You know why I titled this post the way I did.
The 4-Hour Work Week is a business phenomenon. Tim Ferriss has built quite the business around the “4-Hour” brand.
And I’m sure many of you were seduced into the world of online business by the promise of doing nothing at all.
My second online business was an ecommerce pet store with dropshipping fulfillment. I had no product on hand, and I hired 2 people and a VA agency to manage the day-to-day. 4-hour work week, here I come!
Problem: It was boring as hell and I didn’t make much money.
So once I got past that initial online business hurdle (and dove back into my freelance writing and editing business that was still going fine), I sat back and thought about what I really wanted.
Did I really want to work for just 4 hours each week? The answer, when I thought about it (like, really thought about it), was a resounding “no.”
I didn’t get into online business so that I could stop working.
I actually enjoy working. I enjoy creating meaningful things. I enjoy working with clients. I enjoy creating jobs. I enjoy making a difference. And I enjoy my rose-colored glasses version of business from time-to-time.
What I didn’t get into business to do?
- Sit in front of Twitter and Facebook all day.
- Respond to emails ad nauseum.
- Tweak my website.
- Chase down invoices.
- Send products to customers manually.
You get the picture.
What I really wanted was a 4-hour administrative week.
So I created it, before ever actually hiring anyone to delegate these tasks to. Online tools make admin so much easier than it used to be, and everything else can be outsourced.
So here’s how I handle my admin in less than 4 hours each week:
I never let my inbox get higher than 5 emails
And usually I sit at inbox zero. And I leave my email open all day. And I don’t find it distracting.
Don’t hate me! But it’s kind of a way of life for me. Here’s how I do it:
- If an email is something I need to follow-up on, but in a few days, I use Boomerang for Gmail to schedule it to return to my inbox then rather than letting it sit there.
- If I need to respond but don’t want it to look like I’m just sitting in front of my inbox all day (true or not), I also use Boomerang to immediately type up my reply, but hit “Send Later” and schedule it for an hour or more in advance.
- I move to-dos straight to my to-do list rather than letting it stare at me from the inbox. If there are things I need to do from the email, I still archive it and just search for it later when I need it.
That’s about it. I wish I had a more magical Do This! kind of system, but I think the simplicity of this makes it doable for others. I don’t let email take priority over other tasks, but I can usually take a break to respond to people.
Other tools I’d recommend for Gmail but don’t use personally:
- Streak CRM (free!) (ok I use this, but only to see when people have checked an email I sent them. Sneaky)
- Yanado (task management in your inbox)
- Active Inbox (more task management in your inbox)
I avoid phone meetings for pointless stuff
Lots of people want to “hop on the phone” all the time. I take the Seth Godin approach and just don’t do (most) meetings. If I can email you or send you my scheduler, why in the world would I want to “hop on the phone” to schedule a time to “hop on the phone?” <– This request actually happened, and I declined.
I minimize the number of client meetings I have each week
Except this week, which somehow anthropomorphically snuck in 8 client calls (bad scheduler, bad!) on top of the end of launch, the start of group calls, and various other non-pointless meetings.
What does this have to do with admin? With the way I work with clients, I usually have prep and follow-up to our calls, which I classify as admin. If it’s not billable time, and I don’t really do work that requires “billable time,” it’s admin.
So yes, I do have unavoidable, unautomatable things to do, but I still work to streamline the parts that I have to do by hand/myself.
I schedule social media, podcasts, blogs, and emails
And I respond. And I don’t get bogged down. And I don’t have “set social media times” each day. I just go in whenever I feel like checking on responses and to chat in groups, the same way I’ll respond to emails fairly quickly.
The stuff that I preschedule I look at as “conversation starters,” which is what Laura Roeder calls them and I love it.
Before I had Edgar, I’d go in once weekly to Hootsuite and preschedule everything. Batching works pretty well for me in that regard. Take an hour or so at the beginning of each week to write and schedule your marketing materials. I don’t consider writing or recording an admin task, but getting it out there and promoting it is.
I use Gumroad to sell products
I can’t believe that people still wait for someone to give them money on Paypal, then go into their email to send them a product. Seriously?
I chose Gumroad initially because it had no monthly fees (it takes a percentage of sales instead). Now, I’m still using it because I think it’s a nice, easy to use, intuitive platform. There are other options (SendOwl, ejunkie…), so the point is to just pick one. Don’t get crazy with it.
I’ve got a pretty smooth client management system
No emailing back-and-forth to set a time to meet.
No waiting for payment to send a welcome email.
No manually reminding them of their sessions.
SatoriApp manages most of these things for me. It’s a great all-in-one payment/scheduling/contracting/CRM system.
But again: Just. Pick. Something.
This is business, not rocket science. Your first choice might suck, and then you’ll just choose something else. Chill, peeps.
So that mostly sums up how I approach administrative tasks. And, as of October, I’ll be working with my first VA for this business. Now that I’ve set up my own systems and processes, I know it’s going to be easier to bring her up to speed.