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!

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.

 

Boost Productivity for Your Dedicated Assistant by Setting Your Schedule Right

If you have a lot of major tasks laid out for the entire day it can really be overwhelming especially if those tasks need to be done within the day. In some instances, you may even find it hard to get started. One way to help counteract this problem is to set up a routine for you and your dedicated assistant. This routine, when carefully planned out, can provide much-needed structure. This, in turn, can lead to systematic completion of tasks without stressing you out so much. Read on to know how you can implement proper scheduling in your routine.

Determine the number of working hours.

As much as possible, allot the average number of hours that you work in a typical day for the scheduling. Include meetings and calls in your total computation. If possible, make these activities short and sweet. Going for this approach helps everyone get to the point because of the limited time. This eventually helps you save more time.

Decide on your working approach.

When you set blocks of time for the tasks, try to set them in 30-minute intervals. During this period, make sure that you will only focus on the task set out before you. After this period, allot 5 to 10 minutes for a break in between tasks. After two hours of working on a large task, take a longer break that lasts for 15 to 30 minutes. By using this technique, you can stay productive without taking a toll on your body.

A word of caution though: If you intend to approach your tasks using this technique, make sure that the time slot where you will place the task will indeed be uninterrupted. This is a technique that does not allow you to pause in between and just return when you feel like it. If you do this, it defeats the purpose of this approach.

If you are not a fan of this technique, you may also go for a 90-minute interval work period. In this approach, you will be asked to work for 90 minutes with minimal to no interruptions. After that, you may rest for about 20 to 30 minutes. The intense work session during the 90-minute duration is set at that length to ensure a good attention span. If you try to extend the working period beyond this, your productivity levels will most likely go down.

List the tasks that you need to complete for the week.

At this point, you don’t have to think about priorities and sequencing. Just go ahead and list your tasks as they occur in your mind. After listing them, place them in clusters. There isn’t a hard and fast rule on clustering. Just make sure that you group them according to how you will work on them and how urgent these tasks are. For instance, you may group them according to the nature of the tasks. E-mails and correspondence go together, meetings and phone calls can be clustered, and so on.

Block out specific times of the day for specific tasks.

Plan each day at least one day in advance and assign specific hours to certain tasks. There are two main types of time blocks.

  • Reactive time blocks are those that you can allocate for tasks that may be interrupted. Some tasks that may be placed under this category include spontaneous meetings and answering automated e-mails.
  • On the other hand, proactive blocks are used to pave way for important tasks that may not be interrupted. Some tasks under this group include creating a business model and drafting important documents.

Be accountable for the time you spend on each activity.

If you are having a hard time keeping track of the time you spend on each task, have someone else help you do this. Tell them of your intent to boost your productivity while keeping tabs of the time you are supposed to spend on each activity. You may even go as far as to report your progress to this person.

Dedicated Assistant Tip: Include personal time in the your of priorities.

Now that you have plotted your average working time for the week, the rest of the time for that week should be spent on your personal life. Unlike your working schedule, you don’t have to go for rigid structure. Just allot a personal activity for each day or block out one or two days in a week and you are good to go.

Take note that when you set up a routine, you need to be consistent with what you planned out. At the same time, you need to be ready for urgent events that may spontaneously arise during the day. Aside from the tasks that you need to complete within the day, you should not forget to incorporate some rest periods in between demanding activities. That way, you will not burn out. Remember, you are following a routine, so expect that most days are structured according to your planned schedule. In the end, your schedule might as well be an enjoyable one.