Guide to an [Affordable] Personal Assistant

April 9, 2024

High performers are always looking to maximize productivity. Cold baths, hot saunas, meditation, 5am wakeups, fitness, hallucinogens, and everything else you can think of. These sound nice, but the 10x improvement is from stopping doing low-value things. Here are examples of tasks you shouldn't be spending time on:

  • Planning company events
  • Waiting on phone hold
  • Scheduling doctor appointments
  • Scheduling vet visits
  • Booking travel
  • Calling a vendor when the bill is wrong
  • And way too many more

A personal assistant handles this and much more. They're your 10x productivity improvement.

Many years ago thought personal assistants were expensive, virtual assistants were overseas and cheap, and you don't need either because you should force tasks forward with your time. Boy was I wrong.

About me

Nikki isn't just a virtual entity; she's a real person I can reach out to via text, Slack, or email to handle various tasks, freeing up my time for more crucial matters throughout the day. I've structured our arrangement to utilize Nikki for approximately 45 hours per month. The brilliance lies in Berkwood´s involvement, as they take charge of sourcing and interviewing assistants, as well as managing benefits. Essentially, I pay Nikki as a contractor, offering flexibility by allowing termination with just a 30-day notice if the fit isn't right. I hired her directly, and only paid Berkwood a fee. Which is weird, as its my company now 😀

This setup creates a scenario where the commitment is minimal, yet the benefits are substantial—a formula that has proven highly advantageous for me. Now, I'll delve into the specifics of how I leverage Nikkis's assistance, how the transition to having an assistant occurred, and the training process involved.

How much does an assistant cost?

What do I pay? $600/mo for a part time role. There are higher plans available but I've found that's enough time to get work done.

What an assistant helps me with

Utilizing an assistant is difficult. If you haven't done it before, prepare to build a new skill set. The ability to feel comfortable delegating work and personal tasks takes 2-3 months but is well worth it. We'll get into how to train for this below.

Here's a bunch of tasks I let them own in my work/personal life:

Work

  • Purchasing new hire equipment (laptop, mice, etc)
  • Handling broken computer equipment repairs
  • Shipping new hire swag from Swag.com
  • Administrative paperwork around trade show exhibiting
  • Flight booking
  • Hotel booking
  • Car rental booking
  • Planning events for the team (ideas, planning, booking)
  • Booking restaurant reservation
  • Confirming meeting time/details
  • Find/book meeting times between many people
  • Ideas and purchasing of annual holiday team gifts
  • Looking through my email to allow me to only read what I need to
  • Unsubscribe to spam
  • Pay vendor bills
  • Research customers
  • Send gifts to customers
  • Send team member gift card for their birthday
  • Payout referrals to customers

Personal

  • Book flights
  • Book hotels
  • Book car rentals
  • Research/book vacation activities
  • Book doctor appointments
  • Book vet visits
  • Coordinate house cleaning days
  • Wait on hold with vendors, patch me when a person is ready
  • Finding vendors for home repairs

Training an assistant

The first month of hiring my Berkwood assistant, I didn't know what tasks to give them. It was awkward. My management team told me I needed to stop doing things like buying stuff on Amazon. Everything I wanted to give Nikki seemed too important or I want it done "right."

Should I ask Nikki to buy this computer mouse? Eh, I need to standardize the mice and make sure it's done right.

I'm going to help you save a bunch of time with 3 principles: Instructions; Life Doc; Process.

1. Your Handbook - A Google Sheet of everything you

Make a copy of this Google Sheet and fill it out. This will be your life guide. The more detailed the better! Lastly, sign up for 1password. It's a powerful app to securely share passwords and credit cards. I organize them by folder (which are called Vaults), to only share certain private information.

Pro tip: Setup Asana for larger projects. This helps when tracking tasks that are done. Ex. team outing. I use Slack and texting and most communication with Nikki. "Hey Siri, send Nikki a text…"

E-Mail me to get the Document

2. Instructions - Take an extra 2min to be thorough with your ask

You're busy. So you're probably used to giving directions or presenting asks quickly. "Can you fill out this doc" or "Send Tim something nice for his birthday this week". This is okay, but it presents opportunities or mismatched expectations. Someone completing the task. It's time to take the extra 2min to be thorough with your ask.

"Can you fill out this doc" becomes: "This doc is for an upcoming trade show we're attending. We're going to need a 10' by 10' booth there on Jan 15, 2024. Please fill out every field needed and submit it back to admin@trade-show.com by this Friday. Any fields you're unsure of, ask me"

"Send Tim something nice for his birthday this week" becomes: "Tim's been at the company for 2yrs and his birthday is this Thursday. He's a foodie and likes the outdoors. Can you find him a gift under $50 to be sent by his birthday?"

We're eliminating the risk of misinterpretation/errors.

3. Process - Confirmations & simple documentation

Three things create a great repeatable relationship Nikki and I have.

Task Confirmation
This is simple. Ask your assistant to do the following:
When I request something, please confirm it. "Like" it in a text message or respond in Slack, "Got it". When the task is completed, send an update threaded, from the original request. These two items help reduce a lot of overthinking of "did this task get done or not".

1-1's For 1 Month
Put 45min, weekly, aside with your assistant for the first month. Go through your inbox together to get on the same page. Give feedback on what you liked/didn't like. Ask what else they can help you with based on your calendar. Give them permission to think ahead. Ex. You have a lunch meeting, they can Doordash your lunch to the office. After a month or two, you won't need as much hand-holding.

Documentation
Ideally, your personal assistant stays a few years, but things happen. If they leave, you want to have a packet of training information to give the next assistant. In fact, I have the old assistant train the new one. When completing repetitive tasks, also request that it be documented how to do this task. Keep these documents organized in folders, as they'll save you incredible amounts of time in the future.

Email/Calendar

Email management is one of the best uses of an assistant. The end goal is to be able to check your email and only see the things you need to perform an action on. You can delegate your Google Apps/Gmail access using these instructions. This person can now send and receive emails on your behalf.

During your weekly meetings, we review each email over Zoom and what action should be taken. The actions are either:

  • Mark as read/unsubscribe
  • Flag for you to reply (great to review how to respond, if the assistant can)
  • Unknown how to handle (great to review in weekly meeting)

Over time your assistant will be able to automatically know which action to perform.

Hiring your personal assistant, next steps

I wanted to write this guide because I'm constantly asked about assistants and how they can help. I figured one URL is easier to share than a long Google Doc. There are tons of services out there to help you find an assistant. If you decide to use Berkwood Solutions, as I have, please mention my name, Malte. You can book a demo with them here too.

Thank you so much and email me if you have questions :)