Lessons on going fully remote for companies doing that right now

Q&A with Mike Chen, CEO of Magic

We sat down with Magic CEO Mike Chen and interviewed him about moving Magic to a fully remote company. Mike offered his thoughts and advice to startups right now doing the same thing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: Why did you decide to move the company to a remote structure?

I never originally thought that remote is what we would want to do. And I was actually even skeptical of it at first. But there were a few things that happened that ended up forcing it to be that way. And then it turned out to actually be a really wonderful decision. 

The first thing that happened is we had an office in the US and then in 2016 we also set up an office in the Philippines. And as a result of that, a lot of meetings started ending up happening remotely or over Slack. That was the first thing that happened. And it ended up working quite well. 

Some employees started saying, “Well hey, since most of my meetings are remote anyways, can I just be remote 100% of the time and work from home?”

And then after that, some employees started saying, “Well hey, since most of my meetings are remote anyways, can I just be remote 100% of the time and work from home?” In the beginning, I was kind of resistant to it because I was worried about things like productivity and culture, but it ended up actually being a huge win and ended up being good for productivity and good for culture. So it was less of a decision and more of just following a natural trend. 

Q: So how did it actually happen? Did you start with a small group, or did you do it all in one go?

It was in stages. In the beginning, we had one office. Then we had two offices which were remote to each other, but it was still two physical offices. That was the seedling of it since you still had to be a little bit remote. And then after that it was just a few employees in various departments who noticed that because they could do their job remotely, they wanted to work remotely. And then, after we saw that it was working, we realized that it was actually better for employee morale. It opened up the hiring pool. And so we just decided, okay, well, I guess we can support remote work more broadly if that’s what they want.

Q: What were some of the challenges when you went international with two offices?

One of the biggest challenges is definitely time zones. Not everybody wants to work during hours that overlap with other people’s hours overseas. But what’s actually interesting is, we also discovered that there’s a lot of people that do for various reasons. Like if you’re in the US and you have a young child, we’ve noticed that it’s actually a really good time for you to hop in a meeting, after dinner after the kid goes to sleep like eight, nine, ten at night, which does end up actually being a good time to interact with overseas, and then that actually gives you time during the day to spend with your family.

Not everybody wants to work during hours that overlap with other people’s hours.

The other thing is you just have to be a lot more deliberate and conscious about the meetings that you have. Because you can’t rely on bumping into someone at the watercooler, you know?

Q: Speaking of that, was there anything you learned about building a good company culture while being remote?

One of the values we’ve always had since the beginning, even before going remote, was transparency. And I think that helped us a lot moving remote because it’s really important that everyone feels like they have access to everything. Especially since remote feels a lot more secluded. I mean, you can’t look around and see any other employees. So it’s even easier to have speculation or rumors about what the company’s doing. Make sure that transparency is a high level company value that everyone understands, so that even if your team can’t see what other people in the company are doing, they can trust them. That they could find out about any information if they wanted to is important. 

Make sure that transparency is a high level company value that everyone understands.

I’ve also noticed that setting a much more regular schedule is important. A lot of managers do this anyway. But if you like to do daily stand ups, or if you want to make sure you talk to all the people that you want to run into in a given week, you really need to schedule that as like a standing meeting. So there are a lot of standing meetings that recur on a weekly basis. And sometimes that can feel like too much. Someone will inevitably ask you: “Why do I need to have that standing meeting with you? Do we really have that much to talk about?” And what ends up happening is you cancel them sometimes when there’s nothing to talk about. But that meeting is important anyways, because it’s a proxy for what would have happened if you ran into them at the office. So you want to be more structured about it, and you want to keep the meetings scheduled no matter what. 

Q: What was something you learned while going remote that goes against common wisdom?

Something I discovered doing a lot of remote meetings is actually a little controversial. There is some research on this, by the way, backing up what I’m about to say. But here it is — I hate video chat. And everyone who has remote meetings with me knows that I’m never on video. And many people at Magic turn their cameras on during a video call, so maybe it’s just me. But for me, just the way my personal brain works, I can’t stand it. And I spent a lot of time reflecting on why I hate it so much. And I think there’s a few reasons. 

I hate video chat. Everyone who has remote meetings with me knows that I’m never on video.

One reason is because you have to keep your body really still to be in the frame of the camera. And that’s just not even how I am in person. If I’m having a meeting in person, I’m moving around all the time. If I’m in a conference room, I may even get up and pace around. So if I’m having a day of remote meetings and I have to sit with my head in this little two foot by two foot rectangle it just really screws with my ability to even think. I have to get up and pace around. 

Another reason I hate video is — and I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about this — it forces everyone to be looking at their computer screen during the meeting. And last time I checked, looking at your computer screen is exactly what you’re not supposed to do during a meeting, because it’s really distracting. There’s all these notifications coming in, and so normally in a meeting, you’re supposed to have your laptop closed, but in a video meeting, the correct etiquette is to be just staring at your screen. And of course, everyone’s got a ton of windows up. If I’m looking at my screen, I’m trying to focus on you, but I’ve got all these things popping up in my face. My favorite way to do a remote meeting is to pace around my apartment with a headset. I’m so much more focused. I don’t get restless. I don’t have to keep my head in a little rectangle, and I’m way more focused, because nothing is popping up and distracting me. I’ve talked to other employees, and they’ve said that when the video is off, they behave similarly to me. And they found it to be more engaging as well.

Now I get the point about missing each other and wanting to have some social contact. But I just highly recommend trying no video. Maybe it’s a personal preference. It’s how my brain works, but I know it’s true for others. So I definitely recommend not requiring video.

Q: How do you trust things will get done? 

I think every manager’s biggest fear when you go remote is that the employees are going to slack off. It certainly seems like it’s gonna happen. 

We did not experience this anywhere near as much delinquency as anyone was concerned about. It definitely was a concern, but it was an abstract concern, not for any particular reason. People ask: “What’s to stop people from slacking off if you can’t see them?” But actually, we didn’t have the problem at all because we hired correctly to begin with. If you have the right type of people who are trustworthy and who are A-players who are bought into the company and are good performers, which is who you should have hired anyway, it’s not an issue. It just so happens that these people do just fine when they’re not being supervised, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise. People aren’t supervised in school when they’re doing their homework, but a lot of people still get A’s. So if you’ve hired correctly in the beginning, it’s not an issue. 

People ask: “What’s to stop people from slacking off if you can’t see them?” If you’ve hired correctly in the beginning, it’s not an issue. 

Now, I think there are certain people that do better in remote environments than others. There are people who are even more of a “self starter” than others. They’re even more organized, or even more responsible, and certainly remote is biased towards that kind of person. And there certainly is a type of person you could hire that would slack off a lot after going remote, but my guess is if you kept them in an office, that person is going to be a poor performer anyways. In short, it all starts with hiring.

There’s also a type of person who thrives on ownership and autonomy, which is what you want out of an employee. You want them to be bought in and be responsible for what they’re doing. So if you start implementing top down surveillance to make sure that they’re working, it can actually cause some issues. Of course, for certain roles, in particular operational roles, you will want to be monitoring them, although it’s not for the purpose of making sure that people are working, but it’s just for the purpose of measurement. So for our operations, we have a lot of monitoring of what each employee are doing. But I want to also point out we were doing exactly the same monitoring when they were in the office too. It’s important for us to understand the efficiency of our operation and how much capacity we’re utilizing and things like that. So if you have another need to monitor employees, that isn’t just making sure that they’re working, then you should do it. But my argument is, you probably should have been doing that in person as well.

If you have employees in an office, they could be slacking off too. Are you looking at everyone’s screen? No, you’re not.

And obviously, if you have employees in an office, they could be slacking off too. Are you looking at everyone’s screen? No, you’re not. Some people slack off way more in offices, because it’s a social environment. So they’ll be joking around with each other or they’ll go out even longer for a lunch break or things like that. Not saying that’s a bad thing. That’s probably good for office culture. But I’ve actually seen a lot of employees become more productive at home. They may also report feeling a little bit more isolated, and there’s things you can do about that. But they may actually have less distractions at home as well.

Q: Speaking of that sense of isolation, how did you make sure that people at Magic stayed in touch with each other on a personal level? Was there a concern that HR wasn’t going to be able to function in the same way or that people weren’t going to get the same level of management?

There’s two dimensions to HR. One is employee engagement and happiness and the other one is the company securing everything it needs from the employees. So what I can say about remote, especially clearly in this day and age, is that remote is a huge employee benefit. Massive. You will hear from some that they prefer to be in an office and be around people. But I’m actually surprised how much I don’t hear that. Maybe it’s just it’s different these days. No one wants to be around anyone. But even before all this was going on with the coronavirus, I was really surprised how much I didn’t hear that.

I think the ability to work from anywhere that you want is incredibly appealing to employes. Because it’s not just “work from home” when you’re fully remote. We’ve had employees go on a “work-cation,” and they’ll go to an island or to another country and then work from there and you won’t even know. So the ability to do that or the ability to go two or three days and work from anywhere is such a tremendous benefit. Or, for example, if your spouse needs to move for their career, you’re able to move with them without any friction. This has been the biggest employee benefit we’ve ever seen, and happiness and engagement go up from the employee side. 

Remote is a huge employee benefit. Massive. You will hear from some that they prefer to be in an office and be around people. But I’m actually surprised how much I don’t hear that. A lot of the stuff that you think wouldn’t translate actually just does.

Some companies do a company-wide annual gettogether in person. We actually have not done anything like that yet. And it’s been surprisingly okay. Although I have wanted to do it at times, and maybe we will in the future. We have brought our leadership team together for quarterly planning sessions. For leadership and high level management, if you feel like you want to get a team together in person, it’s probably worth it because it’s such a hassle actually to do all this. Especially now — this is currently off the table with all the travel restrictions, but previously it was still probably worth the money to do it because it’s really a big disruption for everyone to fly around like that. 

In general, there have been less problems than you’d think doing remote meetings. A lot of the stuff that you think wouldn’t translate actually just does. For example, one-on-ones. Can you be more empathetic in person? Yeah, you probably can. But you know what? It works well enough over Zoom or on the phone.  It really does.

Q: It seems like it’s been pretty successful. Have there been moments where you felt like it wouldn’t work? What were some roadblocks that you hit where you thought, “wow, this isn’t really working”?

One of the things that I find challenging is, if I’m leading a meeting, or if I’m speaking to a larger group of people, which is something that I do often in my role, I used to rely a lot on people’s facial expressions or like a quick nod to see if they agree or understand. So you know, you’ll say something, and then you kind of want to look around the room and ask “does that make sense?” And you can kind of really quickly just gauge that, sometimes it’s called “reading the room”, where you can tell if you’re boring people or if someone’s not paying attention. When you’re remote, it’s really hard to do that.

You know, my desire to not use video probably makes this a little harder. But I’ve noticed that with video, it’s still really hard. The pictures are small, and you just can’t read people’s facial expressions as well. So I’ve been worried at times that discussions aren’t as engaging. You can have an experience where you present to a group, and then you say, “Does anyone have anything to say about that,” and you just kind of silent and everyone’s on mute. And you have this feeling that if you were in person, that wouldn’t be happening. 

I used to rely a lot on people’s facial expressions or like a quick nod to see if they agree or understand. When you’re remote, it’s really hard to do that.

I’ve learned some techniques for mitigating that though. One of the techniques is to force a “round-robin” at the end of the meeting where everyone talks in turn. A downside of this is it can feel a little bit more forced, and, you know, might take a little bit longer than just going around and reading everyone’s face or having a more organic conversation. But an upside of it actually, is you make sure that you really have heard from everyone and hear what they really think. So it’s actually really useful. 

The other thing I’ve found helps is asking better questions. A lot of people, after they give a presentation, ask the group something like “what do you think?” It’s such an open ended question that it’s easier for people to just not say anything. But if you ask a better question, one that’s more clear and direct, you’ll get a better result. For example you can say something like: “I presented three options in this meeting. Can everyone rank these options ‘best, middle and worst’ and type their answers in Slack?” Then you can have everyone take turns explaining their ranking. 

Force a ’round-robin’ at the end of the meeting where everyone talks in turn.

With remote meetings, you have to be really intentional and explicit with what you want. But the interesting benefit of this is that it’s actually more productive to have meetings this way, because you can’t lean on the crutch of thinking that you’re reading the room, believing everyone is on the same page, and maybe you actually weren’t.

Q: What kind of messaging did you give to the employees in office to help explain what was going on? And how did you manage having employees in the office and remote simultaneously?

Well, it’s a different situation literally right now. Right now, when it comes to messaging, there’s a very specific world event that you can point to, and possibly even the government has said that you have to work from home.

We started a pilot program for work from home and asked: “Who wants to do it?” Working remote was optional.

For us, when we opened up the second office, we invited people to relocate, but it was also not required. We took a similar approach when we started work from home. We started a pilot program for work from home and asked: “Who wants to do it?” Working remote was optional, and we had both configurations coexisting at the same time for a while.

One piece of advice you will hear from veterans of working remotely is that having both in office and remote employees at the same time is a bad idea. As in, it’s better to be all one or all the other. I think that that’s true about meetings. For example, a big “no no” is having some people in a conference room and then some people calling in, because it disenfranchises the people that are calling in, because the people who are in the office have the ability to communicate with each other in person, read each others body language, or even mute the speakerphone and have a separate side conversation. And the people who are remote don’t have that ability. So it’s a really asymmetrical situation. If you’ve got a hybrid situation where some people are in the office, some are not, I still recommend everybody going to separate rooms and putting on a headset anyway. It seems silly, but it’s going to be way more productive. 

If you’ve got a hybrid situation where some people are in the office, some are not, I still recommend everybody going to separate rooms and putting on a headset anyway. It seems silly, but it’s going to be way more productive.

Regarding company culture, with some people working in office and some people working remote, we didn’t have many issues. We had the luxury of having more than a year to find out that more and more of our employees were choosing to move to remote work. I think we would have been in a different situation if that wasn’t the case, if most people preferred to stay in the office. But our team did prefer remote, and they switched over for a variety of reasons. You don’t have to commute if you work from home. You get to see your family more. You have more freedom. You can work more asynchronously. You can travel. You could say remote had more product market fit with our employees. And so by having both at the same time and letting it happen organically, a higher and higher percentage of the company just became remote. 

Recently when we were faced with the coronavirus situation, something like 75% of our company was already remote. And then for the remaining 25%, we just had to explain that moving fully remote was now necessary. 

Q: Are there any key takeaways you’d like to give someone who is just now moving their company remote?

Yes. First, be sure to give your remote employees the benefit of the doubt. Do not breathe down their neck. Just assume they are going to be good citizens of your culture and that they’re going to be productive and will take work seriously. And just see what happens. If you’ve hired correctly, you’re going to be really pleasantly surprised with how people rise to the occasion. And like I said before, the people who don’t may stick out as having had performance problems before anyway. 

Give your remote employees the benefit of the doubt. Do not breathe down their neck.

I would definitely not throw a whole bunch of crazy monitoring systems or protocols on you employees. I’ve seen things on social media now that major corporations are doing, like leaked memos that say all remote workers must have their phone by them at all times and you must answer it after one ring. Stuff like that. Don’t do anything like that. It’s really patronizing and it’s going to scare away the exact people you don’t want to scare away. 

My second piece of advice is to fill up your teams’ calendars with way more standing meetings. 

Take all the people you need to have 1-on-1s with and for each one schedule a recurring weekly meeting. Also, create a recurring daily or bi weekly meeting team meeting for everyone to join.

Fill up your teams’ calendars with way more standing meetings. 

Third piece of advice would be to start looking into your remote hiring funnel ASAP. Because your company is now remote, you’ve opened your hiring funnel up to the entire world. And that’s not something you’ve ever experienced before. You probably haven’t even experienced hiring talent outside of your zip code. There’s billions more people accessible to you right now in a very real way. And they’re going to have different skills and abilities, different levels of experience, and widely different salary levels. The labor market is just much bigger than you’re used to, and it’s to your advantage. You’ll find people with the same level of talent and experience at a much lower cost or a much stronger candidate at the same cost.

Start looking into your remote hiring funnel ASAP. Because your company is now remote, you’ve opened your hiring funnel up to the entire world. And that’s not something you’ve ever experienced before.

The biggest reason that I’ve seen that people haven’t taken advantage of the international labor market has been the difficulty of integrating a remote employee. How am I going to see them face to face? How are they going to interact with other employees in the office? But that’s not a problem anymore. Your whole company is remote. So take advantage of that. 

At Magic, what we’ve created is a platform where you can very quickly and immediately hire our people to work for you remotely. That’s essentially what Magic is. The only bottleneck to doing what I’m saying right now and hiring internationally without Magic would be the schlep of setting everything up. You’d have to post the job ads yourself and navigate the hiring conventions and regulations of that country, figure out how to pay in that economy, build a new interview process that can be done remotely, make the right job offers offering the right benefits, etc.. That’s where the complexity is when it comes to hiring remote talent. And that’s what Magic has solved. 

Magic is a platform where you can very quickly and immediately hire our people to work for you remotely.

We have a workforce of hundreds of people who are working remotely right now. This means we’re very resistant to any of these kinds of global changes that we’re seeing right now. And the economics of an international workforce are really good. You can just tap into them anytime you want. Drop Magic into your Slack channel or add them to your remote team today. 

I don’t mean this to directly be a plug for Magic. I just think if you’re remote in general, you should be exploring hiring remote employees internationally. At the same time, I really genuinely believe Magic is the best way to do it. That’s why we created it. And that’s what our users believe as well.

8 Guides to Make WFH More Productive for Everyone

Photo by Anton Shuvalov on Unsplash

During the past few weeks, a long list of companies have urged their employees to work from home or a remote location during the COVID-19 Coronovirus pandemic. While companies have existing tools for remote work, many employees have never prepared for the likelihood of working from outside of the office for more than a day or two. That means it may be the first time they’re forced to work for long stretches from their home, basement or living room, which isn’t easy.

As a fully remote team, we’ve somewhat become experts in maximizing productivity from home. But we couldn’t have done that without learning from others. So, we wanted to share a few resources that we found helpful to ensure a remote home set up works best for you and your company.

First, let’s talk about setup. A good setup for employees at home will make it easy to stay focused and grounded when there are distractions in your home.  

  • Edsurge shares tips on creating the proper space and mindset to be effective. 
  • The Today Show discusses the importance of testing your gear to make sure you can take video calls or work long stretches on WiFi without lag. 
  • The Quartz focuses on how to make remote work manageable with a partner who’s also working from home (this one could get tricky fast!). 

Having a solid home setup without distractions still leaves human interactions out of the equation, which is something that many will be missing for the first time. Here’s how to combat that. 

Now, let’s talk about what companies have to do to ensure employees have the tools, flexibility, and support when working from home. 

  • Harvard Business Review suggests a plan that includes maximum flexibility and an emphasis on over-communication. 
  • Fastcompany focuses on 8 strategies to ensure remote work is successful for any company, even if you’re just getting started.  
  • Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack described in step by step detail how his company prepared for remote work in this Twitter thread

Working from home or remote work can be difficult if you’ve never prepared for it. Magic’s been doing it for a while. Let Magic help you or your company do more with support from remote assistants.

6 ways to make working from home bearable during the Coronavirus pandemic

1. Cancel travel and event bookings and get a refund

Until things calm down, you’re going to want to postpone travel plans and cancel event bookings. Take a look at everything you’ve booked (flights, hotels, sports, concerts, conferences etc.) and cancel it. Magic can cancel these for you and persistently ask for a refund, even if it’s not part of the company policy.

2. Create a dedicated space to work in

Sure, you can work in bed if you want, but you’re going to be happier and more productive if you have a dedicated working environment. Keep your space minimal, clean, and distraction free.

3. Make sure your bills are paid

The last thing you want while you’re being stuck at home is for the electricity, water, or internet to go out. For everything that isn’t on autopay, make sure your bills are paid on time. Check your online subscriptions as well and make sure none of your credit cards on file are expiring. If you have any bills you need to do manually each month, such as writing a rent check, you can have Magic do it for you.

4. Get hard-to-find supplies now, even if they’re at a markup

With supply shortages of N95 masks, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and more, it can be extremely difficult to figure out where you can buy these supplies. You’ll have to wade through the heavily marked up “grey market” of resellers. Have Magic do this for you and find you the best option that’s available.

Example of a message sent from Magic

5. Help your family members

If you have family members living in another state or country, especially if they are elderly, you’ll want to help them as much as you can. If you need to send them supplies, help them book or cancel travel, or anything else, you can have Magic help you.

6. Get a variety of food delivered

As long as meal delivery services are available, you’re probably going to be using them way more often than usual. We recommend getting as much variety as possible in your diet. Cycle between on demand food (example: UberEats), prepared meal deliveries (Thistle), “meal kit” deliveries (BlueApron), and grocery delivery (Instacart). Magic can order from any of these services for you and can also call restaurants and place orders with them directly or work with smaller couriers, if necessary.

Your company is dealing with the Coronavirus. Here’s how Magic can help.

The coronavirus, or COVID-19, is forcing everyone to move to remote work or to consider a remote contingency plan. This is a hard transition, especially if your team isn’t used to remote work. 

Fortunately, you can use Magic as your “secret weapon” for going remote. Magic instantly gives you a remote team of employees anytime you need it. Using Magic is cheaper than hiring staff, scales up and down instantly with your needs, and will start working for you right away.

Your goal should be to have a better, leaner, and more effective remote company during potentially difficult times, and Magic can help.

Here are a few ways companies are using Magic right now while going remote:

Generate more leads

Have Magic build out a list of leads by manually searching public directories such as LinkedIn and AngelList, checking the information to make sure it’s still accurate, then adding all valid leads into a spreadsheet.

Example of a spreadsheet with leads created by Magic.

Tell Magic exactly what you’re looking for. When you place a task request with Magic, you’re directly messaging a shared team of remote employees. Just tell them what to do, like you would an employee on your team.

For example, if your company is a SaaS startup and you want to reach out to other startup CEOs, you can message Magic:

Build a spreadsheet with the CEOs of every startup that raised a series A in the last 5 years.

Be specific about the columns you need on the sheet:

Include: name, company name, company website, founder email, founder Twitter account, founder LinkedIn account, contact email of company, size of company. Make sure the company is still alive.

Everything is 100% customizable with Magic. For example, if you’re using Salesforce and you want Magic to log in and work inside of Salesforce, message Magic and let them know. If you want Magic to change its approach in how its working, message Magic and let them know.

Recruit engineers

Transitioning to a remote workforce will definitely change your recruiting pipeline — and likely for the better. Being remote, you have access to a much larger pool of talent from around the world. 

Magic will help you get this pipeline started and then keep it running automatically, 24/7.

Building an inbound funnel

First, have Magic build an inbound funnel for you by regularly posting and updating job ads in a variety of places.

Ask Magic to look for a variety of relevant places to post your job ad. For example, you can text Magic:

Need to hire a front end engineer. Want you to post our job ad to at least 10 different sites. Not just Indeed and Craigslist — also look for FB groups, Slack channels, subreddits, and other places engineers and web / app designers meet.

After the first round of posts, ask Magic to post regularly on a set schedule.

Post to each of the job sites once a week

You can also ask Magic to report all relevant metrics weekly, giving you a bird’s eye view of what’s going on.

Every friday, give me these weekly metrics: how many hours you’ve spent, cost of posting on job sites, and number of clicks all postings have received.

Reaching out to cold leads

You’ll also want to reach out to potential hires who aren’t currently looking for a new job. Even if they are happily employed, it’s still a good idea to talk to these people — they can either refer you to a colleague who is looking for work or you can try to poach them from their existing company.

Tell Magic to build a spreadsheet and fill it with the type of candidates you’re looking for:

Search Linkedin for software engineers specializing in AI, machine learning, or data science currently working at FAANG. Add their Name, Current Company, Job title, LinkedIn, Years of experience, Highest degree (Masters, PHD, etc.), and Country of citizenship to a spreadsheet.

You can email or send a LinkedIn message to these people yourself or you can automate the process and have Magic do it. Magic is totally flexible. Like with any remote employee, you just need to be clear to Magic what you want and how you want it done.


7 Best Productivity Systems for 2020

How you think about work is just as important as the work itself. Here are our picks for the 7 best productivity systems you can use to make 2020 your most successful year ever.

1. Streaks

Also known as “don’t break the chain,” a motivational technique recommended by Jerry Seinfeld.

Here’s how it works. For each goal, get a dedicated monthly calendar. At the end of each day, check to see if you worked towards that goal. If you did, mark it on the calendar. If you didn’t, leave it blank.

Check out a great overview of how streaks work by the folks at Todoist

Try to maintain a “streak” or “chain” of multiple days in a row. The longer your streak, the more progress you’ll eventually see. It’s simple, and it gives you a visual understanding of the time you’re putting in towards a goal.

Useful for: Establishing habits and progressing when long term consistency is needed, such as meditating, eating healthy, or going to the gym.

2. Getting Things Done

Created by David Allen, GTD is a system of organizing all inbound information coming your way. 

Here’s how it works. Before you start working, GTD takes each piece of information in your life and places it in a bucket. Buckets include: straight to the trash, I’ll do it maybe / someday, I’ll do this immediately, this is for someone else to do, this should be saved for my reference, this is part of a larger project, and this needs to be done at a specific time.

Above is a diagram of the entire GTD process.

After you’ve organized everything into these buckets, it should make it a lot easier to understand what you have to accomplish.

Useful for: Organizing everything if you feel overwhelmed with things to do.

3. Worst Things First

This one is simple. Whatever you want to do the least, do it first thing in the morning right after you wake up. This method is also known as “eat the frog.”

Wake up and do what’s hardest – the idea being Worst Thing First.

Useful for: Making sure you don’t procrastinate an unpleasant task for too long.

4. Timeboxing

Timeboxing is when you split up your entire day into clearly labeled blocks of time. Each block is assigned to a specific task, project, or activity. Ideally, everything you do goes into a block, including your free time.

Timeboxing puts everything you’re planning on doing into a schedule, which means all you need to do after that is follow your calendar.

Timeboxing aims to fill up your entire schedule, even when you sleep.

Useful for: Accounting for everything in your life. Focusing you on one thing at a time, so you’re not distracted by multitasking.

5. Kanban

Kanban puts your most important items into a pipeline. The three basic stages in the pipeline are To Do, Doing, and Done. You can add other stages if you wish for a more advanced pipeline.

The goal of Kanban is to move each item step by step from the left side to the right side of the pipeline, from To Do to Done. Most Kanban boards also enforce a limit on the number of items during each stage, to make sure it doesn’t get clogged. Kanban boards work well individually and with teams.

Trello is a popular app for creating Kanban boards — and integrates nicely with Magic.

Useful for: Getting a top level overview of all ongoing projects and seeing those projects to completion.

6. Sprints

Sprints are a key part of agile frameworks like Scrum. A sprint is a period of time – for example, 2 weeks – in which you and your team focus on a single goal.

Sprints can help teams come together to attack a single goal.

Sprints always have a clear deadline and goal. After the sprint is over, you and your team evaluate how the sprint went and schedule the next sprint. This allows you to consistently and quickly iterate your approach.

Useful for: Fast iteration and alignment towards a single goal, especially if you’re working with a team.

7. Building your own

Building your own system will allow you to take what works best from all of these systems and create something that resonates with you and the people you work with.

If you devote the time and energy to doing this well, this is always the best solution, because it will be tailored specifically to your needs. Building your own system also allows you to iterate and throw away what’s not working.

Useful for: Figuring out exactly what you need to be productive.

Magic can help!

Let Magic be your productivity secret weapon this year.

Magic gives you a 24/7 remote team of skilled generalists that will log in and turbocharge any productivity system you’re currently using, whether it lives in your email, on a Trello board, in a Slack channel, or in custom enterprise software.

Our teams are trained to quickly learn your workflow and start getting things done for you automatically. If you haven’t tried Magic yet, give it a try!

How To “Level Up” And Hit Your Goals – Without Working Harder

To Climb To The Next Level You’re Going To Need Help,
Not Just Hard Work 


You know what you want. Maybe it’s the next level of your career. Maybe it’s starting a side project or new business. Maybe it’s 6 pack abs. It’s just a matter of getting there.

So how do we get there? If you believe in #grindneverstops, it’s simply a matter of hard work. If you want to get fit, you have to hit the gym every day. If you want to publish a book, you have to write until your fingers fall off.

While it’s true you have to work to achieve your goals, we often overvalue individual hard work and undervalue getting the help of others.

Working harder hits a roadblock.

If you’re already working full time, working longer hours won’t help and may actually be counterproductive. Working more than 40+ hours a week can lead to stress, sleep deprivation, poor health and diet, and other issues that will set you back.

If you’re overworked, you’re probably also fooling yourself on how productive you really are. People who are sleep deprived “spend nearly three times as much of their day on just time management alone.” And at the end of the day, isn’t it more important what gets done, instead of how many hours were spent in the process?

We believe you’ll get more done when you work 30 hours a week focused, happy, and productive, than 60 hours a week stressed, distracted, and exhausted.

You’re probably not getting enough help.

The myth of “self-made success” needs to die.

Rather than doing everything themselves, the world’s most successful people get the most help. Best-selling books are written by ghostwriters. The fittest people on your Instagram feed have nutritionists and personal trainers. The most successful entrepreneurs spend their time recruiting the best people.

Getting help from others isn’t cheating and it isn’t a “shortcut.” It is the path forward to achieving your goals. It’s also not easy. It takes courage to ask for help and talented to build and motivate a team behind what you want to accomplish.

I’ve never found anybody who didn’t want to help me when I’ve asked them for help. […] Most people never pick up the phone and call, most people never ask. And that’s what separates, sometimes, the people that do things from the people that just dream about them.

Steve Jobs

Write down everything you want to accomplish.

First, get clear about the big picture. It’s a fun exercise to write down everything you want to accomplish. Make sure you’re thinking medium and long term.

We recommend a 6 month perspective for medium term goals, such as changing your diet, and 5 year perspective for large goals, such as building a lasting company.

For each goal, ask yourself: “am I willing to invest a significant portion of my time and money to make this happen?” If the answer is no, take it off the list.

Start thinking about who can help.

Now with a list of everything important you want to accomplish, try thinking about how you can get help.

Create a partnership: Just as Paul Simon partnered with Art Garfunkel, you can partner with a friend or coworker on a project, if you two share a mutual goal.

Hire: The easiest way to get something done is to hire someone to do it. It just costs money. The good news is, spending money to save time is one of the best ways you can decide to spend it. Plus, if you’re hiring to improve your business and finances, it can even bring you ROI.

Ask for a favor: You’d be surprised by how much you can accomplish simply by asking for favors. People want to help, especially if it’s in their area of expertise, as a way of giving back.

What Is Magic?

Magic is not only the name of Orlando’s NBA team, a popular radio station, and what David Blaine does for a living.

Magic is also (more importantly) an app you can use everyday to be even more productive and to live a better and more fulfilling life.


Magic is a chat app between you and Magic’s assistants. Chat with us, tell us exactly what you want to accomplish, and we’ll get to work. Whenever you need something done but you don’t have the time to do it, you can now send it to Magic instead.

Magic gives you more time each day and lets you focus on what’s important. It’s one of the few “life upgrades” you can buy that actually work and will substantially improve your life.

Magic is more than just an app

Don’t have time to wait on hold with American Airlines to cancel a flight? Send it to Magic! In the middle of a meeting, but there’s a water leak at home? Send it to Magic!

This isn’t a basic robot / AI / algorithm, like the assistant that comes with your phone. We won’t get you tickets to “snail world” when you, in fact, asked for tickets to Sea World.

What Magic can do is far beyond what any app or piece of software can do, because Magic has real people doing real work for you, whenever you need it.

How to use Magic

Just download the app and start texting us. That’s all you’ll have to do!

We respond quickly–in just seconds–24/7, 365 days a year. You never have to wait for the next business day to get a reply, and none of our replies are canned messages or from bots. We always have assistants online, ready to work on anything you give us.

The hardest part about using Magic can actually be figuring out what to use it for. Because we can do everything, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what you could use it for.

We recommend starting with your current to-do list, or thinking about aspects of your life you’d like to improve. You don’t need to have a specific idea of how to get it done. Magic will chat with you to figure out what you need and how exactly they can help you.

Here’s what happens when you ask Magic to do something

Let’s imagine your garage door needs to be repaired. The door won’t open, and you can’t back your car out. Maybe you’ve been parking on the street for the last 2 weeks because you just haven’t gotten to looking into fixing it.

Just text us in your own words what you need to get done. It doesn’t matter how you phrase it.. Texting “garage door repair” is fine, and “garage door repair ASAP” is even better, since it tells us we should be prioritizing speed.

A simple text is all you need to get started.

Once we understand what you’re looking for, we come up with a game plan and propose it to you. In this scenario, our plan would be to call highly rated repair services near you. While on the phone, Magic will ask each service how quickly they can show up and for what price. After a half dozen calls, Magic will text you back with the best options.

Magic will always let you know what it’s going to do and when it will update you.

Once Magic starts working on your task, you don’t need to do anything. Go ahead and put your phone away. Magic will give you a specific time when it will text you back with an update on its progress. Magic will always update you on time, thanks to our advanced task management system, and will never drop a task. And if anything goes wrong, or if Magic hits a roadblock, we’ll let you know and adjust course.

What exactly can Magic do?

Anything. Seriously, anything. Just ask us.

OK, sure, we’re not going to rob a bank for you. But as long as it’s legal and possible, we’ll do it. Here’s how.

If the task is simple, like making a phone call, purchasing something online, doing research, filling out documents, etc., we’ll do the work ourselves. We can make purchases, log into your accounts, negotiate on your behalf on the phone, hire someone to wait in line for you, or whatever else you need.

If the task is more complicated and/or requires a specialist, we become an extremely organized project manager. Magic will find, coordinate with, and handle payment for the third-party vendors and experts we enlist to get it done.

We love complicated requests, like building custom movie props and one-of-a-kind costumes like these fully operational robotic arms! (Instagram)

We’ve helped startups obtain millions of dollars of funding, created custom robotic movie props (see image above), completely remodeled homes, planned an entire wedding, and much, much more.

Magic’s team is trained to handle hard requests

Magic handles hard requests and large projects by breaking them down into smaller, actionable steps. At each step, Magic will always set a next action and give you a clear deadline when it will get done, so you always know what’s going on and what to expect.

We hold ourselves to a high standard. Less than 5% of assistants who apply to work at Magic are accepted into training, and only a fraction of those accepted pass training. The average assistant at Magic is a college graduate from a top school and a full time employee at Magic with benefits. We’re extremely proud of the excellence in our teams, and you’ll notice the difference as you use the app.

The other reason Magic is so reliable is because of our task management software. All assistants at Magic use proprietary software we’ve developed to track and fulfill every task. The software makes sure each task has a promised update and makes sure that update happens on time.

This means, Magic will never drop your task or forget to update you on time, even if you have 100+ simultaneous tasks going on.

What’s on your to-do list?

The first step to using Magic is to download the app. Once you have the app, you can start delegating work right away.

So, what’s on your to-do list? We’re ready to start checking items off for you.

Or if you don’t know what to send us quite yet, start chatting with us, and we’ll brainstorm and come up with some ideas.

9 Tips To Transform You Into A Magic Power User

In case you didn’t know, Magic is an app that gives you access to a full team of human assistants on demand, 24/7. You simply text Magic with a task, and Magic responds, gets to work, and gets it done for you.

If you’re already a user of Magic, there are a number of tricks and little known features that can greatly enhance your experience.

1. Autoconfirm

If you want Magic to just go ahead and order something, and you’re OK with them making decisions for you to get it done, just text “autoconfirm”.

When you autoconfirm, you agree to the order without first looking at the price or details of the order.

This feature is especially useful if your phone is dying, or you don’t have the time or ability to send multiple texts.

Example: “Send an iPhone phone charger to my hotel ASAP. Autoconfirm.

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2. Time caps

If you’re a user of Magic, you know that you’re billed for the time a human spends on your requests. It works like an “al a carte” personal assistant.

But what you may not know is that you can cap your requests in 1 hour increments.

This can help you control how much work you want done and is especially helpful for research requests.

Example: “Find the best three dentists in Massachusetts that specialize in oral surgery and that take my insurance. Spend no more than 2 hours on this request.”

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3. Recurring requests

One of the best uses of Magic is to set up recurring requests.

When you have recurring requests in Magic, the experience for you is completely automatic and effortless.

If you need something done repeatedly, you don’t have to keep texting Magic over and over each time

Recurring requests are also more efficient, taking Magic less time to complete, since it learns exactly how to get it done.

Example: Send lunch to my office every Monday — Friday. Make sure I have a main course, side, and drink, and never order me the exact same thing twice.

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4. Set preferences

When you tell Magic your preferences, Magic saves it permanently in its system and automatically recalls this information when it is relevant.

If you say you’re allergic to a particular type of food, or that when you send your wife flowers you never want to include a note, or that your favorite wine is Pinot noir, Magic remembers.

Telling Magic your preferences saves you time and makes your experience a lot more magical.

Example: Never order me food with bananas or eggs in it. Always choose the spiciest option.

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5. “Get it when it’s available”

You can request for Magic to get you things that aren’t yet available or
released to the public. This works even if there is no pre-order or release date.

Magic will keep an eye on when it will become available and will order it right away.

Example: Get me the “Fantastic Beasts” Blu-Ray as soon as it‘s available.

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6. Email

Magic is fully integrated with email. Magic gives you a special email address with a @mg.magic.gd domain.

You can email your requests to Magic, just like you would send a text to Magic. Magic can also send emails on your behalf.

You can forward emails to Magic, BCC Magic, and send attachments to Magic, just like you would a regular personal assistant.

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7. Google Calendar

Magic can fully integrate into your calendar if you use Google Calendar.

Simply text Magic that you would like to link your calendar with Magic.

Magic can create appointments for you, schedule meetings with multiple people involved, keep your calendar up-to-date, and can always reference your calendar to make sure you have no scheduling conflicts.

For example, if you ask Magic to book you a reservation for 7pm and add it to your calendar, Magic warn you that you already have a meeting scheduled that evening.

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8. International

Magic can perform tasks internationally. It’s great when you travel, since it already knows your preferences.

Magic has fulfilled a variety of requests in a variety of locations, from Cuba to Kyoto. Magic works best in countries where English is commonly spoken, but it will try to fulfill your request anywhere.

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9. “I don’t need this today.”

Letting Magic know if you need a delivery to be same-day or not will make your requests more efficient and save you money.

Same-day deliveries require either a service, private driver, or courier to pick up and deliver the order to you. This is almost always more expensive than a multi-day delivery.

If you don’t need an item same-day, tell Magic, so it can provide a cheaper option for you. If you need it same-day, also let Magic know, so it won’t spend time looking into options that aren’t same-day.

Example: “I need more Keurig capsules. Order about 100, all dark coffee. Does not need to be same-day.”

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