Fantastic Tips to Easily Train Your Best Virtual Personal Assistants Now

These days, productivity does not only mean that you have done a lot of tasks within a working day, it means that you have delegated your tasks. In order to achieve this, you may choose to hire a virtual personal assistant to help accomplish more for your business. This will help you acquire more time for yourself and your loved ones.

Just the mere thought of doing everything by yourself may already be overwhelming, especially when you take into account not all tasks laid out before you are those that you really look forward to in the first place. This is where the wonder of training your VA enters the picture. If done right, you get to do the work that you enjoy while your virtual assistant completes tasks that they are really good at which may also be those that you do not particularly like to do. It’s a win-win situation, to say the least!

Establish Company Rules and SOPs

If you plan to train a team of VAs in the future, you should have everything in writing! Actually, you may want to prepare a training manual even before you hire your first VA. While it is more convenient to let everything go and just conduct video and audio chat training sessions, everything is more concrete when properly documented in writing.

This is also beneficial especially if your VA is a visual learner. The best part is, you will not have to design a manual over again if you need to hire more VAs in the future. All you have to do is update your information as needed. In case writing manuals is not your thing (hint: you can delegate this task), you may go for audio and/or video manuals as well. This is especially important if you are about to assign voice-related tasks.

Once you’re done creating your training materials, upload them on your dedicated drive. This can make the files more accessible for your trainees. This will also help save time in the long run because you do not have to repeat everything for them. Instead, you can focus on matters that were not directly tackled in the training materials. Once the new concerns are tackled, you may organize the ideas and concerns that were raised and create even more helpful training materials!

Set Expectations

Not to assume that something will go wrong, but preventing things from going awry can save you and your VA from a lot of problems that can be avoided if you talk about the essentials beforehand. This can also help improve your professional relationship with them from the get-go. This is especially ideal if you plan to hire your VA on a long-term basis.

A couple of days before the first working day of your VA, hold an orientation meeting. Video calls are ideal to help you see and hear each other in real time. Seeing and hearing each other while talking to each other is a good way to establish better communication online, according to experts.

Prior to the orientation, prepare a checklist or simply a rough list of what you think you need to tackle during the meeting. You may initially list any random ideas that come to mind. After listing everything, group them into categories depending on the nature of the topics. For example, group together rules and regulations, workflow essentials, filing for breaks and leaves, payment schedule and terms, and so on. If you have ideas that do not seem to fit your categories, consider them as miscellaneous and discuss those last.

During the orientation, you may also tackle personal and business expectations, responsibilities, and even the entire business process. You may also establish a time frame for replies and when you need a heads-up for anything. Most importantly, encourage your VA to ask questions and voice their concerns during this meeting. This will help you get on the same page and develop a harmonious working relationship.

Manage Expectations and Prevent Being a Control Freak

Remember that your VA is also a human being with feelings and aspirations. Therefore, they also have limitations. If it is their first time working with you, make sure to set realistic goals with them. Don’t expect them to provide you with a “100% output” during the first few days of work. Most VAs will still need to undergo an adjustment period. If you expect them to provide that type of output and they fail to give it at once, you’re in for a great disappointment.

Instead, ramp them up for a gradually increasing workload. For example, if they are tasked to answer bulks of e-mails, provide them with a minimum of 20 e-mails in a day. After a week, increase the number to 30 e-mails, and so on. If your target number is at least 100 e-mails in a day, then you should set a goal of reaching that level in about five weeks.

During this period, make sure to periodically check your VA’s progress. To check progress, set metrics like the number and length of e-mails sent. Identify weaknesses and strengths. Let them express how they feel about their experience and if there are other things that may need to be reinforced or improved upon.

Especially during this time, withhold judgment and establish trust with your VA. It is not a pleasant experience having someone (virtually) breathing down their necks while they work, nor is it a good to feel like they are being interrogated all the time. Be compassionate and your VA will surely work at their best potential.

Takeaway

One of the largest mistakes that you can commit is assuming that your VA already knows everything. While VAs are already considered experts, you still have to teach them their roles and your typical workflow. This will help them see the bigger picture and engage in their role accordingly.

The Kanban Approach: How Your Dedicated Assistant can Implement It

Kanban scheduling approach for virtual assistants
Kanban scheduling system

The Kanban scheduling approach is considered as one of the simplest, more affordable, and most effective ways to help with monitoring progress as far as productivity is concerned. The Kanban approach is a good way to organize the workflow especially if you and your dedicated assistant have trouble figuring out what needs to be done first.

How It Worked for an Entrepreneur

Meet Tom. He’s an entrepreneur through and through. Specifically, he is into dropshipping. His winning products are mostly household items. Because his items are on-hand, he has always made it a point to track his items by using the “inventory method”. He taught this approach to his dedicated assistant.

Through this method, Tom knows exactly how many items they have in each category. Because of this, it is easier for him to determine when he should purchase. This process alone is important for the winning products because they mostly bring in the sales for Tom’s store. Once he determines products with a low count, he lets his dedicated assistant know about this so she can place the correct orders to their suppliers.

To make it easier for him and for his dedicated assistant, Tom even went through the trouble of designing simple software with graphs to let them know which products start to approach sellout quickly. With this program, he doesn’t need to check the inventory every day to get an exact number. He just has to look at the graphs, and he will have an idea on when to replenish stock.  By using this method, he only needs to do an inventory assessment once every two weeks. In some instances, he only has to do this once a month. His dedicated assistant is there to do the rest.

How can you and your dedicated assistant get started?

If you’re not in the dropshipping business, that’s alright! You can still use the Kanban method. Actually, this works better if you’re a visual learner. It’s because this scheduling technique uses colors, spaces, and other visual cues to relay information.

If you’re in a visual work set-up, you may set up an “online bulletin board” for your team to let them know what is going on with the week ahead. Divide the “board” into three sections:

  • Pending tasks
  • Tasks in progress
  • Completed tasks

Once the tasks are in place, you and your dedicated assistant should easily see where the entire team lies in the process. You may even assign color codes for these categories. Some categories include teams and the nature of the tasks. If you did the task segregation correctly, the virtual board should provide you with information like:

  • Number of tasks in each category
  • Team’s workload (is there a task overflow or are there upcoming days that lead to this?)
  • Team progress
  • Possibility of delegation (if you used other color coding techniques to further classify the nature of the tasks)

What can it do for your business?

Once you see the overview of the tasks based on your board, it is much easier to tell if there are bottlenecks and queues along the way. Because of this, you can decide on the spot if you have to limit workflow for the meantime. If there’s low workflow, you may use the time to provide your team with more enriching activities that will help boost their skills and up their game.

It’s important to spot where bottlenecks are because this will ultimately determine the output of the team within a given timeframe. An example is a team working on images for social media pages. The creative team can only come up with three images in a week and the social media manager can publish up to ten in the same week. The total published posts for the week will only be three regardless because the bottleneck is in the creative team.

Given this scenario, you may use the Kanban approach to check what causes the delay in the creative team. Is it an issue of the complexity of the content? Is it an issue with resources? Once you determine what the main problem is, you can dedicate your time and energy to work on it so your creative team can finally catch up with the social media manager.

When you and your dedicated assistant practice this approach more, it can help your entire team work towards continuous improvement. You may efficiently track the quality of the work by analyzing the general flow of the tasks. Aside from that, it can help you predict if your team is about to encounter a roadblock in the future. Through these insights, you can design a set of metrics to help further improve everyone’s work.

Some Takeaways

The Kanban method can help your business regardless of its size. Of course, try to refrain from placing expectations on yourself and your team to learn this approach overnight. This will require consistency in what you do so you can get the best results.

Failing My Way To Success: My Failed Attempts At Productivity

There was a time I thought I could never succeed at anything, a time when I could not even clean out my own inbox! I felt that if I could not get the little things done, there was simply no hope for me to reach any big milestone. My room was in constant chaos, my backlogs at work had gone through the roof, and my personal to-do list was a mile long. I felt like such a complete failure!

My feelings of failure were exacerbated by my failed attempts at being more productive. I experimented with several productivity tools, and failed. I later learned that it was never about the tools nor the systems.

It was all me.

I’ll tell you more about that. But first, allow me to talk about my failed experiments with productivity.

Two planners to separate my professional and personal affairs

Back when I still held a 9-5 job, I had a strict rule of not bringing any of my work home. To keep things segregated, I kept two planners – one for work and one for my home. The goal was to achieve a work-life balance, but it never worked out that way. Having two planners kept me from being flexible. There were personal items I could easily scratch off my list while at work without taking more than a minute of my time. The same thing held true for my work-related tasks.

I tried to create a separation that didn’t need to exist. Work and personal life have a way of overlapping, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s simply the reality of life.

Color-coded entries on my planners

The idea was to organize tasks under different categories. The colors were supposed to help me quickly associate specific colors with different categories. Hence, I assigned various colors to different legends. The colors were also supposed to help me identify just how far along I was to completing a task.

Instead of streamlining the process, this system only complicated things for me. For starters, I had to carry around several colored pens. In an era where we’re used to carrying around smaller and fewer things thanks to technology, this seemed counter-intuitive. It was inconvenient too! 

Worse, I had to keep tabs of everything the colors represented. This was more difficult than it seemed. I had to pull out my copy of legends frequently, and I often used the wrong colors. It came to a point where I just avoided my planners altogether. All-in-all, my productivity efforts became out of whack.

Productivity apps on my gadgets

After my failed attempts at pen and paper, I decided to take advantage of what technology had to offer. I tried this app called ‘Things’. I liked that it was cheaper, and it appeared to have everything I needed. The web app was well-designed, and its user interface was easy to understand. It also came with an iPhone app, which was the true hook for me. Unfortunately, the early version of the app didn’t offer an over-the-air sync. This became a problem when I was away from my Macbook for too long. This flaw was a deal-breaker for me, as being able to input stuff or cross off items from my to-do list while I was out and about was essential to my productivity.

Moreover, the productivity app resembled the system prescribed in David Allen’s book ‘Get Things Done’. Probably this generation’s most influential work on productivity, GTD has undoubtedly helped many people. Nevertheless, its highly structured system is not for everyone. There is a reason it’s generally avoided by creatives such as writers, designers, and musicians. Plus, right at the system’s core lies the “next action”. If you aren’t careful, your life could easily become just a series of things to get done. At least that’s what it felt like to me in my early days of trying out GTD.

It was all me

After my failed experiments on productivity, I finally learned what it meant to fail one’s way to success. Upon close examination, I realized that the tools and the systems weren’t the problem. The problem was, I simply did not understand myself well enough. Without proper introspection, it was impossible to figure out a system that would work for me.

For one, I finally came to terms with the fact that routine tasks were a point of weakness for me. The whole “I need to be good at the smaller things before I could succeed at bigger things” way of thinking turned out to be faulty. The bigger things arena was where I excelled, and I wasn’t cashing in on it.

I had all the makings of an entrepreneur – creativity, initiative, and risk-taking, to name a few. I enjoyed tackling the bigger picture and always excelled in strategic thinking. My propensity to get bored stemmed from my knack for creative thinking. While this made it hard for me to stick to routine tasks, my creativity helped me come up with ideas that would eventually fuel my entrepreneurial success. What I thought of as a weakness was actually an untapped strength!

A startup investor and mentor once said, “If you’ve remained on a corporate job for more than 25 years, you are probably not the person we’re looking for.” Successful founders all have a burning passion to create things or to be on the driver’s seat carving their own path. The same passion keeps them from sticking to a traditional corporate job for too long.

Meeting success

Gaining a better perspective on the real me helped me reevaluate what was wrong with my productivity efforts. For one, piling up my to-do lists with unnecessary stuff was debilitating. It kept me from focusing on the bigger picture. It also made me realize that I was never going to be productive in my current profession because I was at the wrong job. And as I mentioned earlier, our professional and personal lives tend to overlap. Finding a field that you’re good at will not only make your career better but your home life as well.

When I finally fulfilled my potential as an entrepreneur, I never had to create a work-life balance because work became my life – in a good way! Even while I was at home, I was thinking of all the great ways I could improve my business but not in a stressful way. I was so much happier, and it showed in the way I was treating the people around me.

As for my productivity, being my own boss helped me ace it mostly because I also was able to share my passion for my new career with others who worked with me. I delegated all the everyday tasks I wasn’t good at to people who excelled in following a structure or routine. It’s created an ecosystem of workers and tasks that lead to amazing results. With my strategic mind at the helm, we were all bound for success.

I experimented, failed, and finally met success. You can make that happen for yourself as well. Always keep in mind, there is no such thing as an overnight success.

Effective Ways to Improve Productivity Fast

Science presents us with the concept of neuroplasticity. In a nutshell, this is the ability of the brain to adapt and change based on its surroundings and what is needed. This is also one way that the brain compensates if you are lacking in some areas. For example, if you are not much of a mathematician, your brain may compensate by being more receptive to linguistic concepts. Fortunately, you can train your brain to undergo that “change”. In fact, you can even train your brain to help improve your productivity levels. Think of your brain as a muscle. It needs exercise on a regular basis. In the same way, you need to constantly stimulate your brain to boost productivity. Below are some ways to improve productivity.

Adequate Sleep

Consider this as a way for your body to recover from all the stress that it experienced throughout the day. Getting a high-quality good night’s rest is crucial for cell regeneration. This helps remove toxins that may have accumulated during the day. For best results, go to bed at around 9 or 10 in the evening. Make sure to have at least 6 to 8 hours’ worth of sleep for proper replenishment. Anything above or below this value is considered non-beneficial.

Balanced Diet

This is important because your brain gets nutrients mostly from the food you eat. You might as well feed it with good stuff, then! Some good brain food items to choose from include the following:

  • Nuts:  Increases supply of omega-3 fatty acid that’s good for brain health.
  • Salmon and other types of oily fish:  Additional omega-3 fatty acid.
  • Banana:  More vitamin C and B6 in your diet.
  • Avocado:  Abundant supply of healthy fats.
  • Blueberries:  Improves memory.
  • Whole wheat grains:  Helps to better utilize energy sources of the brain.
  • Eggs:  Brain and memory development.
  • Tomatoes:  Improves brain development and decreases inflammation.
  • Pumpkin seeds:  Better memory.
  • Blackcurrants:  Reverses manifestations of aging such as rapid memory loss.
  • Sage:  Enhances memory and concentration.
  • Broccoli:  Improves cognitive functions such as attention span, concentration, and memory.

On the other hand, avoid eating the following to maximize your brainpower:

  • Soda:  Hampers learning and memory.
  • Canned fish:  Negatively affects mood and thinking.
  • Ribeye steak:  Increases the risk for dementia.
  • Frozen pies and pizza:  Decreases concentration and attention span.
  • Soy sauce:  May lead to dementia and brain artery damage when consumed in excess.
  • Ice cream:  May cause impaired cognition and increased risk of dementia when eaten too much.
  • Cured meat:  May cause mood swings.
  • White rice:  Causes weakness and fatigue when consumed excessively.
  • French fries:  May cause brain-related problems such as stroke.
  • Alcoholic drinks:  Impairs concentration and focus.

Regular Exercise

Exercise at least 3-5 times a week. This helps improve your brain function by enhancing the rate of oxygen that gets to your brain. In effect, this helps improve the functions of your nervous system because you essentially provide it with more fuel. This also pumps up more feel-good hormones in your system. These hormones, known as endorphins, help uplift your mood. As a result, you get to focus more on what you do, thus improving your productivity levels.

There are various exercises you can do to stimulate brain function. Some of these include jogging, dancing, biking, weight lifting, and swimming. Even brisk walking can be considered a good exercise. Just make sure that the activity is slightly more difficult than the usual level of activities you perform.

Make sure to include a 5-minute warm-up before the exercise and a 5-minute cool down after to prevent or minimize muscle soreness. Also, perform the exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes to raise your heart rate to the ideal level.

Music

Studies show that children who frequently listen to piano-accompanied music are a lot better in activities that require focus and increased concentration, such as solving puzzles. In another study, children who were exposed to classical music before taking IQ tests garnered higher scores than children who were required to listen to relaxation music and children who took the exam in complete silence.

Writing

Writing is considered a way to tell your brain what is important. It helps with recall and clarifies thoughts. This also helps hone your creativity and your analytical skills. Before working on any tasks for the day, make it a point to write 500 words a day.

The rule is simple: Write down any random thought until you reach the 500-word mark. The goal is to warm up your brain for more activities throughout the day. The composition does not have to be free from grammatical errors. It also doesn’t have to make much sense to anyone because you’re the only one who will have access to it.

Hobbies

For quite a number of people, hobbies are referred to as relaxing activities. In the context of boosting productivity, this is considered a form of active rest. Studies show that people with hobbies that are unrelated to their line of work are more successful and productive in the workplace. In fact, those who engage more in these activities perform better than those who do not have at least one hobby.

There is a wide array of hobbies to choose from if you still do not have one. You may consider photography, carpentry, baking, sewing, and knitting. Hobbies should be fun. You may even wan to share your finished products in the workplace to add to the beneficial aspects of having a hobby.  Who knows, you may discover shared interests to help build bonds with colleagues.

In the end…

You don’t even have to spend a lot of money to help improve your productivity with a hobby. All you need is some dedicated time to train your brain daily with your chosen activity, and, by doing any of these regularly, you will start to see some results in a couple of weeks or months.

Best Virtual Personal Assistance Approach to Prevent Burnout

Fred and Alice are siblings who run different kinds of e-commerce stores. Alice is very passionate about make-up while her brother loves to sell gaming consoles. Both their stores are currently doing great. To help free up their workload, they decided to get the best virtual personal assistance in their fields.

Like her client, Alice’s VA is always excited to work on the store no matter how heavy the workload gets. On the other hand, Fred’s VA is not doing so well and seems to be on the brink of burnout due to lots of pending work. To help with her brother’s problem, Alice gave him some tips to help him and his VA through the hurdle. She shared what she taught her assistant so they can also apply the concepts ASAP.

 

Awareness is Key

If you don’t know the nature of the problem, you will have a problem solving it. Therefore, one way to prevent burnout is to determine if you are even dealing with it in the first place. For that matter, knowing its difference from stress and identifying the signs and symptoms are helpful first steps.

 

How is stress different from burnout?

Stress is a physical, emotional, and mental manifestation that usually takes place in bouts. It’s possible to be stressed for around five minutes. It’s also possible to be stressed for three days straight. With rest and some basic coping mechanisms (i.e., meeting with friends or going for a quick hike), these tend to go away.

On the other hand, burnout is a more complicated concern. It is a result of lots of consecutive and even simultaneous stressful episodes that lead to a breakdown. Unlike stress, you cannot easily address burnout using quick fixes that normally works for “stress episodes”. Also, the manifestations are worse than a short and stressful episode. For one thing, burnout can sap a person’s willingness to do what they need to do. Aside from that, this lack of motivation lasts for more than just a few days. In some cases, it even leads to problems such as anxiety and depression.

 

What are the signs that a burnout is underway?

In the case of Fred’s best virtual personal assistance provider, he seems to be so down while working on his tasks. Initially, the low spirits just last for a span of about two days. Lately, it seems that his depressed state remains.

He also showed indications of constant exhaustion even during days with relatively lower workloads. In fact, he seemed not to be interested in working anymore. Even if he showed up for work, he seemed not to pay much attention to his tasks. In addition, it appeared that he practically dragged himself to work even though he was home-based.

Aside from these, the VA’s quality of work started to decline. It initially started with some minor slip=ups that eventually became too frequent not to be noticed. At the time, there were too many errors, and Fred talked to him in private to see if there was something that he could do to help. To his surprise, his VA tried to deny that something was wrong and that he had nothing to worry about. Fred would not have it and taught him what his sister told him about prevention techniques for burnout. Hard as it may seem for Fred, he let his VA go for a leave of absence for one month so that he could rest and get himself together. Below, you will the changes the assistant made on his leave of absence.

 

Breathing and meditation exercises

First, assume a comfortable position such as sitting or lying down. Focus on one word, phrase, or object while doing this exercise. If possible, close your eyes while you are at it. Take a deep breath through the nose, hold your breath, count to three, and slowly exhale through the mouth. Be aware of how your breath feels against your nose, mouth, and skin. Repeat the technique for about ten more times and assess how you feel at the moment. Even if you’re currently feeling a negative emotion at the time, never fail to acknowledge it. This approach brings forth awareness not only of your body but also of your mind and your emotions.

 

Practice thankfulness

It may be the fact that you woke up this morning or someone gave you a piece of your favorite candy without any apparent reason. Whatever it is and however small the thing may seem, be thankful for it. Write your thoughts down in a journal daily. State something about the person, thing, or gesture that you are thankful about. Talk about how it made you feel and why you think it’s important. If possible, also discuss how it caused an impact on your day, big or small. Acknowledging such things helps rewire your brain and your thoughts. In the long run, it can help create positive thoughts, especially when done with the help of a healthcare professional.

 

Get away from work from time to time

In the case of Fred’s VA, Fred made sure that during the month-long break, he could do whatever he used to love. He also made sure that his VA knew to seek medical assistance to help him cope and recover from his condition. During this time, Fred made it a point to make his VA report to him on a weekly basis. During that period, his VA went out for nature trips, friend and family gatherings, and even art sessions. When he returned to work, he performed even better than when Fred first brought him to the team.

 

Epilogue

After a few weeks of implementing these techniques, Fred’s best virtual personal assistance partner was doing great. In fact, he even exceeded Fred’s expectations in terms of performance. He also turned in deliverables not only on time but earlier than his deadlines. Right now, Fred also applies the techniques that his sister taught him to help him improve his productivity levels as well.

Virtual Personal Assistant Routines to Improve Productivity

Annabelle always feels at awe whenever she has Dorothy, her virtual personal assistant, do important and urgent tasks for her. Dorothy seems so efficient at what she does that Annabelle can’t help but feel fond of her. When she asked her VA how she finishes her ton of daily tasks, Dorothy was quick to say that she makes sure not to break her routines. Here are some of the tips that she shared with Annabelle:

 

Start off your virtual personal assistant day with some exercise.

The exercise actually doesn’t have to be too strenuous, as opposed to the common belief. It can be as simple as a bout of stretches done for about 10 minutes at a time. It can also be around five minutes’ worth of walking and you’re good to go. The main goal is to make sure that you’re “awake enough” to do the rest of the tasks for the day. In our virtual personal assistant’s case, she typically gets up  around 5 AM and brisk walks her way to the nearest bakery to get her breakfast. It’s already productive in the sense that she already accomplished two things: Getting her breakfast while performing her routine to prepare for more mentally-draining work.

 

Eat your breakfast.

Dorothy does not recommend just having a random granola bar for breakfast. She meant having a full and nutritious meal to help with the first part of the day, at the very least. Nutritionists advise having breakfast with carbohydrates, protein, and a little fat in it will help to begin the day.

Here are some great combos you can try out:

  • A piece of hard-boiled egg, a couple of slices of toast, and half an avocado.
  • A cup of fruit yogurt, a slice of broiled chicken, and a cup of whole wheat oatmeal.
  • An egg sandwich, a piece of apple, and a cup of coffee.

 

Deal with the most difficult tasks in the morning.

This is important because if you’re still feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep (assuming that you did sleep well the previous night), there’s a great chance you’ll be up for tasks that require a high level of concentration.

In contrast, leave easier tasks for the afternoon. As the day wears on, so will your mind. If you do the easiest tasks first, chances are you’ll no longer have much energy to deal with the more difficult tasks for the latter part of the day. Because it will harder for you to focus on these tasks by then, you may also have problems in terms of the quality of output.

Which brings us to the next tip…

 

Prioritize what you need to do for the day.

Based on the tip stated above, you have to deal with the most difficult tasks first to be more productive. To determine what tasks will take much of your time, you need to know what they are!

Five-minute hack: Have a rundown of all the things that you have to do for the day. You do not even have to rank them or consider them as urgent or important. Just list down the things that come to mind. After that, select the top three things that you think will take a lot of your time during the day. Rank these according to priority or urgency. Focus on these tasks first. Never move on to your other tasks unless you’re already finished with your top three.

 

Watch what you eat.

Before you know it, that sugar-packed bag of sweets that you just had earlier will take its toll on you. It will eventually make you feel drowsy. Result? You’ll end up not doing as much during the afternoon. Another result? You’re about to miss a deadline.

Sure, this seems like exaggerating, but the point is you have to make sure that what you eat will help you focus more during the day. This does not necessarily mean that you need to throw out every sweet you have in your stash. This just means that you have to keep everything in moderation and ensure that you have proper nutrition even before you set off for the day.

It actually happened to Dorothy. Since this virtual personal assistant is trying to lose some weight anyway, she gave up on the sweets and looked for healthier alternatives such as apples and bananas. These food finds not only keep her awake in the afternoon but also improve her concentration levels.

 

Read an article before you set off for work.

If you’re not a fan of reading, take baby steps first. Read at least 500 words of a light article. By mentioning light, it means an article with a topic that does not drain your energy. At the same time, the article should provide you with some insights or substantial takeaways that you can ponder on during your downtime.

 

If you want to take it up a notch, write.

This does not mean that your writing needs to be “perfect”. In fact, it can be anything under the sun. It can be a random thought or a plan that you’ve been dying to implement since last month. Talk about it in your entry. Don’t be afraid of being judged – it’s for your eyes only. More than the content of what you write, the intent of writing is more important. In this case, writing serves as a warm-up for your brain and provides some stimuli to your brain in preparation for the more tedious tasks ahead.

 

The bottom line

You can’t develop routines and habits overnight. In Dorothy’s case, it took her at least a month to at least work on the routines “automatically”. Therefore, never feel disheartened if you don’t feel like doing much at the time. As long as you work on your consistency each day, there will come a time that you can be slaying it with your skills and your drive to make the most out of each day.

The One Key to My Personal and Business Success (and my Sanity!)

Throughout my 20s, I was laser focused on building my business. This meant all my resources were poured into my venture. There was one thing I wasn’t willing to sacrifice though, and that’s the quality of food I’d eat.

You hear it all the time – stories of entrepreneurs living off dollar pizza and ramen for years on end just so they could get their business off the ground. I was never one of those people. I valued my health way too much. Plus, I believed that the better I felt, the more I’d get done.

The irony is that I missed one important point – that our health goes beyond just our body. We have to mind our mental health too.

 

While I was willing to pay extra for food, I wasn’t as willing to splurge on other things. I’d do just about anything to keep that extra penny. I’d wait for hours until a taxi would pass by because I refused to pay higher Uber rates. Paying for cleaning and laundry services was beyond me, and don’t even think of making me pay for a virtual personal assistant. I chose to do everything on my own.

I thought I was making the best choices. I even took pride in my prudent lifestyle. But then it all caught up with me. For a few months, things got out of control. My dirty laundry piled up, I’d run out of groceries, and my home was in complete chaos. I almost had a psychological breakdown! Just the thought of doing something as simple as taking out the trash gave me anxiety attack.

I knew I had to make a change. It simply wasn’t working anymore.

The Key to Leadership Success

In the world of business, people are often told about how delegation is an important key to leadership success. According to Harvard Business Review, delegation benefits all the players in a business – the managers, the subordinates, and the organization as a whole. All the same, research showed that almost half of the participating companies were seeing a lack of delegation skills in their employees. Several leaders hold on to their instinctive tendency to protect work, which then fuels a constant state of overextension.

I am a solopreneur offering women’s wear via an e-commerce store. I own a dropshipping business, which allows me to run a solo operation.

To give you a quick background on the kind of business that I run — dropshipping is a type of business model where the retailer sells products without the need to have goods in stock or to work on logistics. Customer orders and shipment details are simply transferred to either another retailer, a wholesaler, or a manufacturer who then takes charge of shipping the products directly to the customer. With the logistics covered, all that I (the retailer) have to do is market and sell the products. I maintain an online store and advertise my products on social media channels. I also respond to customer inquiries and concerns.

At a glance, you’d think my business would not benefit from delegation. I thought the same, but boy, was I wrong.

It took a life crisis that bordered on a psychological breakdown for me to finally make a real CEO move – I started delegating certain aspects of my daily life! Because it meant spending money on something I would normally skimp on, that took a lot of courage and willpower on my part. But boy oh boy, did it change my life!

 

The Most Important Resource

It all started with realizing what my most valuable resource is. And no, it’s not money. It’s definitely not the few pennies I save from suffering through daily indignities. My most important resource is time! Ironically, the more I acknowledge this fact, the more money I end up saving.

Case in point, I started allocating the hours I spent waiting for a taxi to other more productive and income-generating activities. Because the marketing I do actually amounts to more sales, my time is pretty valuable. It was simply foolish to sacrifice hours of my precious time for a few dollars of savings on a taxi ride.

Now more focused on saving time rather than a few dollars, I’ve started to delegate many of my daily tasks. This boss move eventually propelled my business to new heights of success — and earned me more profits! I now also have resources to do more of the things that I love, like travelling and volunteering. Success, after all, is about living a fuller and more meaningful life.

Here are some of the tasks I’ve started to delegate:

1) Laundry

I have completely delegated my laundry to a service that includes pickup and drop off. It’s a far cry from the days when my laundry would pile up to the point where I’d have to devote a day just for the task. This used to bring me such anxiety; I still shudder from the thought of it. Now, I even have a virtual personal assistant contacting the laundry service for me. I just breathe better now.

2) Food Preparation

It’s funny how I’d care about my health so much I’d only eat healthy food but then get too caught up in my daily tasks causing me to go for hours on end without food. Well, this foolishness ended a while back. Thanks again to this lovely thing they call delegation. All it took was a few clicks on an app. I am now signed up with a food preparation and delivery program that makes sure I eat right and on time. My virtual personal assistant did a great job finding a vegan delivery program that makes sure I get the proper amount of calories and that I actually enjoy my food.

3) Household Cleaning

I have OCD, and I’m a bit of a germophobe, so I spend way too much time cleaning my home. If this task were to bring in profits, I’d be much richer for it. Hiring a cleaner is probably one of the most cost-effective things I’ve ever had to do. I also feel happier and more relaxed in my home now, I just can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner.

4) Business Operations

I didn’t realize it, but the thought that my business is a one-man show unnecessarily restricted its growth. Now that I have a virtual personal assistant taking care of the smaller tasks like responding to customer queries and complaints, I’ve just had more headspace and time to focus on the big picture. This resulted in a more put-together and successful marketing strategy. I’ve even branched out to other product lines! The returns are unreal.

Delegation has become a crucial ingredient not only for my business success but for my sanity as well. I’d prescribe it to anyone.

 

Best Virtual Personal Assistants’ Tips to Prevent Burnout

Emma is an online entrepreneur. She currently is busy researching for some winning beauty products that she can sell internationally. Because product research takes a lot of her time lately, she decides to hire some of the best virtual personal assistants that she can find for e-commerce.

The work is long-term and the tasks are monotonous. Being the empathic person that she is, she knew her VA would become eventually sick and tired of the work. Therefore, she wants to keep them productive without burning them out. She believes this will help prevent turnovers in the long run.

Provide rewards for great performance.

Even if her best virtual personal assistants are remotely working, she makes it a point to give her VAs the care they need. On top of salaries and bonuses, she also makes sure to provide medical and dental benefits for them. She does not only do this because they are an investment but also because she wants to make them feel appreciated. As soon as the workload became manageable for everyone, she also enforced more vacation days for everyone to help them recharge.

Never give your virtual assistant too much work.

One way to help her assess the optimal workload everyday is to check her VAs’ performance. She checked on the volume of work done per day and correlated this with the number of errors incurred for every ten outputs turned in. To do this, she first “segregated” the work days with the best outputs done and the work days with the lowest quality of work. From there, she checked the volume of work for both.

Based on her “research”, Emma found out that her VAs perform better with an output (completed product listing) of 20 or lower per day. Knowing this figure, she initially tried to set a quota for each VA. However, because of varying numbers of product listings that the team has to work on every day, she just made it a point to prioritize the most important listings first and allocated these to her best virtual personal assistants.

“Too much work” is a subjective thing and Emma knows this. Another quick way to let her know the perfect workload for her best virtual personal assistants is to ask. After a week, she asked her VAs what each person’s workable number of listings would be in order to benefit all members of the team. Her VAs answered 15. She tried to match this with the needed outputs per day and eventually compromised with 18 listings per VA per day. The team accepted this proposal. Everybody was happy with the expected number. After a few weeks, Emma checked some product listings, and they were superb!

Provide opportunities for growth.

Provide means to help them hone their skills more. It may be a tool or a short course about skill set that’s relevant to them. In Emma’s case, she asked one of her best virtual personal assistants which skill set she was interested in learning more about at that time. Her VA was interested in taking up photo editing classes.

Emma sensed that this was a good investment for both of them. While her VA showed enthusiasm at the idea of taking classes, Emma’s business could also profit from it at the same time because she could then use her VA to help edit photos for the product listings. With these things in mind, she gave her VA some time off to finish the course. Upon returning, her virtual assistant was excited to work and wanted to try out the things that she learned as soon as possible.

Best Virtual Personal Assistants’ Top Tip: Motivate them the best that you can.

Emma does this by mixing up the routines once in a while. She knows that when you stick to one type of work say for about a month, you’ll eventually get bored no matter how easy the job is. On some days, she even sets up leaderboards to further increase productivity. She does this on really busy days to help the team manage the workload even if more work keeps pouring in on those days.

Get rid of the things that dampen motivation.

If you’re not sure what lowers your best virtual personal assistants’ morale, observe. You may even conduct a simple anonymous survey to help them speak up. Two of the most common things that will surely kill motivation are ineffective communication and lack of organization within the company.

Encourage them to participate in the activities.

At the same time, be excited to take part in the activities as well. Your energy levels can be infectious even if you’re not aware of it. On days when her schedule permits, Emma helps out with the product listings. She even asks her VAs to comment on her work. This earns her more respect from her VAs.  As simple as this gesture may be, this further motivated her VAs to also become more productive. It’s because they know their client truly cares for them.

Some Takeaways

When it comes to work, money is not the sole motivator. Increasing your VA’s salary may not be the only solution to help them keep going despite the busy schedule. Emma knows this, so she does her best to see her VAs as more than employees. She realizes that their backgrounds may be different from hers. She believes that if you treat others nicely, they will definitely feel that they are important and are cared for. Eventually, this will not only help prevent burnout but will also pave the way for great friendships and working relationships.

E-mail Hacks to Effectively Organize Your Inbox

One of the most common means to communicate online is through e-mails. John knows this too well. This is one of the reasons he hired his new virtual assistant.

Things are now going smoothly as far as answering e-mails are concerned. John can take care of his business while his assistant ensures that every e-mail is answered adequately. However, as his business began to gain traction over the last few months, the e-mail bulk started piling up faster than his VA could accommodate. His VA should answer at least 80 e-mails per day. In some cases, she was able to answer more than a hundred on extremely busy days. How did he handle this without hiring another VA? He taught his assistant the following e-mail hacks.

Use the “three-category system” to classify the mails.

He instructed her to set three main categories for efficiency:

  • Sales/Customer Transactions
  • Inquiries
  • For John’s direct handling (receipts, important documents, and statements of accounts)

John advised his VA to do this as soon as she was done clocking in. This helped lessen the guesswork that came with analyzing each message. Looking for common keywords may also help with the classification of each mail.

There’s just one exception to this technique: If she can answer the e-mail right away after seeing it, she might as well go ahead and do it. If it takes her more than 5 seconds to think of a cohesive response, it’s better to place it in one of the three folders until later.

John also recommended his VA to classify the e-mails according to business needs or personal preferences. Here are two possible choices you may use as well:

  • Deadline-focused: You may use later, tomorrow, and next week as your three categories.
  • Action-focused: You may utilize refer, reply, and hold as the folders.

John’s VA uses the deadline-focused classification system. John’s transactions are time-sensitive, after all. The system helps her prioritize which e-mail should be answered first. In the long run, this helped them timely close the most number of deals in a week. Classifying emails increased customer satisfaction and lessened stress for the VA and the business owner. This is a win-win situation!

Cut down on unnecessary e-mail queues.

John taught his VA to set blocks of time to reply to different types of e-mails. For example, the first three hours of the shift is used to address inquiries alone. The next four hours are used for the transactions. Allocating tasks using this technique helps his VA focus more on answering the same types of questions. She can do this without compromising the quality of the message. Also, she will not lose her momentum easily because she only has to think about one general theme (read one type of e-mail topic) at a time.

He also trained his VA to scan the e-mails to see if the messages needed replies in the first place. There’s no need for a reply if the e-mail only contains a simple thank you. Responding with “you’re welcome” is not only counterproductive but also a time-waster. The VA may instead archive or delete the message after receiving it.

Installing or setting up an e-mail filter is another e-mail hack that helps significantly lower the queues to a manageable number. In this case, John set up the e-mail software to whitelist potential customers and business partners. This helps prioritize the whitelisted people when they send an e-mail to John’s company. The other filtered mails are answered at a later time.

To further reinforce this filtering system, he also taught his VA to identify spam e-mails from the typical ones. Pressing the “mark as spam” button teaches the software over time to identify messages that are not important. Experts say that this can significantly lower the queues by as much as 30%.

Compose canned messages.

If John’s VA will manually answer the same set of questions with the same set of answers for the entire day, it would drive her nuts! Just imagine saying the same thing to different people throughout the day. You’ll surely end up exhausted and exasperated. To address this concern, John required his assistant to come up with the company’s FAQs. From there, she had to compose the most common but comprehensive answers possible. This saved her a lot of time in the process.

John did not interfere with how his VA chose her template and how she applied each one as appropriate. In this case, she used Sticky Notes so she can easily copy and paste her replies to each message. Take note that while this may be the best approach for her, it is not the only one available. For instance, Google Mail also provides this feature.

E-mail hacks, in a nutshell…

Answering e-mails is possibly a waste of time depending on how you handle it. It is much easier for you to use the rest of the time to take care of other more important tasks once you learn the ropes. Using plug-ins and tools can further improve the way you handle the messages in the long run. Right now, John’s company receives wonderful feedback on how timely they take care of customers’ concerns through email, and this is thanks to a set of simple e-mail hacks!

Dedicated Assistant Guide: Done vs. Perfect

Charlie is a very busy CEO. Aside from juggling with management-related tasks, he also attends graduate studies to further boost his arsenal of skills and expertise. Being a working student brings about a lot of sleep-deprived nights and a lot of caffeine-boosted mornings and evenings. He finally tried to snap out of the cycle and hired Warren, a dedicated assistant, to help him.

Having Warren on the team is one of the best decisions that Charlie has made since building his company. He was able to take a lot of things off his plate in a breeze and seems to get a lot more done than he can do himself. However, there is still a lot that needs to be done that he can’t delegate to his dedicated assistant. Aside from paperwork, he has to take care of the financial part of the business and talk to potential clients. Right now, his main problem is how to get everything done without compromising the quality of his work.

Charlie has always been a perfectionist. This is especially true when it comes to written work. He would literally take hours to complete a single page of text for his clients to review. Before he knew it, each workday came to close, and he had yet to take care of other things. Warren saw this concern and offered him some insights to get things done.

Prioritize the tasks.

Almost all the productivity tricks that you can get from most experts will require you to know which task should come first. Charlie’s dedicated assistant asked him to determine which of the tasks are important and which are urgent. To this, Charlie remarked that all tasks are important in the first place. So they proceeded to analyze which of the tasks should come first.

At the time they were discussing the above, Charlie pointed out three important tasks that he needed to do:

  1. Existing clients’ invoices
  2. First draft for his school presentation
  3. Draft of the contract for new clients

The invoices should be turned in the next day. The school presentation draft was due the next week while the contract drafts were to be be done in three days’ time. Sequencing the tasks according to priority was not much of a problem. However, Charlie dwelling on an item for too long would be concerning.  His dedicated assistant saw this as a potential problem, and he then proceeded to the next tip to prevent this from happening.

Set a deadline for each task.

During this phase, Warren reminded the CEO that he does not have to make the paperwork perfect – he just needs to complete them for the time being. To do this, they agreed on a set time slot for each task. Charlie needed to issue 10 invoices for the next day, so they set a maximum of 30 minutes for each. That means he should complete this task in 5 hours or less.

After that, Warren will help him distribute these to his clients so Charlie can work on the contract draft. For this task, they agreed to have the task done in about 10 hours. Warren will then take care of proofreading and editing before sending out the final copy.

For the final task, they divided the presentation into four parts. These will be due in four days. Charlie will work on one part of the presentation per day and Warren will help recheck each part.

Have the correct mindset.

Charlie was obsessed with the idea that he should present paperwork that reflects the company which for him meant high quality work that was free from mistakes. The point is, no company is perfect. In fact, his clients don’t care much if the invoice and the contract he sends have impeccable spelling and grammar. As long as the essential information in each document is accurate, they’re good to go and ready to close the deal with him anyway.

Upon closer examination, Charlie’s dedicated assistant noticed that the perfectionism came from previously given ill-worded feedback a few years back. Charlie was too afraid to make the same mistakes again so he made sure that investors would not see any loopholes as far as spelling and grammar were concerned.

While this is a good approach, it actually defeats the purpose of being productive because the tension from incomplete tasks piles up the more time he spent polishing a single line of text. Warren advised him to not focus on the feelings of shame and judgment while working on the papers. After all, he does the important work to further the name of the company. Therefore, he might as well focus on getting more done so the company can benefit a lot from it in the long run.

The Dedicated Assistant’s Main Takeaway

At the end of the workweek, Charlie was thankful to have his dedicated assistant around. Because of that, he managed to complete everything in time. He also had the best week ever in terms of sleep! By the time the following week came rolling in, he managed to recharge. Because of this, he closed new deals with new clients, maintained great relationships with existing ones, and aced his school presentation. Along the way, Warren constantly reminded him not to be afraid of making mistakes. In this case, his VA told him that he should not be too conscious of committing some minor grammatical errors one way or another.