Ep. 40 The Pretend Assistant

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I want to bring you kind of a funny podcast. But I think, I hope it’s really helpful for you. It’s called the pretend assistant. And this is one of those productivity hacks that is sort of a little bit of a mind game that you play with yourself, but really helps. Alright, so here’s the deal. A lot of you in your business don’t have an assistant yet.

If you do have an assistant, then it’s not going to be your pretend assistant, it’s going to be your actual assistant. But the good news is even if you don’t have one you can still leverage this sort of, I would call it a psychological hack.

Now when things get really overwhelming in your business, I don’t know if you’ve felt this, where you’re almost paralyzed, you don’t even know where to start. I have this no matter how organized I think I am, there are days when I sit down to my desk to get to work and I just can’t even begin to process what I should do first, or what happens next.
And typically my normal reaction in that moment is, “I’ll just sit down and make a list.” I can’t even do that. I can’t even get the list onto my paper white board. So I’m thinking to myself, “How do I get myself out of this?” And that’s where the pretend assistant comes in. And if you don’t have one, I recommend that you name your pretend assistant whatever you want. I actually have an assistant who I love like a sister, she’s amazing.

So what I do when I’m very, very stressed out, I write to her. I write to her using voxer. I’ll either voxer if I can’t even write. If I’m so overwhelmed I’ll vox, I’ll send her a voxer message. But if I can write, you know, through slack or whatever, I will literally say, “Hey, these are the things that I think I need to do today.” And I will start every sentence with, “I need to see if I can do this. I need to find this. I need to figure out where I am with this.”

And the reason why this works, psychologically, number one, it’ll give you some momentum. So as I start to do this, I start to think of things. My brain sort of like a magnet, starts to think of all the things that are coming into my head. So I just need to get started.

Typically when you write a list, your brain is looking for very clear, tangible action items. Like, vacuum the living room, buy groceries. So when are so overwhelmed, you can’t even get the action items out, sometimes it’s hard, your brain doesn’t want to write a list. Because it’s like, it doesn’t have the tangible action. It’s like, I need to see if I can find where this is. That’s not really like a very tangible action.

But if you’re talking to an assistant, if you had an assistant, someone who is outside of you. Someone who is not as overwhelmed as you are, and you can say, “Hey Emily, I need to see if I can find that email somewhere. There was an email about where to pick up my daughter’s tickets for the show. Can you help me?”

Now all the sudden because I’m talking to my assistant, that can come out of my mouth and get on paper, get on voxer, or whatever, and then the actual task is pick up Eden’s tickets for the concert, or whatever.

So do you see how having an assistant that you can talk to, either through voxer or typed through slack, can allow your brain to release those things that don’t have super tangible action items, but are just kind of these weird floaty things in your head that will give you momentum.

So what happens, this happened to me actually just today. I sat down and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t even know where to begin. I’m so overwhelmed.” So I typed in slack, I said, “I’m just going to put my notes here.” And I started with, “I need to see if I can find the login for this.” Because what the actual task was, was I needed to get my team access to a new software program.

And exactly what I just said with the tickets, “I need to see if I can find the email that tells me what I have to do next with the tickets.” Now, she’s going to help me with some of those things. If you don’t have an assistant, even just the act of writing those out, then you’ll be able to go back and extract the actual tasks that have to be done from this sort of nebulous, foggy brain dump sort of thing.

Now, if you have voxer there’s an option to vox notes to yourself. There’s also an option to slack things to yourself. So try writing, “I need to” I need to see if, I need to try and find, because that will unhook some of that overwhelm.

So a pretend assistant can work really well in just getting you that momentum to get things out. What happened was as I started to do that, like a bike going down a hill, my brain started to think of all the other things.

And this is an actual principle of brain. I’m sure of it. Because whenever I worry about something, it seems to be a magnet to attract all other worries. I know there’s some evolutionary principle behind that, so it works the same way with tasks. Once you get going down the hill you’ll be able to get all the other ones out of your head. So try that.
Another reason why the pretend assistant is so helpful is when you have difficult emails. Difficult emails that can completely paralyze you, you don’t quite know how to respond, you don’t know what to say. Even if you don’t send them as your pretend assistant, which there are times where that’s really handy where you write as your assistant, even though it’s just you, just to give that sense of distance. Like how would my assistant respond to this? Because they’re going to probably respond more calmly, more logically than you might. Especially if it’s a difficult email.

So you can write an email as an assistant to kind of remove yourself from the heat and the emotional-ness of the email is. Or you can just practice by writing as your assistant, and then see what parts of that email are really the parts that you want to send.

So the pretend assistant is an amazing psychological productivity hat for anyone in business that doesn’t have a team yet, but really needs that degree of separation from their business in order to be able to untangle the foggy, difficult, emotional things.

So next time you get a horrible client email, next time you have trouble in your inbox from customer service, next time you can’t seem to even get a to-do list out because you’re so paralyzed, I recommend that you pull out your pretend assistant, or ask your real one, to help you sort those things out. Because these sort of little brain tricks can give you just enough room to breathe to be able to find the actual solutions and tasks that you need to do.

As always, I appreciate you guys watching, ugh, watching. I appreciate you guys listening, oh my gosh. Am I podcasting, am I live streaming, what am I doing? Awesome guys, have a great day. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye.