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Ideas in the Wild: How Paul Estes is Helping Overworked Employees Use the Gig Mindset to Reclaim Their Time

Tim Ferriss had it right: you can work with virtual assistants to escape the grind of eighty-hour workweeks. Ferriss was ahead of his time in predicting how entrepreneurs would work today and we have discovered that the benefits of the gig economy now extend to employees and business owners. You don’t have to quit your […]

Tim Ferriss had it right: you can work with virtual assistants to escape the grind of eighty-hour workweeks. Ferriss was ahead of his time in predicting how entrepreneurs would work today and we have discovered that the benefits of the gig economy now extend to employees and business owners. You don’t have to quit your job to live a balanced life, reskill, unlock new opportunities, or start that side hustle you can’t stop thinking about.

You just need the Gig Mindset, which Paul Estes shares in his new book, Gig Mindset: Reclaim Your Time, Reinvent Your Career, and Ride the Next Wave of Disruption. For years, Paul struggled to balance his home life with fast-moving jobs at Dell, Amazon, and Microsoft. Hiring his first virtual assistant transformed his life — and he knows it can do the same for readers.

I recently sat down with Paul to see what moment inspired him to write and publish his book, his favorite idea that he shares with readers, and how that idea has transformed his life.

What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?

My wife and I were two working parents in high-stress corporate jobs, raising two small children. I had a never-ending list of projects that took up most of my waking hours, and we both needed some relief. So, I decided to hire my first virtual assistant to help us plan a fun day for our family.

It was a Saturday, and like many weekends, I was stuck working on a presentation while dreaming about spending solid quality time with my family. That was the moment I took the leap. I hired Fancy Hands to help me locate ten kid-friendly ideas within 15 miles of my house. The service responded within an hour, and recommended a nearby festival we had never been to. The following day we went to the festival and had an amazing time. I was blown away by the idea of having this tool suddenly available to me.

That one decision snowballed into more, and now I work with freelancers all the time, from personal service companies like Uber, TaskRabbit, and Care.com, as well as those that focus on business such as Upwork, Fancy Hands, and Ask Wonder.

This approach has completely changed the way I work. I launched the first freelance program at Microsoft and launched the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit, a solution to launch and scale a freelance workforce targeted to Fortune 500 companies that are starting to adopt the on-demand remote model.

What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?

I like to describe this using a scenario: Ken is a video creator for a big company, and he can produce five videos every quarter. Suddenly the demand at his company is way more than Ken is able to produce. He can’t keep up. There is no way to scale himself.

But, if he were to offload his work, or teach other people to do what he does, he worries that he’ll become unnecessary. He is only one person, and if he commits to more videos, he will never see his family, and effectively live at work.

In short, Ken is victim to the standard American white collar worker belief: there is no work/life balance, because you must live to work in order to survive.

By taking advantage of the Gig Mindset, Ken comes to realize that by engaging with on-demand, remote freelancers, and automating many aspects of his work, he can meet the new higher demand. More importantly, he feels comfortable after doing so that he has not replaced himself, nor put his job at risk. In fact, he has increased his value by owning a process that can impact the company more broadly.

As a result, he’s started to move from a video editor mindset to a creative director mindset. He’s reskilled by meeting tons of freelancers that are teaching him new things. He has gone from his previous limit of five videos per quarter to fifty. He takes pride in his accomplishments, feels a new level of satisfaction in his work, and feels more relevant with his new, modern skills. Ken’s new mindset put him in an environment with a diverse set of “do-ers” — freelancers — that provides benefits to both his company and himself.

What’s a story of how you’ve applied this idea in your own life? What has this lesson done for you?

It’s been so transformative that it’s hard to pick only one story. I talk about the gig mindset being a time machine, because it feels like it creates extra days that I didn’t have before. The service Fancy Hands tallies user statistics, and I’ve used it to reclaim eight entire days in 2019. That’s eight days I applied toward making pancakes every morning for my two little girls who are going to change the world.

There are two big things I’ve learned and apply as I work with these various services (and that form part of my TIDE method from the book):

  • Taskification. Life is made up of tasks. You don’t just get ready for work — you get out of bed, brush your teeth, take a shower, get dressed, make breakfast, and drive to work. All of those are individual tasks. It’s the same with work. You do research, get data, synthesize feedback from various people. Everything can be broken down into small tasks, and those tasks can be divided among lots of people. You can engage with freelancers on almost any task, but it takes practice.
  • Delegation. Delegation is often the hardest part of the gig economy. You’d think, with my passion for the on-demand economy, that my wife would be totally on board and using freelancers all the time. The hardest part for her is giving up control and delegating. That’s common for a lot of people. You have to be able to communicate expectations, start delegating early, and then TRUST the experts you’ve hired to help you. There’s a learning curve here, but it can be well worth it once you master delegation.

I include 100 tasks in the back of Gig Mindset to help you brainstorm ideas of how to engage on-demand, remote freelancers.

To read more about getting started with freelancers, you can find Gig Mindset: Reclaim Your Time, Reinvent Your Career, and Ride the Next Wave of Disruption on Amazon.

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