Businessman with Post-Its on FaceWhen you work with a personal assistant, you have to choose which tasks you’ll delegate and which you’ll choose to tackle yourself. On the surface, it may seem like an obvious decision — surely you’re vital to getting the majority of your work done. But when you look at the wide variety of services different virtual assistants offer, you’ll realize that there are plenty of others who can get things done for you. The challenge becomes figuring out which tasks to delegate.

What can you easily outsource?

Many virtual assistants focus on administrative tasks, working with small business owners to handle the needs of their companies — these virtual assistants take on tasks ranging from bookkeeping to booking speaking engagements. Other virtual assistants focus on personal tasks, like scheduling you an appointment with a local mechanic. You can easily outsource pretty much anything that doesn’t require a personal presence to a virtual assistant and there are companies that offer on-site, local assistants that can handle tasks that require a personal touch — like walking the dog.

How do you choose?

I’ve known a few people to outsource tasks like sending a birthday card to a relative. Personally, I tend to avoid delegating tasks that involve my personal relationships. But you can choose to outsource pretty much anything you want. Making the decision is a matter of prioritizing — what do you want to spend your time on and what gets in the way?

While it doesn’t take cost or time into account, I’ve always started by outsourcing the tasks I really hate doing. While it’s not necessarily a time-consuming task, I really don’t enjoy calling and making appointments. But as long as a virtual assistant has access to my calendar, she can set appointments for me. With small tasks like making a few phone calls, though, it’s important to remember to batch your tasks together — give your virtual assistant a whole list and see how much she can take care of in an hour. Small tasks can add up to quite a bit of time quickly.

Other people choose which tasks they’ll delegate based on other criteria: maybe you want to clear a certain number of hours in your day and you just want to delegate your most time-consuming tasks. Or, perhaps, you want to choose tasks to delegate based on cost. No matter which method you choose, there are a few questions you should keep in mind:

  • Is this an open-ended task? Do I need to limit it to get the results I want?
  • What information will my virtual assistant need to get the job done? Is it information I’m comfortable giving out?
  • When does this task need to be done by?

Part of delegating a task, after all, has to be making sure that it can get done. If you’re outsourcing an open-ended task, your virtual assistant may end up spending hours on a project that you thought she would only work on for a few minutes. Think about the difference between “find the best mechanic in my city” and “spend 15 minutes researching who the best mechanic in my city is.” It’s also worth your while to consider other factors, like time and personal information, when choosing tasks to delegate.

Getting used to delegating

In the end, you may not know whether you can outsource a given task until you try it. If you’re careful about choosing which tasks you delegate, you can minimize problems, but it’s possible that a particular virtual assistant may not be able to handle some of the more difficult tasks in your day. If that happens, consider it a learning experience. We each have to smooth out the bumps in our outsourcing plan ourselves — pretty soon you’ll have a good idea about which of your tasks you can easily delegate.

Image credit: MarsBars / iStockphoto

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