Dayne Shuda has worked with executive assistants for about 7-8 years and has had a full-time remote assistant since 2015. His assistant happens to be in Australia, but he’s in Wisconsin. Over the years, he’s learned a few things about organization, burnout, and working with a remote team.
In this episode, Dayne shares tips on written communication, working with a remote assistant on the other side of the world, and how assistants can anticipate the needs of their executive.
You are what you do everyday. If you want to change your life you have to change what you do each day.
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ABOUT DAYNE SHUDA
Dayne is the owner of Ghost Blog Writers, a blog writing services provider for companies and agencies. He’s been doing this full-time since 2012. Prior, Dayne worked for a footwear catalog company learning about the direct mail industry and also the footwear industry. While there, Dayne began learning about online marketing and specifically content marketing and blogging. He started blogging out of curiosity on the side. Then Dayne started freelance blogging and turned it into a small agency.
Dayne was born and raised in Central Wisconsin. Today, he lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with his wife and daughter.
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Dayne Shuda 0:00
I’m Dayne Shuda. This is today’s leadership quote, you are what you do every day. If you want to change your life, you have to change what you do each day.
Podcast Intro 0:12
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become competent game changing leader assistant.
Jeremy Burrows 0:26
Hey friends, thanks for tuning in to Episode 104. You can check out the show notes at leaderassistant.com/104. I’m excited for today’s conversation because written communication is such a big part of our jobs as executive assistants, and administrative business business partners if you have not taken some time to improve your writing skills, whether that’s writing emails, newsletters, writing blog posts, drafting and editing blog posts, on behalf of your executive and your team. I highly encourage you to spend some time on written communication professional development. And I hope this episode helps you Dayne has a lot of writers on his team and has done a lot of writing himself and has some great tips on written communication and how to be a better writer. So I know this will help you out as well. So I hope you enjoy it. Hey, everyone. Thanks for tuning into The Leader Assistant Podcast. It’s your host Jeremy Burrows. Today I’m speaking with Dayne Shuda, who’s owner of ghost blog writers Dayne. How’s it going?
Dayne Shuda 1:40
It’s going good. Thanks for having me.
Jeremy Burrows 1:42
Yeah, man, what’s, what part of the world are you in?
Dayne Shuda 1:45
So I’m in Wisconsin, closest big city. I’m in western Wisconsin, we’re bought our soul from Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Jeremy Burrows 1:54
Okay, awesome. So let’s kind of jump off and start talking about you a little bit. What’s maybe one of the first jobs that you had growing up? And what did you learn in that role that you still use today?
Dayne Shuda 2:10
My one of my first jobs was I worked at any golf club pro shop, kind of as kind of as a do anything person I started, they had a big room where the golfers could leave their clubs overnight, and I kind of would get the club’s ready, put them away, get them washed and cleaned and then moved into the pro shop where I kind of worked as an assistant to the golf pro, who was kind of in charge of managing the goings on with the Corps in the pro shop. And so I just kind of learned a little bit about that how to manage dealing with people. So that was one of the first jobs. I had a couple ads and jobs before that. But that was one kind of a taste of what real life business management might be like.
Jeremy Burrows 3:05
Awesome. So David, tell us a little bit about your career progression from then to today.
Dayne Shuda 3:13
Yeah, so that that first job I had that was kind of last few years of high school and then went to college here in Wisconsin, knew I kind of wanted to go to school for business. So I think I just went for like a business management degree and graduated, applied for a few different jobs got one in for a footwear catalog company here in Wisconsin, and kind of got to learn about the direct mail industry catalogs. And then at that time, it was 2007 2008. And they had been involved in online websites and online marketing and stuff like that. But I started learning about it. And it kind of got into blogging as a hobby. And then the company ghost blog writers kind of grew out of that started as freelance writing and kind of grew into a small agency for Matt.
Jeremy Burrows 4:16
Nice. So do you have an assistant right now?
Dayne Shuda 4:21
I do. I’ve I’ve had an assistant, I guess she’s she’s been an assistant. She does a lot of different things. And but I call her if she’s kind of an account manager or a general manager. But she’s been with me since 2015. So it’s going on five plus years this year.
Jeremy Burrows 4:40
Awesome. So she’s remote. Right? You guys both work remote?
Dayne Shuda 4:44
Yeah, it’s short. So I’m in Wisconsin, and she’s in Australia. Well, we’re almost exactly it kind of depends on daylight savings, but we’re almost exactly 12 hours difference. So we’ve only spoken on the phone a cup Hold times, we’ve emailed a lot. And usually our emails are separated by a day. So, yeah, we’ve kind of been running the company together on completely different different time schedules.
Jeremy Burrows 5:13
That’s awesome. So what’s kind of some lessons learned from trying to work remotely like that?
Dayne Shuda 5:19
Yeah, that’s, I guess, one thing that we’ve learned is that at least in our area, nothing is extremely urgent or it may seem urgent, there certainly were times and still are where I felt something is urgent. But obviously, Lindy has been sleeping, and you kind of have to wait at least 12 hours to get a response. And I think her as well over the years, we’ve kind of learned that, you know, sometimes it might feel urgent and in the moment, but most things aren’t, at least in my experience. And so that’s kind of been a big lesson as in, it’s been nice to you send an email, and you don’t necessarily expect an immediate response. And after a while, that that seems to become a good habit where I think today we get used to, we almost can drive ourselves crazy if we don’t get a text message or email back within whatever the expectation might be.
Jeremy Burrows 6:25
So what would you say to an executive or business owner who’s looking at hiring an assistant, but they’re really struggling with? The, the idea of having a remote assistant, and they think, Well, I just, it’s just gonna be too hard to communicate or not gonna be able to get what I want done? What would you say to an executive wrestle with that decision?
Dayne Shuda 6:47
Yeah, I would say, in my experience, from the, I guess, the executive side is, is just trust, and you’re giving up tasks, you’re giving up access to things. And I would say, it’s, it’s probably not as big of a concern as, as one would think at first. And then from the assistant side would be especially early on trying to show that you can be trusted and an organized and, and I know, early on with Lindy she was very organized very good with communication. And, and it was a very short time period before I was pretty much ready to hand everything over to her. And so the relationship got off to a good start and the remote thing. That was also interesting, because a lot of people that I would tell, would kind of give me a very confused look. And they would ask things like, You mean, you haven’t spoken to her on the phone more than one time, and you’re running this business together. So you get a lot of, it’s not normal, but I think it’s becoming more normal. And, and people are kind of starting to see that, that it certainly is possible, and most people are trustworthy. And and so so yeah, that was kind of a interesting pushback early on that, that it affected much, but but it was just that it was kind of unusual at the time.
Jeremy Burrows 8:18
So what’s something that your assistant does that maybe technology or artificial intelligence will never be able to do?
Dayne Shuda 8:32
She definitely adds a great human element to working with clients. And then so we also have a team of about 50 remote writers. And so with clients and writers, the main form of communication is is email. And Lindy does a great job of right writing emails in a very personal way that maybe put a client at ease or make a writer feel appreciated. One thing we’ve noticed over the years is being a writer or a blogger, you can you can do an article perfectly well you could do five articles perfectly well and and you’ll get most of the feedback you get as negative and just over time that kind of builds up and you start to question your ability and I think Lindy has always made it a priority to to give positive feedback and, and tell personal stories and share not real personal information, but just like little anecdotes that kind of make the communication with everybody. I think just make it feel like you’re working with a person and not a machine or, or a brand name.
Jeremy Burrows 9:55
So let’s talk a little bit about burnout. Have you experienced burnout in your work? rear,
Dayne Shuda 10:01
I would say there are definite signs of it when I first brought Lindy on and that was kind of the pushes, I could see that. It was interesting because I was I’m 35 now, so I was about 30, then. And in your 20s, at least it seems like you have a lot of energy to go around. And but I was still kind of reaching what I can tell was was maybe the limits of my abilities. And so I knew I needed to bring someone on. And then a couple years ago, I had my wife and I had a daughter. And that was kind of another little push to give linby and a few others more responsibility where you just, you only have so many hours or so much energy to give certain tasks. So so those were definitely two times when the burnout, I think just came from, from doing too many things, whether it was work or work and personal life combined.
Jeremy Burrows 11:05
So have you done anything kind of what’s your weekly or monthly rhythms or yearly rhythms to prevent? Or, you know, fight back against burnout?
Dayne Shuda 11:17
Yeah, definitely do. Something I do at least once a year. And, and I think so I think mostly twice years, I’ll look at my schedule. And well, first of all, kind of look at kind of a running priority list I have of things I ideas I have for the business. And I’ll kind of prioritize it. And each year, I’ll try to keep it to just one or two main efforts, new efforts for the year new points of emphasis. And what I’ll do then is kind of go into my weekly schedule, which is pretty consistent each week. Or you could do it by month. And then I just tried to structure each day to kind of focus on that annual emphasis. And what I find is that it’s easy for new things to kind of creep in. And I try to schedule each day with. So you have eight hours to work, I try to schedule about five or six hours of work into the day. And most days, you can get those things done, you feel good. And then you still need those extra hours for miscellaneous things that come up that you don’t necessarily know what they might be, but that something always seems to come up. And best case scenario, nothing comes up and you have a couple extra hours to work on some extra projects or get ahead. So it’s definitely been I do definitely try to schedule my week where it might seem under scheduled. But to me it’s actually just the rights. And for the little surprises that come up. There’s there’s time built in almost like a contingency. And that that I’ve definitely seen as kind of helped me avoid burnout and just trying to fill it out to the max.
Jeremy Burrows 13:09
Yeah, that makes sense. It’s definitely good to have margin, like plan, planning the margin and plan for extra time, because you know, there’s going to be something that always comes up.
Dayne Shuda 13:22
Yep. It’s, you can kind of know what it might be. But it seems to always change and always something new. And you just you can prepare for something happening, but not necessarily exactly what will happen.
Jeremy Burrows 13:37
Yeah. So how can sistance anticipate their executives needs? And maybe specifically how does Lindy anticipate your needs, you know, being on the other side of the world?
Dayne Shuda 13:53
Yeah, so she’s been really good at staying in tune with what she’s asked like, what my goals are for the year, or what I’m thinking about, or she definitely seems to pay attention to my email communication to her. And from that, she she’ll come up with ideas for ways to make a process more efficient or something to change or just recently, there was a task that so one of the tasks for our company is creating titles for the blogs and and the writers don’t always do that. We have someone who kind of does that separately, and it kind of makes it more efficient. But Lindy had a suggestion to have someone new do that, and kind of make the whole thing more efficient and it wasn’t necessarily something I was I was thinking about. It’s easy for anyone to kind of get caught up in what you’re doing on any given day in not think kind of at the bigger picture. But Lindy kind of saw what was going on and tried to solve that problem and, and it’s certainly something that I do too. And I’m sure most executives do. But I also have worked with assistants like Lindy, who, who have been very good at kind of looking at the big picture and trying to give suggestions, and not that they would always be implemented. But it’s definitely been a big help to have her. Also thinking about the business as a whole. And Shana watches what’s going on, listens to me, and then kind of helps him that way.
Jeremy Burrows 15:42
That’s great. So what let’s let’s talk about writing in communication, written communication specifically. So, you know, you help people with blog posts and kind of content. Creation, right.
Dayne Shuda 16:04
Yep. Yep. Yeah. So any, any type of business that has a blog, but usually doesn’t have the internal resource to do it themselves, or they just don’t like writing? That’s, that’s kind of what our service is for.
Jeremy Burrows 16:18
Okay. So writing is kind of a huge part of our lives, whether it’s LinkedIn, post, a blog, post a book, or something as simple as a quick email to the board at your company. So what would you say to assistants, who maybe they’re thinking, I’m not a writer, I’m never going to do a blog are never going to write a book. But I know that they have to write email after email, and Slack message, and even sometimes, you know, communication from their executive to their whole company about, you know, a crisis or an emergency or something. What would you encourage them with, and maybe even just share a couple of practical tips on writing better.
Dayne Shuda 17:07
So in general, we speak in longer sentences than we read. At least that’s how it seems to me so. So especially with blog posts, and then I’ve also, we’ve kind of applied it to the to the email, we send each other as, it’s kind of cliche, but it’s shorter sentences in general, when you’re writing and shorter paragraphs, just allows people to kind of scan things, read things quicker, and then go back and find information. It’s for whatever reason, it’s difficult to read a big paragraph of texts, whether it’s a blog, post, email, text message, it’s, it just kind of turns people off. And especially if you’re if you’re asking someone to do something, and it can be tricky to ask multiple things in one email, or give direction on multiple things in one email. So it’s good to, for sure, break it up into different sections, or paragraphs, maybe even include headings and emails, we do that sometimes where we’ll, the email might have three things that we want a writer to do. And instead of just putting it in one paragraph, we’ll break it up into three short sections with headings, and maybe even number them. Seems like we all like numbered things, a lot of blog posts have numbered sections. And, and we found that emails are kind of the same way, if you kind of break it up. You can reference them later say, you know, in point one, here’s the direction So, so that it’s a couple of things that you might not think of for email, or even text message, but it definitely seems to help with comprehension and just making the communication better.
Jeremy Burrows 19:12
What about just practicing? And what are your tips on good place to start if someone wants to improve their writing?
Dayne Shuda 19:23
Yeah, so I think a blog definitely helps. And a blog and can really be anything if it’s a personal blog, it could be a lot of people use a blog as a journal, you could also write a journal that you just keep for yourself, where you write about, you know, whatever is going on with you. I kind of used my first blog as, as a way to document what I was doing at work, what I was learning what I was reading, and I did that for over a year before I started blogging as freelancer and and I do definitely noticed that after just not really knowing what I was doing how to write I was, I was definitely picking up on little nuances of writing and, like the paragraph thing, the shorter sentences, the, the way to structure it, certain words to use when it doesn’t make sense to use longer word or something like that. So you could could start a blog or a journal type, just as a way to write every day, in kind of a focused way. A lot of obviously, we all write a lot of emails or text messages and, and we get pretty good at those, the more we do it, but something like a blog might or a journal might provide a little bit more structure. Or if you want to get into something more like article writing, then I think one way to do it, the only way to do that would be to write an article every day, even just for your own practice. I had, I wasn’t a songwriter or anything, but I I’ve always been intrigued by how songwriters write songs, and it’s that kind of schedule time, all week long, and they go to these writing sessions and, and it’s really just a quantity game. They try to write hundreds of songs every year to maybe get five that are recorded and one that’s a hit. And so it’s it’s really just about quantity, whatever you want to do to be a better writer, you just you just kind of have to do it every day and plan on doing that for a while.
Jeremy Burrows 21:43
Yeah, it’s repetition and consistency. What about any tools like do you recommend Grammarly or is there any other tools that you recommend for checking spelling and grammar and improving or you know, English 101
Dayne Shuda 22:03
Yeah, that Grammarly is a good one. And the the Yoast SEO plugin is good for certain things. They have some good suggestions. One thing I’ve noticed is with blogging and I think it’s probably true in email and other forums communication is, is people not all people but I think a lot of us tend to try to write at almost like a college plus level. Just I don’t know if it’s to prove how smart we are. I don’t think it’s everybody but some of us and and that can usually just lead to more complexity and confusion that is necessary. So a tool like Grammarly or Yoast kind of help you tone that down a little bit. And although there’s a lot of pretty much anywhere you write, or type these days is going to have spellcheck that’ll kind of keep you in check as far as the little things like the yours or theirs where you might, it’s usually not a big deal if you if you misspell something like that. But it does seem to throw people out of the flow when they’re reading an email and they notice a little title. So so you’ll notice some of those tools will will usually help so yeah, Grammarly is good. I think they have their plugins for emails and things like that. And, and so. So yeah, that’s definitely a tool that that’s positive.
Jeremy Burrows 23:36
Nice. How about those that do have blogs or newsletters? Do you have any tips for kind of producing or writing helpful content on a regular basis?
Dayne Shuda 23:49
Yeah, the biggest way that we look at it is is trying to identify questions that people are asking, and then doing your best to answer it. And that’s kind of our leading focus, at least with business blogging, and but the number one tip I always have for blogging in general, is to separate the idea brainstorming from the writing. So with every client, we go through the brainstorming process, and we’ll come up with a couple months worth of titles, put that on content, calendar schedule, and then whoever the writer is, has that schedule to work off of and they can just see what the ideas is see the notes and then just begin. And we kind of keep those separate and even for a personal blogger. I think writers black most often comes from sitting down at a computer knowing you want to write but now you have to find something to write about and then start writing. And I think that’s one of the most impossible things is Trying to do that. And I think I even read this past Christmas about Charles Dickens and writing at Christmas, Carolyn. And in the story has always been that he wrote it real fast, and that it was like a six week thing. But then there was a story that he was walking around for weeks, every night, he would go for a walk. And he was thinking about all the different ideas he had, or he was trying to come up with ideas for stories. And so he was kind of brainstorming. And then finally, he had one that he wanted to flush out. And then that’s when he sat down and wrote it. So and even with where I mentioned, songwriters, almost all of them carry, well, I think they use their phones now. But they would carry like a little black book and just write song titles all the time. And then when they would go to their scheduled song sessions, they would all pull up these books, list out the titles, and pick one to write. And that’s much more efficient way to do it than just going to a room and saying, Okay, what were what are we going to write about today and try to come up with something from scratch?
Jeremy Burrows 26:11
Yeah, that’s great. I actually heard that tip, I think from Jeff Goins A while back, and this is the idea that you should just write write, write, write and not even worry about editing. And then, you know, come back later and have an editing session. Yeah. Yeah, it’s very been very helpful. As I write blogs, and as I wrote my book, and just yeah, just really helpful to just kind of make sure you put your writing hat on. And don’t try to put your editing hat on at the same time.
Dayne Shuda 26:48
Yes, yeah, I think that’s that’s a great point, any, there’s definitely different sections of writing. And if you break it up, and kind of give yourself permission to work on each book, separate it definitely, I would say results in a better finished product and keeps you from burnout, and all those those things.
Jeremy Burrows 27:12
Awesome. So is there any other writing advice that you’d like to share?
Dayne Shuda 27:16
The only other one, I would say is, whatever the writing is, is, I think the goal should be to write as much as possible. And I think, a slight misconception is, is that the focus is on quality over quantity. But I think, at least in my experience, the quality comes from the quantity, especially early on, and in so I don’t think quantity is necessarily a bad thing. I think it’s a good thing. And so if you’re if you’re trying to improve at blogging, I would focus on doing it every day or, or probably more often, then, then you’re thinking about and and I think that just you learned so much by by doing it every day, or every week, if that seems like a lot than you would if you just try to write only the best posts possible each time.
Jeremy Burrows 28:18
Yeah, right. So, David, thanks so much for sharing your tips on writing. What’s, where can we find you online? And how can we support what you’re up to?
Speaker 1 28:29
Sure, the best place is to connect the most active social, that I use his LinkedIn. And so just search for Dayne Shuda. As far as I know, I’m the only one. So just reach out, you can connect with me, send me a message. Otherwise, our website is ghost blog writers.com If you’re interested in anything there or know anyone that struggling with their business blog and let them know and we might be able to help but but yeah, LinkedIn definitely connect with me. They’re
Jeremy Burrows 29:04
awesome. Yeah, I’ll share your links in the show notes so people can find you. And yeah, thanks for taking time out of your day. And hope you have a good one. All right, thank
Dayne Shuda 29:13
you so much.
Jeremy Burrows 29:15
Thanks again. Dayne for a great episode on written communication and more. You can check out the show notes at leaderassistant.com/104 Have a good day and talk soon.
Unknown Speaker 29:45