Things We Like: Fancy Hands

I had a very weird thing happen to me a few months ago. Upon the one year anniversary of working with my virtual assistant Christy, she got a promotion and would no longer be an assistant. I immediately panicked. She knew every credit card, everyone's birthdays and even though we had never met in person, she knew how I like my coffee. This was also before Jameson and I had crystallized the principles of Less Doing. I didn't even consider replacing her with another assistant. I was in too deep, and to have someone else do even half as good of a job would be unrealistic. So for three days I tried to figure out how I could get along without a virtual assistant. Those three days gave birth to many of the automation principles that we discuss in this blog. I was relieved to find that after a year of working with a virtual assistant, I hadn't simply delegated tasks, I'd made them more efficient and elimated superfluous requests. I now found that 90% of my tasks could be accomplished using complete automation (no human interaction) or mobile/web apps (requiring as much of my time to use as making the request to my assistant). For the remaining 10% I was ready to accept that I would have to do them myself...that is until I found out about Fancy Hands.

I would put Fancy Hands somewhere between full automation and a dedicated virtual assistant. With Fancy Hands, you submit a request by email, and then a sophisticated algorithm routes that task to an assistant that is best equipped to handle the tasks. All of the assistants are in America and the UK so English is their first language, and many of them perform these tasks for extra cash on the side. Unlike a dedicated assistant, there is no continuity, they don't know your credit card numbers, have access to your email, or know what size underwear you use (unless of course you tell them). This is not to say they can't do complex tasks and do them right. In addition, you have dozens of people at your disposal, and they can work at the same time. In my experience response time has varied from 20 minutes to 24 hours and they have always been appropriate to the task, meaning a simple phone call was taken care of right away but a research project took a little more time. The best part is the price, for $25/month you get 5 tasks, and for $65 you get 25 tasks. No one can beat that price..

Fancy Hands is about saving time. They put it perfectly on their website, they aren't you. You shouldn't expect them to put together a killer PowerPoint presentation that will land you that big deal, but you can have them order you lunch, send a birthday gift to a client, arrange for someone to pickup your dry cleaning and arrange for a car service to take you home after work. This saves valuable time so that you can focus on the tasks that matter most. That is why I chose the image of the race car pit crew. The average pit stop takes about 7 seconds but over 4 minutes of work is accomplished in that time. How is this possible? There are around 20 people on a pit crew working on the car all at the same time. Changing a tire takes 3 seconds and requires 3 people on each tire. One person unscrews the tire, one removes it, one puts the new one on, and then the first person reattaches it. So that's 3 seconds times 3 people, times 4 tires, or 27 seconds of actual work. I think you get the idea.

Today I had them find a firewood supplier, a roofing contractor, remove me from three mailing lists, call technical support for a green building site I work with and make a dinner reservation. I'm guessing all that took about 30 minutes of total time but was probably accomplished in less then 10. What will you have them do for you?