Outsourcing to protect the work

You may think I mean hiring someone overseas to handle your customer service.  I don’t.  While I have used virtual assistants in the past, most of the work I do these days doesn’t lend itself to that approach.  Pitching an editor, writing a novel, posting regularly on my blog – none of this is something someone else can do for me. I’m guessing it’s pretty much the same in your life.


Still, that doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself.  And I’m not talking about the obvious stuff, like having a web guru deal with website issues, because you don’t need me to tell you that you can hire someone to put together your website for you.


I mean things like . . .  having other people do their fair share of the work.  I admit that this is a hard one for me, because I’m a control freak, so all anyone has to do is look at me with a somewhat helpless expression and say, “I’m not sure I know how to do this,” and I’m all, “FINE.  I’ll do it.”


But no more, my friends.  I have learned to say brightly, “Then you’ll get a chance to find out, which I know will be very helpful for you down the road.”  Then I smile like mad, and go about my business.


How does this work in specifics?  I get e-mails every week from writers who want to know how to break into the business.  There is more information available to aspiring writers now than there has ever been, and yet instead of heading to the library or the bookstore or to one of any of four million websites or five trillion blogs (including this one), they e-mail me directly for advice.


“How to get published” is not something I can answer in an e-mail.  I don’t even try anymore.  Now I say, “Read a few books on the subject and let me know if you have a specific question about the way I do something.”


99% of the people wander away, because time spent reading a book is apparently more time than they’re willing to invest in themselves.  They don’t mind me doing all the work, but they don’t want to do it themselves.


When that 1% does return, I am more inclined to help because they’ve shown they’re serious, and I will spend time helping serious people reach their dreams.  In fact, I am committed to it.


I also do this in my personal life.  My daughter is not a finicky eater but she likes to know what’s for dinner today, tomorrow, and next week.  I’m the kind of person who figures out what’s for dinner by looking in the cupboards when my stomach starts to growl.  This is not that satisfactory of an approach, because the cupboards can get pretty bare pretty fast, leaving me with a few things that do not go well together: graham crackers, eggs, and ketchup, for example.


Thus I recently put Jessica in charge of menu planning.  Once a week, she figures out what she wants for meals, lists the ingredients we’ll need, writes one list for the stuff the Schwan’s guy delivers and another list for me to pick up at the grocery store and ta-da.  Done.  I spend about twelve minutes a week handling my share of this chore.  To Jessica it’s not a chore at all, but an activity that she loves to do, leafing through cookbooks and the Schwan’s catalog, putting together all the information she has learned in health class on good nutrition . . . stuff that makes me want to weep.  We’re both happy.


What is your favorite way of outsourcing the work in your life?