This Is How We Do It: The Importance of Being Vague



Sometimes, when delegating tasks, especially to virtual assistants, you can get much better results by being very vague and avoiding specifics. For instance, Jameson previously posted about being extremely specific for tasks regarding scheduling. This advice is absolutely correct, but when the task involves research or finding a solution, sometimes you really do yourself a disservice by being too specific.

How Vague?

Really, really vague. It works especially well for tasks when you yourself don’t know how you would go about finding the answer. It can work even better when the assistant doesn’t know either, but they are ambitious and motivated. When you give even the most basic of specificity, you may be limiting or leading someone on a completely different path.

I recently tried this with a problem I was having at home. My wife and I renovated an old house. It has a fireplace that is open on both sides. One side is the living room and the other side is the master bathroom. When we use the fireplace, the smoke billows out into the bathroom. I told Fancy Hands about the problem and said that I wanted a solution that would block one side, provide privacy for the bathroom and still allow people in the bathroom to enjoy the fire. That’s it. The assistant came up with the idea to have a metal frame made for a piece of tinted fireproof glass. They she contacted local metal and glass fabricators to get samples and pricing. Voila, I had my solution.

Another example was when I had some pain in my leg from all of my triathlon training. I sent a message to Fancy Hands and simply said, “My knee hurts when I bend it. I don’t think anything is torn, but I need some help.” The assistant got back to me with three solutions at three different levels based on the severity of the pain. The first was a yoga studio near me, the second was a physical therapist, and the third was an orthepedist. I already do a lot of yoga so I opted for the physical therapist. It was the best decision I could have made. I was told I had hamstring tendinitis and within three weeks the physical therapy had worked and I was back to normal.

In Practice

Next time you are delegating a task, and you find yourself drilling down the details and getting more and more specific, stop yourself and think about the possibility of allowing the creativity of the person you are delegating to take over. You’ll probably get better results and options you never thought of.