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.

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.

Brilliant Ways to Encourage Productivity for Your Virtual Personal Assistant

On average, a typical VA spends around 8 to 10 hours working each day. Most of the time, this is more than the 6 to 8 hours of sleep they get daily (sometimes even less). This means that a full-time virtual personal assistant spends more time communicating with you and working on your tasks than accomplishing their own personal tasks. Therefore, how you treat them in the workplace can make or break their mood and, consequently, their overall productivity.

 

A highly-motivated VA can provide not only outstanding output but also an energized aura that can be contagious for your entire online working space. The positive ambiance this creates can lead to more opportunities for growth and can encourage creativity in performing their tasks. In this article, we will tackle some techniques to help you become more of a leader and less of a boss for not only your VA but your entire team.

Always have their best interest in mind.

To better put this into perspective, treat them as family in the sense that you will never abandon them no matter what. Allow them to know that even if they make a mistake from time-to-time, you will always be there for them without prior judgment. If you make them feel safe from day one, they will most likely have your back and will be willing to help you in any way they can. In a way, this is your VA’s way of expressing gratitude.

Affirm them for something awesome that they did.

That something may be a higher number of answered e-mails, a commendation from your client because of their work, or just a thoughtful note that helped you increase your sales in a day. It doesn’t matter if that something is small in the eyes of others. If it’s an achievement, it’s worth celebrating.

A simple but good way to do this is to acknowledge how their work ethic makes the workplace a little brighter. Even just a short e-mail or a quick chat message on how well they did will surely brighten your VA’s day. Most VAs who receive affirmations perform even better when they are shown appreciation.

Curb the urge to micromanage.

Frustration sets in when meddling with the work they do. Resist the urge to scrutinize their work. If someone were to do this to you, you would surely become frustrated as you are trusted to know your timeline and how to do your tasks. The same is so for most seasoned VAs.

Let your VA take ownership of what they do. Let them handle their time and resources as they see fit. Just ensure that these are within reasonable means and you’re good to go. If you hired a self-starter, you should allow them to set their own pace. Asking your VA for updates around once or twice a week is a good frequency.

Communicate clearly.

Aside from the initial orientation and training that your VA has to go through, you have to be clear with the outcomes you expect with each assigned task. Encourage two-way communication in your virtual workspace. Allow them to reach out to you if they need to ask questions or to simply raise a concern that’s on their mind. They will surely appreciate the openness and perform at their best.

As with work discrepancies and errors, never resort to blaming. This will not only lower your VA’s morale but can create a negative impact on their output, not to mention, they will have lower confidence in what they do.

Support your virtual personal assistant in every possible way you can.

Provide them with learning resources they can use to further improve in their role in your company. If possible, you may discuss the materials with them and obtain their insights. When you do this, you get to train and retrain them – even update their skillset in some cases. In the long run, as you supply them with more knowledge in their respective field, you also boost their confidence

However, make sure you know where to draw the line when supporting them. Ensure that you avoid spoon feeding to further encourage their sense of independence. By doing so, you do not only mold them to be a more productive professionally but help them grow as a person.

Provide incentives when they deserve it.

The incentive can be monetary or otherwise, depending on the current budget of your company. If possible, discuss the incentive system in your company, if there is any. This will give your VA an additional goal to keep in mind. It isn’t actually about the reward itself but about having an additional healthy challenge to take on. Just make sure that the prerequisites to get the incentive are not outrageously difficult or downright impossible. If you do this, you discourage productivity. Why would anyone shoot for something they know is impossible to attain.

There are times that your VA will not feel like working. To be fair, we all have those days. If you treat them well and sincerely from the get-go, they will still choose to log in their hours without feeling as though they are dragging themselves into work. The main difference lies in how you see them and how you make them feel as your virtual assistant. As the saying goes, take care of your employees, and they will surely take care of you and your business. This is possible if they are productive because of high motivation and morale in the workplace.

Practical Tips that can Make You Effectively Delegate to Your Dedicated Assistant

No matter your intention, delegation is easier said than done. It doesn’t just mean you have to distribute work that you hate to your dedicated assistant; in fact, how you delegate is sometimes considered an art. When delegating is done correctly, it can pave the way to more tasks getting done within a day without you technically completing them yourself.

Why Delegate to Your Dedicated Assistant?

One common mindset business managers have with delegation is it’s simply passing off random pieces of work to their VA. When done this way, delegating becomes a constant cycle of trial-and-error. Here are some benefits that you and your company may have if you master the art of delegation:

    • You save more time and resources because your dedicated assistant does not have to figure out how a large chunk of the task should be done.
    • It makes everyone’s workload more manageable, thus reducing stress levels for everyone on the team.
    • Delegating provides you with precious opportunities to teach your VA. Not only will this improve their skillset, but it will also sharpen your communication skills further.

Preparation Before Task Distribution

Preparing does not mean you just have to list down everything you want done. Preparation requires discernment to determine which tasks you can definitely allow your dedicated assistant to handle. To distribute tasks easily, you have to realize that you can’t do all the tasks yourself. To help determine what tasks can be managed by your VA you may use the following tips:

    • Build rapport with your VA. Delegating tasks helps to build a long-lasting and harmonious relationship with your dedicated assistant over time. You have to do this for you and your VA to develop trust before you assign anything to them.
    • Consider their skillset before you give out the tasks. Also, consider their interests before you assign tasks as well as the current workload. Also, determine their success in taking on similar tasks, how they work on those tasks, and how they deal with pressure when working on these things.
    • Explain why you need to delegate the tasks to them. At this point, you may also consider telling them about the bigger picture – how this task can affect business operations. If applicable, you may also tell them how this can affect them as a part of the company.
    • Set your expectations. Set timelines and milestones to further enforce commitment on the project. Specify the delivery and check that they understand this as well as the terms laid out.

The Art of Delegation

Here are some important tips to check out when you decide to assign the tasks to your dedicated assistant:

    • Develop trust and accountability. This goes both ways. Show them that you place your faith in their skills and how they can help you in the long run. Never be overbearing even if you feel the pressure to meet an urgent deadline. Doing so will sap the productivity out of your VA even more.
    • Clearly communicate the tasks. Make sure to specify how you expect the task to be done. If the task does not require a rigid process to complete, you may instead inform your VA of the outcome you expect to have by the end of an agreed working period. Encourage them to ask questions and seek clarification to ensure that you’re on the same page.
    • Devise a project plan and discuss it with your dedicated assistant. You may include how you prioritize the tasks during this phase. Consider the urgency of the project and the length of time needed for completion. When devising the plan, be realistic about the goals and expectations.
    • Use relevant tools and equipment, if applicable. You may also conduct a short training or provide materials and resources to reinforce the skills they can use to finish the project. Thoroughly review the materials that you’re giving your dedicated assistant to ensure that these are up-to-date and relevant to the tasks.
    • Document crucial information such as workflow, tracking systems, relevant project data, summaries, and endorsements.
    • Make sure to be available if ever they have questions or problems as they work through the project. This will help further improve their efficiency with the task. If you can’t be available all day, make sure to set a specific time slot each day when they can easily contact you for any concerns. Your availability is important to resolve conflicts as soon as possible instead of learning about them a few days or hours before the deadline.
    • Provide constructive feedback. Try using the sandwich method when giving feedback to your dedicated assistant. This involves presenting them with some positive points at the beginning then gradually introducing points for improvement. Cap everything off with some more positive feedback based on how they performed so far. When providing feedback, remember to give credit where it’s due. Always show gratitude to your VA for a job well done. Show sincerity and genuine appreciation for their help. To show your gratitude even more, point out the things that they did really well during crunch time. The gesture will not only warm their heart but will also improve how they see you as a leader and as a person.

While following these tips, remind yourself that when you’re on good terms with your dedicated assistant, they will do all they can to do well with tasks so your project will be successful. Be sure to match this level of enthusiasm with your own passion so you can be successful.

Capping It Off

Delegation is a good way to keep your hands off simple and monotonous tasks while you do other things to help grow your business. To do this effectively, you have to remove the mindset that only you can do everything correctly. Learn when to seek help and where to look for assistance. In this case, we can help you by providing you with high-quality services through our brilliant virtual assistants.

Team Productivity: 6 Effective Tips to Help You Improve

No matter how great your team is right now, you can still do something to further increase everyone’s productivity without sacrificing their health and sanity. There is no exact science on how you can do this. However, if you know your team and its dynamics well, you can do something to further boost their productivity with ease. The following are just some tips on how to improve team productivity:

 

Set goals with the team.

Every team is unique so you have to set goals that will work towards everyone’s interests and vision. Set both long-term goals and short-term goals. Long-term goals are usually those that you want your team to accomplish within at least six months to a year. While some may go as far into the future as five or ten years, this is not recommended as you can always review the goals after a few months and revise them accordingly.

As for short-term goals, you may set daily, weekly, and monthly goals. While you’re formulating these targets with your team, make sure to explain in detail how these short-term goals translate within the long-term goals you created with them. Also, speak with them about how these goals will affect them and the company as a whole. Discussing these goals will help everyone appropriately align their motivation to be productive.

Be a good example.

Self-discipline is a good way to go. You don’t have to be the perfect leader – you just have to do what is expected of you. When your team sees you persevering, this causes a ripple effect. Little by little, they will start imitating your example, consciously or otherwise. The end result of perseverance is increased productivity within the group.

Understand the process of creating team expectations.

If possible, you may also teach them how it’s done. To teach them the process, you need to have prior mastery of the skills that you want to impart to your team. Create visual aids and other similar teaching materials to make it easier for you to show them the ropes.

Schedule a meeting appropriately as a sign of respect for their time. If the training can’t be completed in a couple of hours, consider dividing the concepts into smaller parts and teach them in a series-like format.

During and after discussions, encourage them to ask questions. Be open for clarifications and allow them to discuss with you and each other what they think of the process and if they think more suggestions are in order.

Give them free reign to be creative.

They will appreciate the gesture. If possible, allow them the freedom to have flexible work schedules. This is important because no two people have exactly the same “productive time slot”. By allowing them to work during their most productive times, you allow them the chance to make the most out of their creativity by permitting them to be “in their zone” every time they work with the team.

At some point during the work day, they will need a break and that’s okay. Allow them time to regroup, and they will surely feel refreshed and may even return with new ideas that they can share with the group. However, sometimes, patience is key. Creative ideas cannot be forced, so, it may take some time before they have one or two good breakthroughs.

When they do have suggestions, make sure to listen to them without judgment. Never judge suggestions or ideas even if you think the idea is not good at the time. Take note of the idea. You never know when this might come in handy.

Provide everyone with feedback.

Initially, you may give individual feedback in private, then as a group. You may even ask them to give you feedback on how you fare as their leader so far. If you’re planning to do this, assure them beforehand that anything they tell you will not affect how you see them as a team member and as a person. If possible, you may even conduct a survey of anonymous respondents so they will feel more comfortable sharing their insights. The important key here is to discuss the type of feedback system that works best for everyone.

Conduct motivational sessions before crunch time.

It can be somewhere between 5 to 15 minutes. You may also treat this as a short session to check on each member in order to assess how they are doing as a group. For sessions like this one, you may share a quotation or an anecdote and relate this with the current situation that the team is facing. You may also encourage them to share their experiences and relate to them. Discourage team members from judging each experience and provide a supportive environment for everyone.

Despite any setbacks, you should place team member welfare above everything else. Make sure that in the process of doing your part in the project, you will not get so caught up in the job that you eventually forget to see your team members as people from different walks of life. Career growth is important, but, always remember to care for team members. You will surely not regret this.

Efficient Ways to Have More Free Time

A typical office workday has its employees working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This 8-hour grind is not a magic number, sadly, but a product of an outdated workplace concept. On average, each employee is expected to have increased productivity during a 40-hour workweek – sometimes even more! However, studies show that expectations are meant to face disappointment because an increase in working hours does not necessarily translate to better output, and this is in terms of both quality and quantity. More free time is the latest hit!

Why is it having a shorter work week popular these days?

In a nutshell, working shorter hours within the week gives people extra time for things that mean more to them, may it be a hobby such as gardening or volunteer work that requires teaching kids at least 5 hours in a week.  Hobbies and other meaningful work helps to give meaning or purpose to our lives and can even aid in fueling out passion and overall satisfaction at work.

How do I get started in getting more free time?

First off, you have to consider the tasks that are urgent and important. List them down and prioritize them according to when it is needed and how massive the task at hand is. You may then proceed with the following tips:

1. Set a workweek “budget”.

If you’re reading this article, it most likely means you want to work less than 40 hours a week. In this case, you have to set a realistic yet comfortable number of hours that you can’t be disturbed. Depending on the nature of your work and responsibilities, it can be somewhere between 15 to 30 hours a week. Make sure to stick to it for the rest of the week. If you change your mind and realize that you have to render more or less time, go for it the week after.

Suppose you picked 15 working hours for this week, determine the number of days you can work on your tasks for that week. If you need to be present online for most days of the week, perhaps a 3-hour work day for 5 days of the week is a good call. Just make sure that when you work, you will anticipate the distractions. If you still don’t have an idea how to manage distractions, don’t worry. We also have a separate article for that.

2. Determine a limited working time for each task.

This is known as “time boxes”. Usually, people have the tendency to stretch the length of work time depending on the amount of time allotted for the task. Therefore, if you give yourself the entire day to work on a task, effects can be detrimental as you’re prone to distractions such as other side tasks that are not as urgent or as important. Set at least one hour to finish one task. If you’re having trouble completing it within this given time-frame, consider breaking it down into smaller chunks of work.

For example, if you’re working on an illustration for your company’s poster, break down this large task into these smaller ones: Creating the rough sketch, smoothing out the lines, coloring in the image, and working on the finishing touches. It seems almost impossible to work on that illustration within just an hour (unless you’re super fast and talented allowing you to whip up an image within a very short span of time). Therefore, we can break down the smaller tasks into 30-minute or one-hour increments depending on the complexity of the poster that you intend to complete.

3. Master the art of setting boundaries.

This is a problem if you’re too hardworking and you don’t want to place the burden on anyone but yourself. While it’s a sweet and thoughtful gesture, keep in mind that you can’t do everything – and you don’t have to! Check your list of tasks and see if only you can handle it. If you think someone else may be up for the job, you may politely decline the task and recommend another person for consideration. Doing this will not only avoid bad blood in the workplace but can also help promote teamwork in the long run.

4. Dedicate a specific time slot for bulky and monotonous tasks.

One of the most common tasks that can really be exhausting is answering e-mails with similar content. Before you know it, this will burn you out even before the day starts.

If you don’t have to answer all the e-mails at once, it may be best to pace your e-mail tasks. Consider distributing the task for the entire week. If you’ve dedicated a 3-hour session for each day, allot 30 minutes of that to e-mails.

5. Never touch work when it’s not within schedule.

The rigidity will help you stay focused because of the limited time you need to spend on it. Aside from helping you reduce distractions, this will help you reduce the frequency of errors. In effect, this increases your overall efficiency.

6. Outsource the rest of your tasks.

If you have little experience working on a task, ask for help from experts. If you need some help looking for a virtual assistant under your niche, we can try to help you.

Where do I go from here?

The main point of reducing your working hours is to make time for more meaningful things. These may be in the form of quality family time, a hobby, or a charity movement. If you manage your time wisely, you may even be able to accomplish all three at once! At the end of the day, working will not define who you are. There’s so much more to life than that!

Proven Ways to Reduce Distractions that You Need to Know

In a world full of people with fast-paced lifestyles, distractions are on the rise. In fact, it has been rampant in different types of industries, and it potentially decreases productivity levels by a hundredfold if not timely and accurately addressed. Fortunately, distractions can be minimized, if not completely obliterated. Find out more in this article about how to reduce distractions.

Prioritize the tasks at hand.

Contrary to popular belief, you should not only list down things you need to accomplish but also take note of things you should not do while you are working or trying to finish tasks. This is important because listing down things that you should avoid while working will help you set boundaries for those things that take time away from your work productivity. In effect, this will help you get things done much faster.

Divide the work into smaller chunks.

For instance, if you are required to arrange ten large boxes of office supplies and eventually stack them neatly on top of the other within the week, doing it in one go may be really exhausting for you. For some people, just thinking about this task will be really tiring. Worse, they may abandon the task altogether. To help prevent this, you may break down the task in such a way that you will only be required to work on one or two boxes per day. Just make sure that everyday, you work on a small part of the larger task to get things done in time.

Do the tasks when other people are not available.

Take note of your quieter times when no one is around to interfere. Usually, early morning is the best time for productivity because few people are up at that hour. In essence, opt to do the opposite of what other people are doing. Therefore, if most of your companions are up and about by around 7 in the morning, make sure to start working on your most important tasks by around 5 in the morning. Also, assess the times when the distractions are least present. Check out what times during the day are mostly quiet for you, as well. This is proven more effective than conforming to preset working hours.

Learn to say no.

It’s alright for you to decline the demands of other people around you. This is especially important if your tasks are crucial at the time and their requests are not. By doing so, you can save time. You may use this extra time to focus more on things you need to do. Also, their reaction when you say no can tell you how important you are to them as a person. If you feel bad about saying no, perhaps you can make a compromise to help them once you are finished with what you need to do.

Only set two or three tasks at a time.

If you have to do at least 10 tasks in a day, you may have a hard time doing that within a day. To help deter distractions, have two or three tasks lined up for the day. Make sure these are the most important tasks you need to finish.

In this context, you can prioritize your tasks using these two main guidelines:

1. Urgency
Segregate your tasks according to its need to be finished as soon as possible. Needless to say, if the due date is within the day or anytime within the week, list that down as a priority.

2. Expertise
There may be some tasks that you find difficult to work on and asking for help is not a bad idea. This provides the opportunity to enlist the help of a virtual assistant. Delegate your tasks and be more productive while accumulating more free time.

Hiring a virtual assistant can help you save time because you don’t have to figure out concepts that are confusing for you. Instead, you can look for an expert who doesn’t have a hard time working through your current hurdle.

In some instances, even one task for the entire day is fine as long as you see it through. By doing so, this can not only help you be productive throughout the day but will also bring about the great feeling of accomplishment once you finish the task.

If you do not understand a certain task, skip it for now.

In case there is an important part of the task that you do not understand, just leave it be for the moment then just come back to it once some of your other tasks have been completed. As much as possible, complete things you can do without any problems. Aside from helping you work faster, this will ensure you can maintain a certain level of momentum which will assist in helping you to move forward onto other tasks.

If you need to have these tasks done as soon as possible, consider getting help from experts, such as VAs. Not only can they help you save a lot of time, but they can also contribute to better output because they know their craft well.

Use your learning style to your advantage.

For visual learners, consider using sketches and colorful lists of tasks to help monitor the progress. Creating a systematically colored checklist may also provide the same benefit. If you are an aural learner, check out audio books about the topics that you have to study to. This will help you learn the material easily and ace your examination without being too hard on yourself.

If you need to take a break, only go for active breaks.

This can work even with incomplete tasks. This is important and is closely related to how you can keep your momentum up while working. When you subject yourself to active rest, you are not working on the tasks at hand. However, this will shift your mind to something related to it. One example is reading one current-event article while on a study break. You are still reading, but you are temporarily keeping your mind off the lessons that you are studying.

It is perfectly understandable if you cannot readily perfect the art of shutting out distractions. However, this should not make you want to slack off more, either! In using these techniques, just take one baby step at a time. You do not have to rush things, just remember to be consistent in applying the tips.

 

4 Amazing Exercises to Boost Productivity

When you exercise, you spend a part of your time each day to complete the routines. Based on this premise, you’ll spend time doing other activities that should be allotted for your work to boost productivity. That seems counterproductive, right?

 

Wrong. Studies show that when you exercise regularly your mind becomes sharper and your mood significantly improves. The blood flow to your brain increases, thus improving its efficiency. These, in turn, help boost your productivity by at least 20% more. The World Health Organization recommends exercising at least 30 minutes in a day. You may set one 30-minute session or break it down into smaller chunks throughout the course of the day.

Except for breathing exercises, activities should be a bit difficult than what you’re typically used to (breathing exercises focus more on rhythm, so, this is not applicable in this case). Also, your heartbeat should be slightly elevated when doing these activities.

One easy way to know if you’re exercising hard enough is using the “talk and sing test” which includes the following:

  • If you can exercise while talking or singing that means the exercise is too easy for you. In this case, you need to speed things up or make the weights heavier.
  • If you can exercise while talking but can’t do it while singing that means the exercise intensity is just about right for you.
  • If you can neither sing nor talk that means you’re working out too hard. You need to slow down a bit or lift slightly lessen your weight load.

1. Breathing Exercises

This is the foundation for all the other exercises that you will perform. Therefore, you need to master how to do this. This can help boost productivity by encouraging your body to supply more oxygen to your brain. Remember, oxygen is a precious commodity for your brain. Low supplies of oxygen can make you feel sluggish and lethargic, thus decreasing your chances to perform better at work. Examples for breathing exercises may include:

  • The 4-7-8 breathing pattern: This is an activity that you can do each time you feel stressed out. Sit on a chair with your back straight. Place your tongue against the upper palate, specifically, where your upper incisors meet your gums. Rest your tongue against that area for the entire activity. Quietly inhale through your nose, count up to four, hold your breath for seven counts, exhale through your mouth for eight counts, and then make a whooshing sound while you’re at it. Do this slowly so as not to constrict your airway. Do this three or four more times.
  • Breathing with meditation and/or mindfulness: This is a bit similar to the 4-7-8 breathing activity. The main difference is that this has progressions. For this exercise, you need to sit upright or lie down first. Closing your eyes can help you avoid distractions so you can focus more on the breathing pattern. Perform the 4-7-8 pattern for 15 minutes. When you’ve mastered breathing while sitting or lying down, progress to meditating with your eyes open, then while walking, then while doing your usual chores.

2. Strengthening Exercises (resistance exercises)

These can help bulk up your muscles. It can help improve your productivity levels by increasing the rates of pumping blood around the body. This is especially evident in the calf muscles. Aside from that, this can help correct postural problems and eventually get rid of pain and discomfort due to poor posture. You can do these exercises 3-5 times a week. Start off with 2 sets of 10 repetitions each. These exercises may include:

  • Lower back: Bridges are good exercises to begin with.
  • Abdomen: Fortunately, crunches are not the only way to go (these are good exercises, though!). Other variations are double leg lifts and planks.
  • Hips: Single leg lift exercise is a good start. Progress this by incorporating ankle weights.
  • Shoulders: Dumbbells or kettlebells are your friends.

3. Aerobic Exercises

This type of exercise mainly focuses on the cardiovascular system. Thus, it can help promote better blood circulation while improving your tolerance for prolonged physical work. If your work becomes easier for you physically, it helps you accomplish more chores without getting tired easily. You can do these exercises 4-6 times a week. Go for a minimum of 15-20 minutes and progress until you reach one hour. Aerobic exercise may include:

  • Walking: No, your usual walking will not normally cut it. If you’re just starting out with this entire exercise thing, you can prolong your walking time. When you get used to that, switch to brisk walking.
  • Running: Heck, you can even do continuous training so you can take part in marathons.
  • Swimming: If possible, make sure the water is a bit warm when you exercise.
  • Dancing: May it be video game dancing or some classic dance classes, get your groove on. Jamming with friends is highly recommended!

4. Flexibility Exercises

Most of the activities under this exercise type aim to improve the range of motion of your muscles and joints. This also helps relieve tension in different muscle groups. As a result, it reduces your stress levels. You can do these exercises 5-6 times a week. Start off with 3 repetitions with a 30-second hold of each muscle group.

  • Abdominal stretches: Get in a prone position. Prop your arms up and hold the position for 30 seconds. This is equivalent to one repetition.
  • Lower back stretches: While in a long sitting position with your back straight, stretch out your arms in front of you and reach for your toes.
  • Shoulder stretches: Sit up straight and place one arm behind you. Using your other hand, tilt your head to the opposite direction until you feel a stretching sensation at the side of your neck.

It’s best to perform these exercises alternatively for two good reasons: First, this can help your major muscle groups take a break while other muscles are worked out for a specific day; and, second, this will prevent boredom. The latter is more important because this will tell if you’ll be in it for the long haul. If all else fails, be accountable to someone else (i.e., trusted friend, gym buddies, close family member) so you’ll adhere to your routines more efficiently.