Category ArchiveTime Management
One of the best things that you can do for your business today is to plan the next seven days of your working life. If you would like extra credit, you can plan the next 7 days of your personal life as well. Why is such planning a boon to your business? There are three reasons.
Reason #1 – Increased Energy and Excitement
There is something that fill make you slowly creep out of the bed in the morning. It is called a lack of direction. When you wake up in the morning and have no sense of direction, your desire to get out of bed will be impotent. How can you increase your energy and excitement for the tasks that you need to accomplish?
Plan your work! Give yourself a reason to wake up with enthusiasm every single day. Even if your goal seems difficult, focus on the benefits of achieving your objective. Take each activity one step at a time. Enjoy the process of getting things DONE! You know the joy that comes from
striking through an item on your to-do list â˜º.
By planning your activity in advance, you will wake up each day with the motivation that you need to build a successful virtual assistance business. (These same principles apply if you are currently employed.) Can you feel your energy bubbling forth as you read this? Here is a way that you can give yourself an edge each day. Make your first task super exciting! Ensure that the first activity of the day is worthy of your jumping out of bed.
Reason #2 – Increased Productivity
When you plan your work for the next seven days, the most important tasks and projects will clearly come to the forefront of your mind. These activities will help you to accomplish your most important business goals. (Note: If you are not working towards your most compelling goals, what are you doing every day? That is another article.)
Planning your work for the coming days is also a brainstorming strategy. It will enable you to get your best thoughts written down, prioritize your work and the way you choose to use your time. This will increase your productivity. How so? Planning your work automatically puts you in a mindset of focus. You look at each hour of your day as an opportunity to build something great. It is only with this mindset will you avoid the pitfall of allowing time wasters to control your day. Think of things that currently waste your time. By planning your day in advance, you create a road map to successful and productive working.
Reason #3 – Increased Fulfillment
Is there anything that makes you feel better than a job well done? Likely, you associate 8-12 hours of each day for work (including travel time, lunch etc.). This is how you support your family. Be sure to make that time count. It should be meaningful and precious to you. Avoid wasting time because you cannot recoup ill-spent time. You can however make your time valuable by planning your work in advance. When you accomplish your important “to-dos”, the sense of joy and satisfaction you get from being productive is definitely increased.
Start today by planning the next seven days of your business and personal life. Remember to schedule something thrilling as your first activity each day. Such planning will help you to go to bed excited. You will wake up energized and enthusiastic. This will lead to greater productivity and ultimately increased fulfillment. Can you think of a good reason for not wanting increased energy, productive and fulfillment? I didnâ€™t think so. Now get to planning your work!
At this time today, as you read this blog post, you have a set of actions that you need to take at some point. Your action steps are related to building your Virtual Assistance business, improving your skill, increasing your knowledge or a host of other activities.
My question to you is, â€œWhat is holding you back?â€
In order for you to make progress you have to take the next action step. So, look at your list of things that you need to accomplish this week. Take out a pen and write down the very next progressive step in each important activity.
There is a caveat to this simple instruction of taking the next progressive step. Try hard, I mean really hard to not live in the past. If you have a long list of to-doâ€™s that you know should have already been completed, donâ€™t stress about it. They are not done, but you still need to get them finished. Start where you stand! Take the next progressive step.
After you have taking the next step, be clear on the subsequent actions that need to be taken so that you can continue to make progress towards accomplishing your goals. Develop the â€˜what-is-my-next-stepâ€™ attitude. Clarify the next action step and then get involved and complete it. What is your next progressive action step for your most important activities? Share them with us below.
Social media as a whole is an excellent tool for networking, brand building and many other facets of growing a successful Virtual Assistance company. But the question is, “Are you allowing social media to help you or hinder your success?”
Valid indeed is that question which may need to be answered on a daily basis. So, lets list a few ways that social media can both help and hinder your business success.
- Unfocused usage of social medial causes you to waste countless hours during the week.
- Reading and “Liking” comments and discussions that have no bearing on building your business.
- Surfing and “hoping”. Surfing the web and hoping that you will stumble upon a successful idea keeps you from working hard to accomplish your business goals.
- Joining and participating in groups that are organized to help you succeed in business.
- Posting questions that are related to your business.
- Making beneficial connections that are helpful to you or helpful to others that you meet.
- Adding value to the lives of people to whom you are connected.
- Spend short, focused amounts of time to obtain specific goals.
Likely, you can think of many other ways to use social media to either help or hinder your business success. The key is to acknowledge how you are utilizing this wonderful tool and make sure that it is helpful to you.
I’d love to hear your comments on how your social media usage is affecting your business. Post your thoughts below.
The misuse of your time is probably the greatest disservice to your as a business owner.Â How do you manage yourself within the time that is afforded you?Â Just like me, you have 24 hours every single day.Â Time is just like money, the way you spend it proves what activities are important to you.
I am sure that you engage in different activities every day.Â But, are those activities your MOST important ones?Â Are your activities building the business of your dreams or tearing it down?Â I will put you to a time challenge and ask you to track the time that you spend every day.Â Keeping this simple log will show you exactly why your business is in its current condition.Â Now, I want to assist you a bit further in analyzing how you spend this precious commodity.
Subtract 9 Hours
Right off the top, I will shave off nine hours for your sleep.Â If you do not sleep well, it does not matter how you spend your time because you will not be able to put forth your best effort anyway. That leaves you with 15 hours.
Subtract 5 Hours
Iâ€™m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you are a person who loves to spend time with your family and friends. You also deserve some personal time each day so that you can reflect on your life as to what you have done and what matter you still need to care for.Â This time slot will also give you some time for personal care. You have 10 hours left.
Subtract 2 Hours
Likely you will need to run errands and care for other matters that pertain to your business or personal life.Â This is a giveaway of time that may be planned or unexpected. These two hours may or may not benefit your business but will certainly vary from day to day.Â Now, are you ready to get your business day started? You have 8 hours left.
Subtract 8 Hours â€“ Time is UP!
In this very important time slot, you must decide how best to build your business.Â There are two very important activities that will boost your income.Â That is client work and marketing.Â There is so much that is involved with both of these activities. How are you spending your stipend of time? How many clients do you now have?Â How many of your hours each day are allotted to each client? After you have done the math on that, you need to wisely consider how you will shell out the remaining hours.
If you do not have a full practice of clients, it only makes sense to spend as much time as possible on marketing your business.Â Your marketing efforts today may not produce results until three or more months from now.Â Consistent marketing is imperative! You never know when your marketing efforts will yield results.Â The worst time to do marketing is when you are thirst for clients
I ask you, on what activities are you spending your TIME?
Itâ€™s the most precious resource we have and one of the very few that cannot be replaced. For Virtual Assistants looking to create a highly successful, lifestyle-focused business it is essential that we use the gift of time well so that we can achieve our goals. Â Â Â Continue Reading »
Virtual Assistants tend to be really good at creating lists. We create to-do lists for ourselves, our clients, our families, the housekeeper, etc. These lists are created as a method for getting things done. But, how often do you go back and review your lists to see if â€œwhatâ€ youâ€™re doing is yielding the right results? In other words, is how youâ€™re spending your time supporting or detracting from the life and business you want to create?
If perhaps you arenâ€™t making the money you want to make, or youâ€™re working with clients who drain your energy, or you find yourself working far more hours than youâ€™d like, itâ€™s time to step back, take an honest, objective look at your VA practice and decide what adjustments need to be made. Just as you would create an action plan for your clients, you need to create one for yourself. The first step is to answer this question, â€œAre you making these 3 common mistakes?â€
1. Is my own mindset getting in my way? Have you ever gotten frustrated with how things are going in your business and thought, â€œIâ€™ll never work with high-quality clients who happily pay my fees,â€ or â€œI guess Iâ€™m destined to discounting my fees if I want to stay in business?â€ If you answered yes, then thatâ€™s exactly what youâ€™ll get. This element of the Law of Attraction is simple and it applies to EVERYTHING you do. Whatever you tell yourself is ABSOLUTELY true. If you put out negative energy that is what youâ€™ll get in return. But if you consistently focus on positive, abundant thoughts, youâ€™ll begin seeing ways to create the results you desireâ€”and the opportunities you need will find their way to you. (Not to mention a positive attitude is highly client-attractive!) If your tendency is to have a negative attitude toward your business, stop! Make the decision to change your thinking, starting TODAY. If you consistently attract non-ideal clients, ask yourself: â€œWhat can I do to attract my perfect client?â€ Look into upgrading your services by taking new courses that expand your knowledge and justify higher rates. Participate in social networks to explore what kind of support your ideal client is looking forâ€”and place yourself directly in front of your target market. Also, be honest about where YOU are standing in your own way. What fears do you have about your business? What limiting beliefs are you holding onto? Put forth the effort to stare your gremlins in the face. Then make the decision to start thinking differently from today forward. All these activities will help you tap into a new group of clients and move you closer to your goals.
2. Do you only market or advertise your services when you need more clients? This is one of the biggest mistakes that Virtual Assistants make. And it is an area where they struggle needlessly. Some may feel hesitant about marketing thinking they have to be pushy and sales-y in their approach. That is certainly not the case. Marketing is simply a matter of sharing solutions with people who were already looking for them. The most effective marketing strategy for Virtual Assistants is to get clear on what you offer, embrace the value you bring to your clientsâ€™ lives, get to know your ideal clients REALLY well so you know what their urgent needs and compelling desires are and then put yourself in front of them as THE solution to their problems. You should be marketing your business every week, bare minimum. (Ideally you should be doing SOMETHING to market yourself every day.) There are countless ways to market your services. Attending networking events and industry events has always been highly effective for me. Blogging about the benefits and results you create for clients is another. Publishing an email newsletter, getting involved in social media, and sending a letter to EACH person in your network explaining your services also yield positive results. The list goes on and on. The goal is to be consistently attracting new leads to your business and keeping your pipeline full. Even if you find yourself at full capacity, when potential clients contact you about your services, you can still have your introductory meeting with them to determine what their needs are. If their needs exceed the support you can provide at that time, just let them know your practice is full. Then, offer them the option of going on a waiting list or refer them to another Virtual Assistant. Either way, you keep the lines of communication going. And, if you have an opening, you now have a â€œwarm marketâ€ list to contact. This will keep you out of â€œfeast or famineâ€ mode with your finances.
3. Is your business foundation solid? Building a business is like building a houseâ€”it needs a solid foundation. If you donâ€™t have an effective bookkeeping method, your office and paperwork are a disorganized mess and you donâ€™t have a marketing plan to follow, you do not have a solid foundation for your business. If you struggle meeting deadlines because you canâ€™t find everything required for a project, itâ€™s time to stop and get organized. Nothing is more important than a solid foundation for your business for it to grow and prosper. This means treating your business like a business, NOT a hobby. Outlining your standards, boundaries and operational guidelines clearly on paper will give you a roadmap to follow to successfully run your business for years to come. Remember, the best compliment a client can give you is to refer your services to a colleague. Make sure you earn that referral by being a competent business owner.
If you are making any or all of these three common mistakes, there is good news! You know now what they are and can take action to make improvements. Spending time assessing, planning and implementing proven solutions will help you to upgrade your business in short order. It will also boost your confidence, decrease your stress and move you that much closer to having the business you dreamed of when you first started.
Action Steps For This Week
1. Schedule one hour on your calendar to sit down and honestly assess your business. Make a list of what is working and what is not. Pat yourself on the back for having the courage to stare your business in the face and acknowledge that some improvements need to be made.
2. Once youâ€™re clear on where youâ€™re at, itâ€™s time to get clear on where you want to be. Set a few specific, measurable goals for improving your business and assign a deadline to each.
3. Break down each goal into a series of projects or action steps. Schedule time on your calendar over the next 2-3 months to work on these projects and get your business affairs in order.
4. Reach out for help if you need it! No one who is successful in business has created that success alone. NO one. So, donâ€™t be afraid to ask for help. You and I can work together one-on-one if you like. (Simply email me at Support@EAtoVA.com to schedule an appointment for us to chat.) You can register for a mentoring program. (www.SuccessfulVA.com or www.FullPracticeVA.com). Plus you can reach out to other VAs for ideas and support. (Check out my group on LinkedIn.com) Whichever option you choose is fine, but set yourself up with the support and accountability you need to take your business to the next level.
5. Leave a comment below and let me know how this business overhaul is working out for you! I love hearing about your successes (no matter how â€œsmallâ€ you think they are) and celebrating with you!
When youâ€™re a Virtual Assistant, you are only paid for the time you spend on client projects. Therefore, maximizing your work time is key to the profitability of your company.Â As VAs typically work from home, it can be a challenge to create a productive work environment where you experience minimal distractions and can focus on running your business.Â Use the following strategies to get more out of your day.
1.Â Create a dedicated workspace – There is such a thing as being too virtual! If you find that your “office” moves from your living room, to your bedroom, to your kitchen table or elsewhere, I guarantee that you aren’t nearly as productive as you could be.Â You are running a business, not pursuing a hobby!Â Your business deserves its own dedicated space where you show up for work each day.Â Regardless of how large or small your home is, you can carve out a space for your own office.Â A corner, a nook, even a closet can be used to create a highly functional office space where you can run a profitable enterprise.Â Retailers like IKEA and The Container Store have numerous resources to assist you with this.
2.Â Clear the clutter – Some of us are more organized than others for sure, but there is not a single VA around who wouldn’t be more focused, productive and profitable if they got rid of their clutter.Â Do you have old pens, mail, folders or other materials piled up in your workspace?Â Whether you realize it or not, having clutter in your space is a huge distraction for you.Â It’s been proven that:
- Clutter causes you to feel overwhelmed or depressed
- Clutter robs you of energy
- Clutter steals 50% of your storage space
- Clutter makes running your business harder – You have to look longer and dig deeper to find what you’re looking for
- Clutter makes it hard to think straight
Get rid of your clutter and you will instantly boost your productivity!
3. Eliminate all your notifications – Unfortunately, because of our technology focused society we are often inundated by notifications and so called “helpful” reminders.Â However, when you are focused on your client work and business operations during the day, you don’t need to notified of every little thing.Â Make it a habit to turn the ringer on your cell phone OFF.Â Turn the ringer on your home phone or business phone OFF.Â (You can schedule times to check your phone(s) during the day). Also, let friends and family members know what your work scheduled is and that you are NOT available to talk during those hours.Â Finally, turn your email notifications OFF.Â Your time during the day is much better spent working on various projects and being notified each time you receive an email is a costly distraction that you don’t need.
4. Stay OUT of your email Inbox – Email is one of the greatest productivity killers around.Â It’s a fabulous communication tool, and critical to the functionality of your virtual business, however it also has the potential to be a HUGE time waster if you aren’t careful.Â I recommend dedicated two blocks of time per day to process your email.Â Otherwise you’ll find that you won’t get any real work done during the day because you spent all your time answering email! Also, train your clients to communicate with you via a project management system such as Basecamp or Central Desktop.Â These systems will track all correspondence in a neat, organized fashion so you don’t have to keep a back log of emails but can still keep track of conversations around projects and tasks.
5. Choose the right workstation – Think about the functions that youâ€™ll be doing at your desk. Analyze what you do in a day, and make sure that your desk or workstation suits your needs. Do have lots of cords between your computer and other equipment? Then you want to have a desk with built-in cable management and an adjustable keyboard drawer. Are you a person who likes to spread out while you work? Youâ€™ll want a desk with lots of flat space so that you can work comfortably.
By implementing these strategies, you can create a workspace that maximizes the time you spend on your projects and stay focused on the task at hand. Schedule time now to makeover your workspace by selecting one area to work from, cleaning out clutter, eliminate notifications, manage the time spent on email and choosing the right workspace. Youâ€™ll see the benefits pay off in no time!ï»¿
Savvy Virtual Assistants use documented systems to run their business.Â Using systems consistently will allow you to work as effectively and efficiently as possible.Â The more you can systemize, the more you can monetize!
Systems are the key to your business organization.Â Itâ€™s a way to ensure that you create consistent high-quality results in everything you do.Â This includes bookkeeping, communication, administrative duties, client support and marketing.Â Whether you realize it or not, you probably already have a system in place for all of these things. You just havenâ€™t gone through the process of actually documenting the steps involved.
Documentation is the key to helping you streamline your processes so that you handle your workload more quickly.Â Once you document your processes for how you handle different tasks, youâ€™ll begin to see how you can either automate them or outsource them.Â Â This will free up time for you to spend on your two primary business activities:Â client work and marketing your business.
Another benefit of setting up systems and embracing technology to help you run your business is that your clients see that you are a true professional.Â When you invest the time, money and technology to run your business efficiently, you demonstrate that you are running your business like the CEO of a large company rather than a “hobbyist” who makes decisions flying by the seat of her pants.Â This sets you apart from your colleagues and makes you a more valuable and respected Virtual Assistant.
Think it this way: why would a client pay you top dollar for your services if you donâ€™t demonstrate that you are the absolute best choice? When clients see that you invest money in your systems that help you work more efficiently on their projects, they will gladly pay you what you are worth because they know they are getting the best service possible.
Setting up systems and embracing technology uniquely prepares you for something else:Â growth with your client.Â As your relationship grows with your client, they will see you not only as their skilled Virtual Assistant but also as a trusted adviser and business partner.Â And when itâ€™s time for them to grow their business by expanding theirÂ services or looking at other solutions, they will feel comfortable coming to you for help.Â That trust can only be earned by someone who can offer solutions to what the client needs.
At this point, you may be asking yourself, â€œSo where do I start?â€
The best place to begin is to document your tasks for a couple of days.Â Once you start writing things down, you will see some areas where you can maximize your time by â€œbatchingâ€ tasks together.
For example, if you read email every 15 minutes, you probably waste a lot of time reading emails and responding immediately.Â This is ineffective for two reasons:Â one, you are constantly reading emails and never get into a good rhythm for completing client work and two, you set an unrealistic expectation for your clients about when youâ€™ll respond to them.Â If you always reply immediately, a client may start to get impatient with you if you take more than a couple of hours to address their needs.
You can resolve this issue by putting a system in place to set aside specific times of the day to read and respond to emails.Â This will allow you to schedule time to review emails and respond so that you free up time to schedule actual client work.
You can also embrace the technology within your email settings to be even more efficient.Â For example, you can set up rules to automatically filter specific emails (like newsletters) into a folder.Â This helps you control the clutter of your Inbox and you know where to find the newsletters when you have a chance to read them.
These are just a few examples of how you can begin to create systems in your Virtual Assistance business.Â Once you get some practice with creating systems and using the technology to help you work more efficiently, you will be pleasantly surprised and how much â€œFREEâ€ time you have available.Â Now, youâ€™ll be in a position to use that time to grow your business, work with more clients or take a well-deserved break!
Hands down, one of the most time consuming tasks in any business is scheduling meetings.Â First, you have to figure out what time you have available to meet, then you propose a time only to find out that the other person has a conflict.
Thenâ€¦ the barrage of emails starts. The other person proposes other times; you respond back, they email to confirm…you know this scenario, right?
Quite frankly, this is a waste of everyone’s time.Â But, there is an online solution that will save you time and energy scheduling meetings.Â And best of all, it’s FREE!
There is an online service you can use called Tungle, and you can find the service at http://www.Tungle.com.Â Â This free online service offers many features that are perfect for a virtual assistant or small business owner.Â
Some of the features include:
- Personalized URL so that people can see your calendar and find out when you’re available.Â Your URL is unique based on your name, like http://www.Tungle.Me/YourName and you can post it in your signature lines for emails, on your website, social network profiles, etc.
- Ability to customize your calendar every day of the week – block out times you are not available so that no one will try to schedule a meeting with you during that time.Â
- Converts time zones – perfect feature when working virtually!Â You set your calendar to your time zone, and the other person sees your calendar in their time zone (by changing the view) so there’s no confusion of 1 PM "my time" or "your time".
- Synchronize your calendar with Google, Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes 8.0.2 FC4 (and above)
- Propose a meeting time and invite participants – Plan a meeting and send an email to all participants to confirm.Â You will receive an email for each person and whether they "accepted" the meeting or "declined" it.
You can also personalize your profile to include your picture, business, email address, website and social network profiles to make sure everything is linked together.
For a free service, this is pretty robust and offers many of the same features that the paid online scheduling services offer.Â But more importantly, this saves you time by avoiding the back and forth emails and the headaches that come with it.Â Additionally, this gives you another layer of professionalism.Â By having an online scheduling service, it demonstrates to potential clients that you are serious about your business, you care about their time and their needs and you are organized.Â
Efficiency and organization go a long way in validating your professionalism and trustworthiness.Â No one wants to hire a virtual assistant (or any business owner for that matter) who is unorganized because that is a good indication of how they will handle your business.Â Things get missed when you’re not organized.Â
So, take the next step to working more efficiently and effectively by using an online scheduling tool. Your email inbox and clients will thank you for being proactive!
Have you had success with an online scheduling tool?Â Share your thoughts and comments with me by posting a comment here on the blog!
Starting your own home based Virtual Assistant business is a decision that involves a lot of thought and preparation. One of the biggest “perks” that comes with working for yourself and from home is having a flexible schedule.Â Â However, that flexibility can become a liability if you don’t manage it well.
One common pitfall I see VAâ€™s struggling with is the tendency to “multi-task“.Â While you may think you can get more done, multi-tasking can truly be a detriment to your business and personal life.Â It’s so easy to think you can do a load of laundry while you’re working on a website, and then take a break to fold the laundry and come back to the website when you’re done. While this may seem harmless, it actually is making you less efficient in your work as a Virtual Assistant and your housework (or whatever the other activity may be).Â As a Virtual Assistant, it is important to create a work schedule for your clients’ benefit…and yours.
A key to creating a work schedule and maximizing your time is called “batching”. Batching refers to setting aside a specific block of time to handle similar tasks.Â So, say for example you have 3 clients and all of them need you to do some phone work.Â You might be making phone calls to clients, checking on insurance rates or whatever.Â The important thing here though is to do all the phone calls at once.Â By blocking out 2 hours in your day to do all the phone calls, you are focusing on just being on the phone and completing the project.Â Even though you will need to track the time spent on the phone for each client so you can allocate the time appropriately, you are still being more efficient by doing all the phone calls at one time. If you were to make a phone call here and there throughout the week, the project would take much longer.
By batching your tasks, you become much more efficient which can free up time for you later in the day to do other client work, or take (some well-deserved) time off.Â This technique works with virtually all tasks that you do:Â bookkeeping, reading emails, transcribing files, client projects, etc.Â You can even batch clients individually, rather than by task.Â What this means is that maybe you designate each day of the week to a particular client and do everything in that day for them.Â You’ll have to test this method out to see if it works out for you (and the client), but it can be a really effective way of getting projects done.
Another important thing to remember to schedule in your day is breaks. We all need a mental break throughout the day to ensure we’re on top of our game.Â So maybe you find that you can work for a solid 2 hours before your mind starts to wander.Â Then make sure you schedule your day in 2 hour batches with a 15 minute break to get something to drink, take a brief walk or just rest your brain.
By taking the time to outline your schedule and establish how youâ€™ll get work done, you are setting yourself up for business and personal success.Â You’ll have a clear “start” and “end” time for your business and family time.Â This gives you the ability to make the time for doing housework (YUCK!) and of course enjoying your family time each day.Â By focusing on one project at a time, you are also giving your full attention to the task at hand.Â This is very important to completing clients’ projects, but also to your family who notices when you’re “distracted” by work.
What type of work schedules do you use?Â How do you batch your day?Â Please share your techniques with us so we can learn from each other and hopefully help someone improve their work and life balance!