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How to know what to delegate to your Virtual Assistant


Barnaby Lashbrooke

Founder and CEO of Time etc, author of The Hard Work Myth

9 minute read

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In order to get the most out of your Virtual Assistant hire, you have to build a strong foundation. But don’t worry, you won’t need shovels and cement.

All you have to do is identify the tasks you will delegate to your virtual assistant.

When business owners and entrepreneurs jump into hiring a Virtual Assistant headfirst, they often fail to see the maximum impact an assistant can have on their workflow. Partly, this is because we struggle to delegate.

If you’re so used to juggling dozens of things at once, it feels like you’re alone, and that you alone can complete all these tasks.

(Fortunately, this is not true. You’re not the only one who can complete the tasks on your to-do list, which is why experts say that an assistant should be every entrepreneur’s first hire.)

Let’s see how you can identify tasks to delegate to your Virtual Assistant and create the perfect task list:

1) Why Do You Need to Know What to Delegate Before Hiring a VA?

If you need help with taxes, you’ll visit a tax adviser or your accountant.

If you need help with your diet, you’ll visit a nutritionist.

Similarly, if you want to hire a virtual assistant, you first need to identify the tasks you’d like them to complete for you. This will also inform your hiring decisions: if you need extra help with social media, you’ll know that you need a virtual assistant who has experience with social media creation and management.

When you decide which types of tasks you’ll delegate before hiring a virtual assistant, you’ll get a clear picture of how they can make a difference.

You’ll be able to monitor their progress and actually feel the effects first-hand.

Just think of it as another part of your business.

You don’t launch a product before making sure who your audience is. When you know what they need, you know how to monitor and maximize your results.

Similarly, making a task delegation list is making sure that you get the best results from hiring a virtual assistant.

2) What Happens If You “Wing” Your Task List?

On the other hand, if you don’t come up with a task list (or you just create a list filled with random tasks), you might find that your virtual assistant doesn’t make a difference. They might give you an hour or two extra in your busy day, but that’s not all they can do.

By planning ahead, you set yourself and your virtual assistant up for success.

Problem #1: You Run out of Tasks

If you try to “wing it,” and forgo building a strong list of tasks you’ll delegate, you might run out of tasks quickly.

For example, your task list could be comprised of items like these:

  • Book plane tickets for the January business trip
  • Create end-of-the-year financial statements
  • Compile an analytics report on website performance

Unfortunately, you’ll be “stuck” when your virtual assistant takes care of everything on the list.

You might start off your VA with a couple of tasks, but if they’re not concise and not a part of routine responsibilities, you’ll run out of them. If that happens, it’s going to be really hard to get going again. At the very least, you’ll need to find something new for your virtual assistant to do.

This takes time and effort. It can even overwhelm you all over again.

Now, you’ll absolutely have some tasks that crop up (like booking plane tickets). However, it’s best to have a firm idea of tasks you’re going to delegate ahead of time.

So let’s rework the list above to be more constructive:

Virtual Assistant Tasks I’ll Delegate:

  • Trip planning
  • Accounting
  • Monthly website analytics reporting

This way, your Virtual Assistant has a clear list of recurrent tasks and responsibilities.

Problem #2: You Hire a Generalist (When You Need a Specialist)

There’s nothing wrong with virtual assistants who have different skills!

However, it becomes a problem if what you really need is a Virtual Assistant who specializes in certain areas, but you haven’t noticed it in time because you didn’t create a list of tasks first.

The best Virtual Assistant relationships work out when you first know what they need to do for you, and only then find the Virtual Assistant with the skills to match.

Look at the bigger picture behind all those little tasks.

What does this list mean in the grand scheme of things?

  • Use Canva to create social media posts
  • Upload invoices to Zoho
  • Reach out to influencers
  • Send contracts to new clients
  • Plan a giveaway
  • Create new product listings on Shopify

If your list looks like this, you’ll know you need a Virtual Assistant with social media, accounting, and online store maintenance skills.

Without this list, you might feel lost when it’s time to vet potential virtual assistants.

3) What Are the Wrong Tasks to Delegate?

Of course, not all tasks were made equal. Some of them just aren’t meant for virtual assistants to complete. So if you’re delegating for the first time, you might end up delegating the wrong tasks.

There are some tasks that are great for delegating to virtual assistant, while others are meant for you to complete.

You might already spot the tasks you should focus on: activities that drive the growth of your business. For example, no matter how much you might dislike sales, it’s important for you to take care of sales tasks. A virtual assistant should clear other tasks off your plate so you can focus on those critical activities.

The tasks you shouldn’t delegate are tasks that need your expertise, passion, or experience.

For example, the wrong tasks to delegate would be:

  • Business meetings
  • Writing marketing plans
  • Designing business plans
  • Evaluating employee performance
  • Reaching out to potential partners
  • Planning your marketing and sales strategy

If you delegate these critical tasks, they’re not as likely to succeed. It’s your expertise, passion, and experience that contribute to success.

They also put you in direct touch with your prospective customers, partners, and help you make better decisions in the long term.

4) What Are the Right Tasks to Delegate?

With that in mind, there’s plenty you can delegate to your Virtual Assistant. They can also complete supporting tasks.

For example, if you’re performing audience research, they can collect and give structure to raw survey data.

Normally, you should delegate the following 3 tasks groups:

  • Tasks you don’t know how to do
  • Things you don’t like doing
  • Activities that waste your time

Delegate Tasks that Aren’t Your Strong Suit

For example, you can delegate routine tasks that your Virtual Assistant has the right skills for:

  • Scheduling
  • Writing blog posts
  • Social media management

And so on!

However, if you don’t know how to do business-critical tasks (e.g. create a marketing strategy), then you should consult a professional. This is not something that you should delegate to your Virtual Assistant.

Delegate Tasks You Don’t Like Doing

Do you like filtering your emails, or facing an overflowing inbox every morning? Chances are, you don’t.

This is a great example of a task that your virtual assistant can do.

Instead of opening every email that lands in your inbox, your virtual assistant can filter all emails so you only read the emails that require your expertise and will help you grow your business.

Again, this is not applicable to business-critical tasks that only you can do.

Delegate Time-Wasting Tasks

The key to productivity is reducing distractions. Every time you get distracted, it takes you 23 minutes to get back to work. So if you want to stay in the zone and keep focusing on important tasks, your virtual assistant can take care of time-wasting tasks such as:

  • Managing and posting to your social media
  • Entering data into your CRM
  • Expenses and invoicing
  • Managing your email

5) How to Identify the Right Tasks to Delegate to Your Virtual Assistant

The best tasks to delegate are tasks that you’ve already done and understand, but they waste your time.

This way, you’ll be able to teach your virtual assistant how to do them if they don’t already know, and introduce them to your process.

Use This Simple Method!

It’s often hard for entrepreneurs to see the difference between tasks only they can do, and tasks that others can take over, so use this simple method:

  • First, fold a piece of A4 in half vertically.
  • On the top left, write: “Tasks only I can do.”
  • On the top right, write: “Tasks someone else could do.”

Brainstorm tasks on your to-do list and in your head.

Evaluate every task independently, and for each task, ask yourself:

“Does this absolutely have to be done by me? Could someone else do this if I showed them how?”

Depending on your answer, place the task in the right column.

Then, reevaluate your “Tasks only I can do” column. It’s very hard to let go sometimes. You might be wasting time on tasks your virtual assistant can get done after you explain your process.

When you’re done, you’ll have a clear list!

For example, your list of tasks to delegate might look something like this:

  • Email inbox management
  • Voicemail screening
  • Call-backs to arrange appointments
  • Handling front-line customer queries
  • Scheduling your week and keeping you on track
  • Logistical travel and meeting arrangements
  • Paperwork, administrative work, data entry
  • Content creation: blog posts and social media

Focus on the big picture and think about the long-term. Instead of jotting down “plan January trip,” write: “logistical travel and meeting arrangements.” This way, you won’t run out of tasks and your VA will know what their responsibilities are.

Explaining Your Process

Every entrepreneur has their own way of doing things. If you’re still on the fence about some tasks because you’re not sure you could teach them (e.g. the way you handle customer queries), don’t worry!

Virtual assistants are very flexible and adaptable. They’ve worked with a variety of clients, and they’re lifelong learners.

You can always discuss the tasks you’d like to delegate to your virtual assistant with them before you hire them. This way, you’ll understand their experience. And just as they’ll get to learn more about your business, you’ll learn more about different ways to make your customer experience even better.

See: Five Essential Tech Tips For Getting Started With A Virtual Assistant

Recurring Tasks

It’s important to point out that recurring tasks are the best tasks to delegate to your virtual assistant.

For example, if you want your virtual assistant to handle inbox management, this is really simple to set up. You just give them access and show them how you’d like it to be done once. From there, you’re getting all the benefits without having to put in the effort every day.

If you’re not sure about something, feel free to discuss it with your virtual assistant. For example, if you’ve just started using social media and you’re not sure what/how often you’d like them to post.

Ultimately, recurring tasks are the ones that will show you the real value of having a virtual assistant. I recommend ensuring there are 70% (or more) recurring tasks in your list, so you can really experience the benefits of your new hire, and focus on what truly matters:

Growing your business.

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About the author

Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Virtual Assistant service Time etc as well as the author of The Hard Work Myth, recently recommended by Sir Richard Branson. Barnaby is a Forbes Columnist on productivity and is also an accomplished entrepreneur, selling more than $35 million worth of services.

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