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.

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.

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!

Top 7 Ways a Virtual Assistant Can Improve Your Life

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Business vector designed by Freepik

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your day to day schedule and would love to have more free time up your sleeve, you may want to seriously consider hiring a virtual assistant. How can hiring a virtual assistant, transform your life? By delegating personal tasks and basic business tasks to a competent virtual assistant, you’ll free up time to work on taking your business to the next level and will have more time to spend with your friends and family.

If you’re curious about the types of tasks which can be outsourced to a virtual assistant, simply continue reading to discover a variety of examples.

Examples of personal tasks and basic business tasks which can be handled by a virtual assistant:

1. Email management

If you receive dozens of emails per day, a virtual assistant can manage your inbox and can highlight important emails which you should address as soon as possible. A virtual assistant may also be able to prioritize personal emails that you receive from family members, so that they don’t get lost amongst your emails.

A virtual assistant may also be able to unsubscribe you from any email lists, that you’re no longer interested in receiving emails from. As there is nothing worse than logging into your email account and being confronted with dozens of promotional emails, from companies that you’ve only shopped with once or twice.

2. Social media management

If your business has a social media presence on websites such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter, a virtual assistant may be able to run your business’s accounts. As an example, a virtual assistant acting as a social media manager, can engage with your customers, run competitions and put up posts on behalf of your company.

You may also be tempted to hire a virtual assistant to act as your social media manager, if you’re running an international business and would like posts to be placed on your accounts around the clock. After all, you already have enough on your plate without having to worry about placing posts on Facebook and Twitter, in the middle of the night.

3. Research tasks

Virtual assistants can also be hired to conduct research on your behalf. As an example, virtual assistants can assist you with personal tasks such as finding the lowest price, on a gift for a loved one. Alternatively, virtual assistants can also help you out with business related research tasks such as finding a suitable restaurant for a business meeting or arranging transportation to and from meetings.

As an example, if you’re flying out of town for a business trip, a virtual assistant can assure that their is a shuttle or taxi cab waiting for you when you get off your flight. Better yet, a virtual assistant may also be able to find a hotel or resort, which meets all of your specifications. As an example, if you require your chosen hotel to be located within a ten minute drive of a specific conference facility, a virtual assistant can send you a list of hotels which suit.

4. Appointment management

A virtual assistant can contact clients or employees on your behalf, in order to arrange meetings that suit each individual involved. Better yet, your virtual assistant can also program your appointments into your calendar, so that you’ll be alerted about each meeting, on the day of each meeting. If for some reason you need to reschedule an appointment, a virtual assistant can also contact those involved, in order to make alternative arrangements.

5. Personal shopping

If you lead a busy life, you may be able to free up some well needed extra time by delegating menial shopping tasks to a virtual assistant. As an example, if your preferred grocery store offers an online delivery service your virtual assistant may be able to manage your orders and if necessary add items to your shopping list, on a week to week basis. As an example, if you’re planning a social get together, a virtual assistant can ensure that you’ve ordered enough food and drink to cater for everyone on your guest list.

As an alternative example, a virtual assistant can also watch your saved auctions on Ebay and can scour the internet to see whether your favorite pair of jeans are still for sale.

6. Family related tasks

Whether you need to find a reputable babysitter in a hurry or need to find a venue for your child’s birthday party, a professional virtual assistant, will be able to assist you with your family related tasks. As an example, if you need to find a new dentist for your family, a virtual assistant can research all the dental practices in your vicinity, to find out which practices have the highest reviews. Once you choose a dental practice, your virtual assistant can also handle your family’s dental bookings.

As an alternative example, if you don’t have the time to keep your house looking pristine, a virtual assistant may also be able to hire a cleaning company for you. Best of all, a virtual assistant can check potential cleaning companies references, before making a booking, as you need to be able to trust a cleaning company, before inviting their staff into your home.

7. Proofreading tasks

If you’d appreciate a second pair of eyes, in order to proof read an important document, a virtual assistant will be able to help you by carefully proofreading your document. Better yet, your virtual assistant may be able to help you with editing your document. So if you assumed that you’d have to hire a professional editor, in order to proofread a document or marketing material, think again. Most virtual assistants have a tertiary level education and have plenty of experience proofreading documents.

So if you find yourself overworked and stressed out and wish that you had more free time to spend with your family and friends, it’s certainly well worth considering hiring a virtual assistant on a trial basis. Just a word of warning, once you discover how hiring a virtual assistant can transform your life, you’ll never want to go without a virtual assistant again and may come to see a virtual assistant as a necessity not a luxury.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Increase Productivity While Working From Home

Increase Productivity While Working From Home

When running a home business, you have to deal with all kinds of tasks constantly. Because of this burden, things can begin to feel overwhelming. Thankfully, there are many awesome activities you can do to break up the monotony and frustrating menial tasks you are faced with every day. To help you begin leading a more successful and happy home work life, try out these four awesome tips to increasing productivity while working from home:

1. Take Frequent Breaks
Overworking yourself may seem noble or like it will make you more successful, but it actually does more harm than good. When you fail to take frequent small breaks, your brain becomes exhausted, and your ability to focus on task effectively diminishes. Working that 30 minutes extra a day is not worth having your overall work quality fall.

2. Exercise Your Mind and Body
One of the best things you can do during breaks are small mind and body exercise. Whether you attempt yoga, a quick run, or a small relaxing nap, these sorts of body boosting techniques can help your mind become sharply focused. If you want to lead a more relaxing and successful work life, finding what mind and body boosting exercises fit your lifestyle can provide a huge boost.

3. Find Time for Social Interaction
Keeping yourself kept up in your home office day after day can have negative mental effects. Getting out there and doing business face to face when possible cannot only increase your business’s reputation, but will help your overall mood skyrocket. Nobody wants to be strapped to a chair for the entire work day, and doing so is terrible for your mental health, so start planning things you can do to make your work day a bit more social.

4. Hire a Virtual Assistant
To free up time during your workday, and get rid of the time you waste every day on menial tasks, hiring a virtual assistant is highly recommended. By hiring one assistant to help you with day-to-day work tasks, you will be able to expand the breadth of your business goals.
For quality virtual assistant services, you need go no further than OkayRelax. Their virtual assistant services pair you with a personal VA to help you lead a more successful and relaxing home work life. From administrative tasks to making dinner reservations for a well deserved after work break, your assistant will help you lead a more fulfilling life.
Here are just a few of the amazing tasks that your OkayRelax virtual assistant will help you handle:

-Time Consuming Research: Need a topic thoroughly researched, but don’t have the time to scroll through Google through hours on end? Let an OkayRelax virtual assistant take on this sometimes-frustrating burden for you. Give them a topic and then sit back while they put together a detailed and easy to understand report for your convenience.

-Administrative Tasks: Never waste time setting up meetings and transcribing audio again. With an OkayRelax virtual assistant you can simply delegate the tasks you need administrated for the night, and they will take care of the rest. That way, you will have plenty of extra time to focus on the actual needs of your clients.

-Schedule Management: Crafting your schedule week after week can take hours of annoying work. Thankfully, OkayRelax virtual assistants have plenty of experience crafting schedules for home businesses in all sorts of industries. Additionally, your personal assistant will help ensure that you never miss an important call or meeting!

-Restaurant Reservations: After work, you just want to relax with some good food, wine, and company. With an OkayRelax virtual assistant, the sometimes-complicated task of researching and booking an awesome restraint reservation will become simple. Simply tell them your tastes, budget, and the kind of atmosphere you crave, and the assistant will do the rest.

-Activity Recommendation: For healthy work breaks and after hour fun, OkayRelax virtual assistants can be an excellent source of support. Allow them to take the time out of their day to plan awesome activities for you, and you will free up tons of time to get the amount of work done you need to do to relax.

-Travel Planning: Looking to schedule an awesome vacation, or a work trip that will help you make your business skyrocket? At OkayRelax, the virtual assistants will make sure your trip goes off without a hitch. Allow them to research hotels, restaurants, activities and more that will make your trip stellar.
Now that you know all the amazing benefits to be had with an OkayRelax virtual assistant, do not hesitate to make an appointment for a free consultation today! A more relaxing and successful home workweek is just a call away!