A Deep Look at How I Work and Use Fin

Kortina, 16 Jul 2018

I have written in the past about some of my favorite ways to use Fin to get more done, but based on tons of conversations with customers about our service, I have found more detail gets people more excited. So, in this post, I want to walk through:

  1. A breakout of the different types of requests I have made to Fin over the past 60 days

  2. The history of my weekly spend on Fin (so you can get a sense for the magnitude and variance)

  3. A list of all the requests I sent Fin in the past 30 days (and how this compares to what I'd pay for a full time assistant)

  4. Some data about what my work week and meeting schedule looks like (so you can get a sense of how your needs might compare to mine)

  5. A few habits and tools I use (along with Fin) to stay productive

1. My Fin 60 Day Workflow Fingerprint

Here is a breakout (by frequency of request) of the various types of requests that I sent to Fin over the past 60 days:

As you can see, Scheduling Meetings and Calendar Management make up nearly half of my requests by frequency. A lot of people ask me, "why don't you just focus on making Fin a good scheduling tool?" This is a pretty reasonable question, and lots of companies take this approach. But, if Fin only handled scheduling, I would have to figure out other ways to get done half of the tasks I need help with (by frequency -- and if you looked at this chart by time saved, some of the slivers for tasks I help with infrequently, like Data Entry or Travel Bookings, save me far more time on average than a single meeting scheduling).

It's incredibly valuable to me as a customer to know that I can go to Fin with any of my needs (there are 23 discrete task types in this 30 day period alone). I far prefer a single assistant than can handle anything over dealing with the overhead of managing 23 different services to help me with each different type of task.

This is the type of help you'd expect from a great full time EA, and the type of help we aim to provide for Fin customers.

2. My Weekly Spend on Fin

Here is what my weekly spend on Fin looks like for the past few months:

It's highly variable. In my lightest week, I spent $78, and in my heaviest week I spent $620 (my biggest spends usually map to weeks where I ask for a complex research task). Most weeks I spend around $200.

When I talk about How Knowledge Work is Becoming a Cloud Service or describe Fin as an "on-demand assistant," adapting to this variance is what I'm talking about. I only pay for exactly the amount of help I need (unlike with a salaried employee, who gets paid for 40 hours every week, regardless of how much work I actually need them to do).

3. 30 Days of My Fin Requests

Here is a snapshot of requests I sent to Fin over the past 30 days:

Here, you can again see a bit of the distribution of different types of requests I make to Fin -- lots of help scheduling, but also lots of other little tasks mixed in.

The other thing you'll notice is that not all tasks are created equal. Some meetings are coordinated with a simple email exchange (and are quite cheap), while others can be more expensive when they require several back and forths to find a time that works for all parties, or when they get rescheduled multiple times. But when Fin does more complicated tasks, I save even more time, so it merits the extra cost.

Here is how this period compares to the cost of a full time employee:

I spent about $1000 for the month. If I did not have Fin, I would be sharing a full time executive assistant with my co-founder, Sam. If the full time EA made about $65k per year, once you factor in additional costs like benefits, unemployment taxes, etc, and then divide by two, my cost for a shared assistant would be about $3000, so with Fin I'm saving about $2000 each month.

4. My Work Week

One task from the list above that I want to point out specifically is my Weekly Phone Sync with Fin. I love this one -- every week, Fin gives me a call, we both pull up my calendar, talk about the upcoming week, and jot down a laundry list of tasks for Fin to help out with. It's a great 'power session' to braindump a bunch of work that I don't need to be distracted by.

The reason I look at my calendar with Fin as part of our Weekly Phone Sync is because I rely very heavily on a structured calendar to keep myself maximally productive.

Here's what my last year of meetings looks like, by week:

The first thing you'll see is about 20-40% of my 'meetings' in any given week have no other attendees -- this is because I make use of a strategy called 'calendar blocking,' allocating specific blocks of time to sets of tasks I need to do each day.

There are 2 reasons I like calendar blocking: first, it helps me prioritize, commit time to a specific goal (typically a creative task), and get it done. Second, it's a coordination and communication tool -- calendar blocking gives my colleagues (and Fin) a sense of when I'm available to meet or not, and allows me to more efficiently delegate the scheduling of my meetings to others.

Now, let's look at an average week, both in terms of number of meetings:

as well as hours spent per day in meetings:

A few things I'll point out.

I have a lot of longer meetings with 4+ Others on Mon. These are planning meetings with our product, engineering, operations, marketing, and analytics teams, where we discuss key metrics and decide on priorities for the week. It makes sense to front load them.

You'll also notice that I have a lot of time blocked for Only Me on Mon -- I typically work a very late day on Mon, and schedule a lot of my own personal tasks for the evening, once all the meetings are done, so I can get done any work teammates depend on early in the week and unblock them.

Tue and Thu are light meeting days. This is largely a function of trying to protect these days for the entire team so they can focus on IC work. Fewer meetings for them loosely correlates to fewer meetings for me, but this means I'm often taking external meetings with potential hires or business partners on these days (in a follow-up analysis, I'd love to do a separate bar chart comparing internal and external meetings by day of week).

I have a ton of One on Ones on Wed. I have a bunch of direct reports, and batch all of my 1:1s to happen every other Wed. This makes for an exhausting day (aside: I do all these meetings as walk & talks and often get in 10-15 miles of walking), but I find this far preferable to having these meetings randomly distributed throughout the week, so I can protect larger blocks of times for tasks that require several hours of intense focus.

Fri is another heavier meeting day. We do an engineering retro every other week, an analytics review every week, as well as office hours, demos, etc.

I also use my calendar on weekends. This is to either block time for personal projects or get-togethers with friends.

Beyond helping me keep myself productive, my calendar is also a crucial coordination point with my assistant, Fin.

5. Other Tips and Tools

Executive Summary. Another critical communication point that keeps me on top of everything is my Daily Executive Summary from Fin:

As you can see, I often have several things in flight with Fin, and this is where Fin lets me know what's done vs outstanding. It's also a nice heads up for what I have going on that day.

Alfred. An indispensable Mac app that I use to navigate my laptop, send notes to myself (I'm a vociferous notetaker), and send tasks to Fin (using this workflow).

Captio. The app I use to record notes to myself on my phone.

+Fin in Gmail. I love how you can start typing "+" and type a contact's name in Gmail to add someone to a thread. I use this all the time to loop in Fin:

Wrap Up

Hopefully, this post gives you a sense of all the ways I use Fin to stay productive. If you've got other tips, we'd love to hear them @finexploration. Or, if you want to try out Fin to see if it can help you get more done every week, you can sign up here.