Guest Post: How I Outsource My Life to Over 13 People (by Gopi Kallayil)

Note from Jenny: When my friend and fellow Googler Gopi Kallayil first told me he outsources his life to over a dozen people, my jaw dropped in awe. I'm having a hard time figuring out how to outsource to one! (An unpaid intern if anyone is looking for a cool gig. And by cool, I mean I need your help to even figure out how to help). So I asked Gopi how he does it, and he replied with an email summary of his outsourcing tactics. I was absolutely blown away! Talk about priorities - Gopi has figured out how to employ dozens of people to make his life easier - and let me tell you - it works. Gopi is one of the kindest, happiest, most generous, and energetic people I know! His enthusiasm for life is contagious, which you can see for yourself in his award-winning Toastmasters speech, My Cup Runneth Over.

Even if we are all at varying places in our lives to afford this kind of outsourcing (though some would argue we can't afford NOT to), I hope you'll get a kick out of seeing how Gopi manages his life.

How I Outsourced My Life Away (by Gopi Kallayil)

There are some things that are perfectly egalitarian on this planet. Birth and death for one. And the fact that in between we all have 24 hours each day of our life. President Obama gets 24 and I get 24. But as our lives get busier and there are more choices for us it becomes difficult to do everything we want to in 24 hours. So we lead frenzied, busy lives, lurching from one commitment to another under the tyranny of schedules.

That is when I stumbled upon a concept that shifted my paradigm. You can BUY time in a free market capitalist economy and as a result have 28 or 32 or 36 hours in a day. I first read about it when A.J. Jacobs tried personal outsourcing and wrote an article in Esquire titled "My Outsourced life" which has done its rounds around the Internet. His point was that corporations were outsourcing so individuals could do likewise. Rock stars and Hollywood celebrities have assistants. So can regular folk like me.

My inspiration came from Timothy Ferriss, author of the best seller "The 4-Hour Work week"  when he spoke at Google (video). His compelling logic is as follows: Take your annual salary and divide it by 2,000 hours which is the number of hours people in America work on average. The resulting number is the economic value of an hour of your time based on your current compensation. Let us say that number is $40 for example. If there is something you need to get done but it is not your passion and someone else can do it for you for less than your hourly cost ($40 in this example) then you should give it to them and use that hour to focus on your passion and joy.

Simple! So I read his book, followed through and did much of the outsourcing he does, plus some more I have invented. It is likely, you may assume, that this is the lifestyle of the rich and the famous. I am discovering it is not and that you could get help as little as $4 an hour or even $0.

Here is what I have done to outsource my life:

  • Personal Assistant — I have a personal assistant in India through Getfriday. Her name is Nancy. Nancy sits in Bangalore but can handle anything that can be done on the phone or web. For example, if I am going on vacation she will stop my mail and all my subscriptions. Once my car got broken into and my navigator was stolen and she arranged for a repair shop to come in to my office in the San Francisco bay area and replace the glass before ordering a new navigator on the web. She saved me so much money by calling around and finding the best provider that with one transaction she paid for her fees for the next two months. In addition it may have taken 45 minutes of my time which would be difficult to find on a work day. So the problem would not have been resolved for several weeks.
  • Personal Organizer — There is stuff that accumulates around my house - books, mail, photos, CDs, bills, etc. Stuff that keeps piling up on my desk and kitchen counter and dining table. Erinne is my personal organizer and she comes in for a few hours on some weekends. We work together around my home office and in two hours my study is clutter-free and all my to-do items are in two small folders labeled "Urgent" and "Medium Priority." The psychic energy of having a clutter-free office is tremendous.We execute as a team for a few hours and I am done with home office work for another two weeks till things pile up again. But thanks to this system I can find find things when I need them such as a favorite CD, book, that picture from my reunion or the receipt for the music system I bought two years ago and need for warranty repairs.
  • Webmaster — I have my own website where I am interested in writing content but not in dealing with the technicalities. So I found Viggie in Madurai, India to maintain my personal website.
  • Housekeeper — Alma my housekeeper comes in a couple of times a month to tidy up, She is fantastic and does a terrific job. Thanks to her expertise and my own effort to keep it so in between her visits my house feels like a home. It is a haven for me.
  • Personal Chefs — I like entertaining but lack extensive gourmet culinary skills. Through Craig's List I found a few excellent personal chefs. When I host a dinner party we do menu planning together; one of us does the shopping, and we cook and get the place ready as a team. In this case I am not technically outsourcing to a caterer; however, since entertaining is something I enjoy (but don't have all the expertise) I am using an expert to complement my meager skills in this area.
  • Interior Decorator — As I mentioned before my home is my haven and sanctuary. I want it to look and feel that way. Kulvi my designer and I work closely together on the aesthetics. It is primarily my self-expression but Kulvi layers on her ideas. Other advantages including getting furniture from some show rooms that are open only during business hours (so hard for me to go) and open only to designers. And special prices only available to designers.
  • Editor — I love writing but need a skilled editor to polish my articles. My friend Nicky in the UK does a fantastic job like she did here.
  • Speech Coaching — I am a competitive public speaker and very active with Toastmasters. There are experienced toastmasters like my coach Henry who take me under their wing and provide the coaching when I am in competitions.
  • Graphics Artist — When I need very sophisticated graphics for my presentations I reach out to my long time graphics artist Kathy who I know from my McKinsey days. She takes my rudimentary designs and magically transforms them.
  • Bike, Run, Swim Coaching — I am a member of the Silicon Valley Triathlon Club which costs me around $5 a month. For that nominal fee I get free biking, running, and swimming coaching by some extraordinary athletes.
  • Handyman — Scott the handyman takes care of all the stuff around the house that need fixing and does a much more professional job than I could if were installing garden lights on my own.
  • Gardener — I have only indoor plants as the property association takes care of the ones outside, but historically there has been cultural herbicide at my place. Plants readily shrivel and die under my care. So Louis helps me pick the right plants from nurseries and keep them alive despite my efforts. I have him come over about once every three months.
  • Wardrobe consultant — Now you are all laughing real hard. So I will stop here. But I do I get some help from a friend and from a professional; both of them have a good taste in styles and labels, which saves me the trouble of dealing with the bewildering experience that clothes shopping is for me. Jenny doubts if it has made a difference. (Note from Jenny: Not true - Gopi always looks amazing!)

But don't you need a fortune to live this way?

Now I am sure you must be wondering how one affords all this if you are not a rock star or the Sultan of Brunei, which I am not. The well keep secret that I learned from Timothy Ferriss is that you can take advantage of free market capitalism, labor market arbitrage, and currency exchange rates and get all this for some relatively inexpensive rates.

For example, my website designer is $4 an hour and spends about 5 hours a month on my website, so that is a $20 bill. The triathlon club fees are about $5 a month and for that you get free coaching in three sports 2-3 times a week. Toastmasters dues are $3 a month and experienced members are always happy to be mentors. A personal assistant can be as low as $10 a month and for a 5 to 10 hours of their time you pay a nominal fee but get lots done.

More importantly, what do I do with the time that I've freed up? Focus quite exclusively on five things that are important to me and I want to spend most of my time on. Those five are:

  • Personal growth and spiritual practice
  • Family and friends
  • Physical, mental, emotional, financial health
  • Professional passions, which currently is my work at Google doing marketing
  • Personal passions, which includes global travel, yoga, public speaking and live music

Here is an example of the kind of trade-off I am making: I teach free yoga lessons and have done so ever since I trained to be a yoga instructor in India. This is my gift to the world. I am consciously choosing to pay someone to take care of tasks that are not my passion so that it frees up two hours a week when I can teach yoga for free.

How successful am I with this concept? Modestly successful, although this is still a work in progress.

Good luck if you choose to go down this path.


About Gopi: During the day, Gopi Kallayil works as a marketer at Google. He also teaches yoga, travels the world, speaks, writes, sings, lives freely and joyously. At other times he espouses radical ideas like outsourcing your life and can be a general threat to orderly, civil society. Visit his website or follow him on Twitter.