so rather than that I can goes I can do is to talk to go talk to him and say, you know, with the dentist office I need an appointment for so and so and then I am done I really am there's nothing more for me to dio on go to sleep happy knowing that I've cleared my plate and I actually in a way have accomplished something nine o'clock the next day the and by the way they will respond and say, well, when the office opens, we'll get back to you now I thought the next morning they contact the office and either they get you the appointment of they don't, but you don't have to worry about it and the responses you're going to get is ok you have the appointment great or that time doesn't work here's another time, but you didn't have to think about it for a full twelve hours and maybe that seems like something very simple but it's just a model for how this stuff works so if you think that that is to, you know, menial of a task it's not I promise you you don't need that on your mind and there's gonna be twenty of those things happening every day that should not be on your plate so try and talk teo if you want to see the power of a virtual system now, of course you can't have talked teoh right a research report for your son like that because it is not a virtual assistant but it is sort of a displaced communication service in that way it's really kind of amazing, so the key was starting with virtual assistance is to start small uh start with those basic tasks with shopping things I've in testing those twenty three virtual assistant companies that I've worked with, I've come up with some fairly sadistic tests for virtual assistance complete, you know, it's intentionally leaving out information, providing wrong information, that kind of stuff just to see how they dio one of my favorites recently, my my wife and one of my sons I were at my cousin's house, he was playing with his cousin and she had this little house that was really cool made everything that you touch it and it made a different noise didn't have any name on it and she couldn't remember where she bought it well, you know, we'll try that, so I took a picture and I sent it to fancy and size and find us. They found in twenty three minutes, and then I said, buy it, and then they bought it. So, uh, that was pretty cool. It was like an investigator on my behalf and maybe that's not important, but I wanted it, and I wanted to get it done, and there was, and I actually didn't think that they were able to figure it out because it was just a picture of this little house, like, with no markings at all. I don't even know how they how they came up with that, but they have their ways. They do these things better than you and that's, okay? And an important point to make there, too, is that it's? Not that you're better than the virtual system of the person that's doing your grunt work for you, it's that some people really like doing this stuff, and they're better at it than you, as I just said, they were good at it. They do it all day because they do, and they do it for multiple people, especially if they're a virtual system, and they start to have their own methods and quite honestly, if you want to think about it this way to maybe you're providing a living for a single mom in wyoming that's on actual case of somebody who works for pensions or somebody who is a retiree and now is working as a virtual assistant it's sort of like the new economy in a way so the things that you not just don't have the time for but just don't have the know how it's really it's really oh, I could find this myself and I could do that but it's just not that simple so you start small, start with the basic stuff and then you start to get more and more complicated not only as you trust the assistance and the service, but as you sort of trust yourself because if a virtual assistant from a reputable company reputable company messes up a task it's probably your fault I'm sorry to say you probably didn't describe the task correctly. You probably left out a detail you probably don't have your process down, but that's okay it's an opportunity for you to learn because the feedback the earnings from that person who you don't know and we'll never meet is very valuable in terms of how you effectively delegate and get things out of your mind I know that I some of the stuff may sound a little repetitive but it's so important to ingrain it in the way that we think about these things that are causing us a lot of stress but I think it's so cool about what you're saying is some testing and just trying it out you know, instead of waiting for that moment where you need like the most important thing in your life done you give them the little thing hey, I need this little thing done I need that little thing done and it's it's sort of like no sweat. Either way you get to develop your skills over exactly you get better there's a quick question from robert who wants to know when fancy hands buys something for yu? Do they use your stored credit card? Okay, so that's a great that's a great question so fancy hands has a I think it's a hundred dollar limit things that they'll buy and fancy hands is a new york based company. Your information's come very secure. The assistant does not have your credit card refreshingly assistant uses their own card and then they get reimbursed by fancy hands so your information is secure because I know that came up before about privacy and everything and the fans it's actually fancy it is kind of remarkable they have literally thousands of this is subsistence working for them, and I think they have maybe seven full time people in one office in new york city, so it is a very small circle basically and that information's protected so yes, you the assistant will make the purchase what happens if you want to buy something with fancy hands? You get an email back saying it looks like you want us to buy something and this is the amount and you click the green approved button or the red declined but so there's sort of a double check there and then it's all done for you. One of the benefits in addition for brian fans with fancy hands, is that as a large organization they actually benefit from discount a lot of the providers that you might use on a regular basis, such as one hundred flowers if you want to send flowers somebody or taskrabbit, which we'll get into later but it's another outsourcing service, so they definitely could buy things for you if you use another virtual assistant company like virtual, I think that they can buy things up to five hundred or more, but that they have their home different process and again, you're dealing with a specific person that's great, I mean, it seems like too if you're that concerned or there is a handoff, you could create a certain account for it, right? Sure that's kind of like your virtual assistant account with limited spending, a lot of ways to do that too very easily so the yes, when you buy stuff, how do you get it? Do you tell them to send it to a najar s or your personal address? Also good question, too. So with fancy hand specifically there's a whole dashboard on their website and you can have a home address and work address on you can even put notes about how you normally like things sent. So you know, if it's ah, you could say, like, if it's ah it's something that's like a kid's thing or something and send it to this address always or if it's something having to do with whatever or they could just ask you, you know, where do you want to send? So you could say by this, send it home, you know very easily and you have a home address and work address. You can have your credit card information, their fancy hands will connect with google calendar directly. They'll connect with trillo and austin on a couple of those project manager. They'll also collect connect with ever known as I showed you before. So with google calendar, they can see your calendar, obviously, and they can make appointments for you. They can do all sorts of scheduling for you, which is really cool too, and for some reason, any scheduling task they do is free. Not sure how they work that out, but another thing that they have to is that they can create conference calls for you without the forty people where they will call the forty people I think you mean the person doesn't do that is obviously a service, but you can say like I need these fifteen people on a conference call at this time and they will set that up there so that's pretty cool as well on another thing too is that a task as defined by fancy hands is something that takes up to twenty minutes there's a little bit of leeway there obviously I think that they sort of work that in, but I've had fancy hands assistant beyond hold for me for three hours before but obviously they're doing other things they have it on hold on the side and then they're going to go on and do other things so that kind of thing doesn't count. But for something that's like going through a really large like expense report or something they can still handle that, you just have to break it up into twenty minute tasks and what I'll do in that kind of case I'll say do as much of this is you can you know and then let me know where you finished on then I can send that on to the next virtual assistant to get those kinds of things done so the the way the whole thing is kind of funny too. You can have them wait on hold for you and then patch you in on a call which is great especially if it's something that requires like authorization so if you need them to call a cable company for you on the cable company needs authorization speak to you it's my favorite thing I get a call it's like hi, I have like your assistant on the phone can I speak to them it's like yes what's your name this's name what? Your social carrie number okay, thank you have a good night hang up and then about twenty minutes later I get an email saying, ok, we're done, you know, it's like, really satisfying to have just that little touch on it and that's actually leads really well into being the brick breaker. Yes, okay, I have two questions, but I'll just ask one right now. Uh, so I'm just curious for the for the virtual assistance that you've tested out. Was there anyone that kind of, like raided the customer because you're saying, like, we're probably going to make some mistakes and if they mess up it's, probably our fault and you're you're kind of playing with them, leaving out information so the ones that you tested where they're ones cos that rated you like old don't take this task from him because he's he's always confusing or something like that so that way they know what they're dealing with not exactly I have been censured it's not the right word but I have been talked to my manager my manager is at marshall says the company sometimes I've pushed the limits a little bit about what they can actually accomplish it's not in a bad way it's just like you know this is a skill set that virtual system simply don't have which is fine uh no it doesn't work that way that it's a learning process for everybody honestly and it sure and and by the way to be clear even with something like fancy answers on the man they will right back to you it's not like you have one chance to get it right they'll write back and say oh well that password didn't work sir or you know I don't know I don't understand what you meant here so it is a dialogue and you do get better at it and with a competent virtual assistant service they will give you that feedback and you will get better which is even more so I say it's your fault if they kind of really mess up what you don't want is a virtual assistant company where they just kind of making assumption and then just do it and do it wrong so uh I've had those experiences and there is this weird like geographical shift that has happened and continues to happen with all sorts of outsourcing s o you know, three years ago if you wanted to get a virtual system, india was the place to go and for various reasons, I guess the the labor market for virtual assistance has gotten quite deluded and the quality level noticeably went down for virtual systems coming out of india on the plus out of the army counter side of that if you want to get work done right now like india is the place to go for work, whereas graphic design right now you would want to go to eastern europe call centers you would go to costa rica and that changes I don't know why there's just things that I've noticed these trends that I've noticed but uh if you're going to go out of the country for virtual assistance, which you wouldn't do it for pricing because they're so comfortable now, but the philippines currently is the best place to go for virtual systems outside of america and it actually serves very well for people who are in australia and for people who might even be in russia depending on the language needs because of their geographical location yes, I think I paid too much for auto insurance, so can I get a beer to buy me cheap insurance? Yes you can you can have them research that but there is actually some services that specifically will help you with that which I'm now I will touch on later. But, uh, virtual assistant can certainly do that kind of research for you. And they can call up your auto insurance company, get your authorization and then maybe even negotiated. Better read on her behalf. Get me courts from several companies. Exactly. That's a perfect example. Uh, does anyone have any questions actually, about, like, can a virtual system do this really curious to hear that? So I have a statement from internet company and basically, they billed me wrong. And so I can have a personal assistant call the company and get that fixed up. That's. A really perfect one. Yeah. In that case, I would literally just is it paper? Um, both. Okay, just take a picture of the virtual systems. Say, this is overcharged calling up and figure it out. It's. Kind of cool, huh? So, with fancy hands, there are thousands, literally thousands assistants, but it's, essentially like a free market. So assistance can pick up a task that they want. So you will see a lot of the same people often, like I see, because they always signed with their name, so I'll see similar people doing tasks and they very quickly get very protective of you when they're doing tasks for you it's kind of interesting and like they want to really do it right and they get kind of excited about it so I actually had a uh because of actually tt I have some task they're automatically issued as I was explaining before and there is a fancy insistent named mandy and the task was automatically signed her but the file that she needed was not where I was supposed to pay so she wrote back and she's like hi she's like I guess you're you're you're automatic automatic system didn't work and I wrote back I was like no, the fact that you're telling me that means that it did work because she's notifying me that there was a problem so the checks and balances over there so anyway to shame her being the brick breaker wait, I'm sorry actually so were there any questions about things that virtual susan khun d'oh really? The other question was can you pick your own virtual assistant like former relationship and how do you go about doing that? Okay, so for dedicated virtual assistance you absolutely can and I tried to explain to people that because a lot of people hopefully not a lot but some people do get a virtual system they're not happy but it's still a person and there's still personality things that happen so of course, you have to find the one that works for you, so with a company like virtual, for instance, which provides that again assistance, if you don't like your first assistant, you're just not driving with them, then they can give you someone else to work with, and you can ask for someone specific skills, and you'd be amazed how quickly you former relationship once they start working on this stuff or you're not only do you feel grateful because they're liberating you from all this responsibilities, but they start to enjoy it. They start to get to know you, and everyone gets better at it, so you absolutely can do that and it's just because the virtual it's still a person it's still someone that you can develop that sort of report with. So I do a little bit as a dedicated virtual assistant for terra gently, who was here a little bit ago, and the one thing that I've learned from her and that she's told other people in finding me, is that you very often it will be the friend of a friend that is someone perfect for you because they know you a little bit, they know what you need and it's a great match, it is matchmaking, honestly, in a lot of ways, and you know, I so I've used both dedicated and a non demand at the same time a lot on usually in that situation will have a dedicated assistant dealing with sort of ongoing stuff where's the on demand people will be there the ones that I need to do stuff at eleven o'clock at night and stuff like that but my dedicated assistants have been e I mean the relationship that I have been kind of incredible and my first assistant that I had for a year and a half and in a way was sort of the spark for a lot of the less doing stuff because what happened was and she said this was a company based in india and she worked for me for a year and a half was great but then she got promoted and was no longer to be assistant I had this like panic attack which is actually how the manual of you was created because I had to start identifying the processes in case that happened again but uh you know, she would ask me about how my kids were doing and how you know, my wife was doing in this and I'd send her pictures and we were facebook friends you develop a relationship because these people are so become so integrated in your life in a way and that could sound scary because then you're this vulnerability away but that's where the manual view comes in because then with the manual of you now if the virtual system that I was working with the sick one day or quit or whatever it's all there for someone else to deal with and it's not something that requires any training because it has been so all described very resilient okay? So my question is you have all these tasks that you're outsourcing right? So have you ever thought about maybe having a virtual assistant beat not being charged but kind of manage the other ones or to be more efficient because seems like you probably spent a lot of time sending things out and then getting all the information back but heavy ever I mean without be efficient if you have someone else do that for you so I I love using all sorts of different outsource parties, so yes, you could do that I don't necessarily recommend that because more mostly because you don't need it in my case I couldn't possibly issue two hundred tasks a month that's why a lot of them are issued automatically I have t t is issuing a lot of those tests like that friday morning test that tells the virtual assistants to make the interesting things of the week post not only do I have to not remember that, but I just maybe don't have the time to hit that at the right moment and get that in there so yes so it's automating it's outsourcing outsourcing in a way now, we're talking about things that are not virtual systems, you know, like a graphic designer, overhearing architect over there, then sure. It's okay to have sort of overarching outsourcing the manager for that, but generally speaking, as faras, issuing the task and dealing with the task is up, you can automate a lot of that.

Class Description

Get ready to learn a proven way to optimize your productivity. 

In this course, achievement and efficiency expert Ari Meisel explains a systematic way for accomplishing the things you need to do so you can open up more time for the things you want to do. You’ll learn to optimize, automate, and outsource both personal and professional tasks. 

Ari will help you identify which tasks are monopolizing your time and help you build strategies to make those tasks less time-consuming. Ari will also cover simple strategies for getting through everyday responsibilities like errands and paperwork more quickly and efficiently. You’ll also learn about applying the same level of efficient prioritization to your personal life, including how to approach health and fitness in a more streamlined way.

By the end of this course, you’ll be on your way to an easier, organized, balanced way of living.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Optimize Automate and Outsource Everything.pdf

bonus material with enrollment

Book Excerpt.pdf


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WOW - I only watched the intro video (about 1/2hr in length), and already I'm completely blown away ... I'm definitely buying this course! Already a huge fan of Evernote, (lol - stone tablet!) but the other websites also seem very useful. And if it's a matter of the best parts of the movie are all in trailer - I will be back to let you know!

Amy Cantrell

Lots of great info! I love the concept of getting ideas out of your head, leaving your mind open to new ideas, and using Evernote to keep ideas and notes organized. The email tips alone could be worth the price of the class. Creating your own work week, tackling difficult tasks when you are at your best, making smart use of your time, progress begets progress, all good stuff!

Gina Bégin

I've already recommended this course to a number of people and followed up with Ari's team to go even further — though, sincerely, there is so much incredible depth in this course that if you're just starting out or in the midst of optimizing your workflow and cleaning up your "plate" of tasks, you will be blown away. He discusses great ways to use automation (IFTTT, Zapier) and how to make better use of Evernote, tricks to ... well, pretty much increase productivity in every aspect of life from health to work. I research this stuff all the time, but had no idea there was so much more out there. Well done, Ari.