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Vox Pop: Have you tried outsourcing your life?

A lot of my friends have been reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, and, to varying degrees, several of them have started trying on some of his more audacious ideas, such as checking email once a week, finding an "income muse," going on an extreme information diet -- a few people I know are considering outsourcing pieces of their personal and professional lives.

For reasons I can't fully explain -- and will, for now, just write down to Tim's engaging style -- I also found this outsourcing idea weirdly fascinating. You identify the tedious tasks in your life that don't represent the best use of your time, and assign them to an overseas worker who can complete them for a few bucks an hour. This apparently can be virtually any kind of mundane task, from booking a dinner reservation to doing research on a company to -- heck, why not? -- answering your email.

So, while I know lots of people share my theoretical interest in this, I wonder how many of you have tried it, and how many of you are using outsourced help on a regular basis. What's your experience been? Does this work? What sorts of task are most amenable to long-distance assignment?

By the way, if you haven't read the book yet, here's an excerpt from Tim's chapter on outsourcing.

Comments are open for your stories. I'd be grateful if you can try to limit your comments to firsthand experiences hiring and utilizing outsourced employees or in regard to evaluating the quality of their work. Thanks.

Alyn's picture

As someone who has read...

As someone who has read the book and was intrigued by the idea I am now on my second PA. While she's not on the otherside of the world she is turning out to be a godsend. Note that I am on my second PA - the first didn't work at all as I spent more time explaining what I wanted done, how I wanted it done and then chasing up that it had been done that I just lost confidence in delegating tasks (something I am not particularly good at anyway) because of the reasons in earlier comments.

Two keys I've learnt then from my (albeit limited) experience. It helps when the person is proactive and extremely capable and secondly you have to learn to let go and actually delegate. I am now loving it - last week I got an email where my PA let me know she had picked up a cheque from a client, had cashed said cheque, made sure the funds were cleared and all was well. What was particularly nice about this little errand was that i hadn't asked her to do any of it - she simply picked up that last time I asked her to do it and so she took the initiative to do it. This in turn makes me think, "Hot diggity, she's good" and I pass more work her way.

The fact that she is very detail oriented makes me feel safe that things are getting caught. Jobs I've now outsourced to her: she handles all my e-sales from our online store - shipping and invoicing - I get an email from her at the end of month telling me everything I need to know, she's the first buffer between me and clients which is great having a third party express your wishes! And lastly, my favourite, she handles all my expense receipts - a job I loathe - at the end of every month I dump all my gas, dinner and other receipts and she files and makes sense of them.




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