The word I hear most often from the people I work with is “overwhelmed.”
People feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff going on in their lives and the level of responsibilities laid on them. They get stressed out by having too many emails, not having enough money, and not spending enough time with their families. This is a vicious cycle because the more overwhelmed you get, the more stress you experience, and the harder it gets to break out of that cycle.
If you work in the startup world, then you definitely know what the word “overwhelmed” means. Startup founders experience burnout in a way I’ve never seen in anyone else. I’m not saying it’s the worst there is, but startup burnout can have such a profound effect on someone that it should go without saying: you need to do anything you can to avoid it. Here are some of my top ways for not just getting through the day, but owning it.
Yes, you all know Evernote, but the way to make Evernote supremely useful is to OVERuse it. Our minds are great for coming up with ideas; they are terrible at holding onto them. If there is an idea in your head, it needs to get out of your head. Here’s the kicker: you don’t need to know if it’s a good idea or a bad idea, and you can’t possibly know if it’s relevant, but the idea is in there – so just get it out and into Evernote.
This is incredibly liberating because you can stop worrying about remembering everything. And you may actually uncover some really great ideas this way. Ideas need flow. If you’ve ever seen the “Simpsons” episode where Mr. Burns was diagnosed with everything, the doctor had this little doorway and all these fuzzy little animals representing various diseases, and because they couldn’t get through the door, he wasn’t getting sick. Ideas are very similar: you need to get them into a single-file line so they can effectively come out of you.
Sometimes when you write down nine “bad” ideas, the 10th one will be the great idea you’ve been looking for. And that can be because the nine ideas added up to a good one or because they simply got out of the way of that good idea.
2. Virtual assistants
Everyone at one point or another should work with a virtual assistant. It doesn’t matter if you get an on-demand assistant service like Fancy Hands or a dedicated assistant from Zirtual, delegating is a skill and you need to hone it. You have to realize that 95 percent of the things you do every day can be done by other people or other things – and if you don’t believe me, then stop and think about the processes you go through on a regular basis. You can create what I call The Manual of You, which allows you to optimize, automate, and outsource everything in your life in order to be more effective.
Realizing that you are dealing with someone who you have never met and who does not know the way you work puts a very interesting set of parameters on you in terms of how you effectively convey the necessary information to complete a task. These people can perform many of these tasks faster, more elegantly, and with greater results than you could ever hope to so get these things of your plate and focus on that 5 percent that only you can do, and do it better.
Both of these sites do something very simple: they create automations between two web services. You can use these tools to streamline a variety of tasks. For example, each time you like a video on YouTube, the information for that clip can be added to a Google Docs spreadsheet. Or, every time someone buys something from you using Gumroad, they can get added to your MailChimp mailing list. And, these sites can automatically generate an invoice for you when someone makes a purchase on PayPal. Once you start playing around with them, you’ll be amazed at how much stuff in your life can be completely automated without any human interaction at all. You can get most, if not all, of your social media strategy taken care of by IFTTT, while at least half of your regular business accounting tasks can be covered by actions in Zapier. I’ve even used Zapier to create and test a few service ideas like my own version of Unroll.me to get me off of certain mailing lists. With no coding skills whatsoever, I was able to test the process and see how I liked it using Zapier. I even use IFTTT to automatically issue tasks to my virtual assistant based on various events. For example, every time I write a new blog post, IFTTT tells my assistants to submit it to various social media outlets that only take manual submissions. That’s right, I outsource my outsourcing.
Ari Meisel has come up with massive amounts of hacks over the years to be more effective at everything. You can find out more about how to stop running errands, choose your own workweek, and even optimize your health at LessDoing.com and watch out for his new book, Less Doing, More Living, How to Make Everything in Life Easier, which will be released April 3rd.