Being a virtual assistant can be very fulfilling work for self-motivated people, so long as you manage your time effectively. Getting to work with other small business owners, helping to grow their client bases, get the word out about their services, and build their brands makes you feel good about what you’ve accomplished each day. However, with the demands of multiple clients on your plate at all times, being organized is the key to keeping your work-life balance in check.
As an experienced virtual assistant who has been successfully running a virtual assistant firm for fifteen years, I’ve come across quite a few techniques for staying on top of everything. Through trial and error, I’ve determined what strategies work for me, and which aren’t as helpful. I’d like to share my favorite tips for time management, which are great both in general, and specifically for those doing virtual assistant work.
- Use time blocking.
If you aren’t using a time blocking approach to scheduling your days, you’re probably wasting a lot of time without even realizing it. By blocking out time to work on specific tasks, you can avoid distraction and stay focused, getting more work finished in less time overall. I try to schedule all of my meetings together so they don't break up my day. I also try to only do meetings 3 days a week at most, usually Tuesday through Thursday, leaving Monday to focus on organizing my week and Friday to wrap up any loose ends.
- Make a list and prioritize.
The endless to-do list can be overwhelming. Organize your project management system by due date at the beginning of the week, setting deadlines for various tasks and placing the most urgent ones first. Paired with time blocking, this allows you to always keep ahead of the game by getting the work that needs to be done first out of the way.
- Have a designated office.
A lot of (if not most) virtual assistants work from home. There are pros and cons to this approach, but I find the most important thing to make working from home effective is to have designated office space. You need a workspace that is organized and quiet, free from the other distractions of home like kids or chores. Even if you live in a small apartment, set aside a quiet corner for your desk with a divider to block out visual distractions. Also, make sure you have the proper equipment to get your work done, including backup computers should your primary workstation fail.
- Use excellent resources.
A craftsperson is only as good as the tools they work with. The same goes for virtual assistants: there are so many free and readily available resources for organizing administrative and creative work. The virtual office is more sophisticated than ever before, and taking advantage of all the resources available will help you be a more efficient and organized worker. From project management software to communication apps, if there’s a need to be filled, you can guarantee someone has come up with a great solution that you can use!
- Make self-care a priority.
In the competitive world of business, too many people wear their sleep-deprivation and long hours like badges of honor. In reality, failing to take care of yourself leads to burn out, and being less productive when you are working. Take care of yourself, body and mind: get enough sleep, exercise, eat well, and practice whatever relaxation techniques work best for you (meditation, yoga, etc.). Set aside “me time” and time to spend with family and friends. You’ll be a lot happier and healthier than those who slave away at their desks all day.
- Set working hours and stick to them.
Related to the last point, you should be realistic about how many hours you can work each day, and when you schedule them. Don't work your life away; it isn’t worth it for a few extra dollars. Be clear with clients about your “office hours” and when they can expect responses from you.
- Keep a journal or thought log.
Sometimes working on a task for one client can spark ideas for another project you have to tackle later. Always keep a notebook on hand to jot down ideas quickly, so you don’t lose them but also don’t distract yourself from the work at hand.
Those are my top tips for enhancing productivity and managing your time wisely. Have you used some of these techniques as a virtual assistant to improve your workflow? Are there other strategies you prefer? I invite you to join my weekly newsletter – it is jam packed with great tips that any entrepreneur can benefit from.
Learn more about Jennie and her company on her website: www.jennielyon.com
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