Imagine being stuck in the early morning rush hour. You take a call from one of your business associates, and you decide to check your emails while doing so. As you reach for your cup of coffee from its holder, you notice your son's lunch bag on the floor by the passenger seat. An incoming call from your mother jolts you right then, as the traffic light goes green. At this point, though, you only see red.

According to a study made by researchers at Cornell University, a person makes an average of 226.7 decisions daily on food alone. Multiply that number to include other aspects in your life, from the mundane such as picking out which faucet to turn on or which pen to use from a pile on your desk, to more crucial ones like which email to answer first (the boss' or the client's?) or whether to stay in your job or accept a new offer.

In general, as we get older, more and more choices are made available to us. As the level of our responsibilities grow, the decisions we need to make increase as well. It is estimated that adults make around 35,500 choices every day and each one brings with it consequences that may be good or bad. If that doesn't sound exhausting, try being a company CEO and expect to make decisions twice or thrice more than that number daily while carrying the weight of its effect on other people as well.

Obama, Jobs, Zuckerberg

Former US President Barack Obama was said to favor only gray or blue suits, same as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, who are also known by their signature looks. High-performers like them know that by pairing down the number of options they face every day, they are better equipped to arrive at good decisions and are able to allocate their time more efficiently. Aside from foregoing daily sartorial choices, one of the best ways to avoid decision fatigue is by prioritizing the responsibilities that earn you the most value and delegate the rest. By getting extra help, you free yourself from some of your day-to-day tasks and get more out of your work day, because it will allow you to focus on expanding your business and achieving a healthy work-life balance. But every business owner knows that hiring an employee creates financial, structural, and emotional costs on a company. Unfortunately, not all businesses can afford these expenses like most startups and SMBs - and this is where your virtual assistant comes in.

Virtual Assistant

A virtual assistant, or more popularly known as a "VA", is a worker who supports businesses and business owners remotely. A VA can do almost anything for the client except, maybe, personally serve coffee as this is not a remote task. VA duties vary from general administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments and managing email accounts, to specialized services like content writing, graphic design, and internet marketing. These online assistants are armed with an extensive array of skill sets that can be applied to a wide range of industries. Moreover, a virtual assistant can work for any type of business, anywhere in the world, in any time zone and currency. Aside from flexibility, virtual assistants are a boon to businesses because they ensure that operations are met while keeping costs at a minimum. It is literally getting the benefits of having a full-time assistant at a lesser expense.

Here are five important points that you need to know about life with a virtual assistant.

A Virtual Assistant Will Make Your Life Simpler

Driving to Work

Take a look back at the scenario at the beginning of this article and you will see someone who has a lot on his plate. From professional issues down to the more personal aspects of our lives, one clearly needs to define what has to be done first and what can be addressed later. Stress mostly stems from sources that may not be too difficult to control, but can be quite overwhelming when they come in all at once and in droves. A virtual assistant helps you avoid this by making your life simpler.

Instead of spending a lot of time going through your email every day, your VA can manage that for you. By filtering your inbox, bringing the more pertinent ones to your attention and responding to the rest on your behalf, you have saved some time for yourself and more. Social tasks such as sending out birthday cards and thank you notes, and even handling your personal social media accounts, can easily be handled by your online personal assistant as well.

A VA also oversees your calendar. May it be a professional or a personal one, you can be sure that having someone make appointments, deal with invitations, plan events for you, and actually be reminded of these, is a huge reprieve from a busy life. What's more, with a personal virtual assistant, you never have to worry about missing a crucial business appointment or an important family event simply because your schedule has been efficiently laid out for you.

Got travel plans? A virtual assistant is a great resource for getting the best hotels, booking your airline tickets, and fixing your itinerary. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, your VA can take advantage of the various review sites and research tools on the internet to make sure that everything is taken care of even before you take that first step out your door.

In a nutshell, an online personal assistant makes your life simpler by helping you manage your time more effectively.

A Virtual Assistant Will Guide You to Your Purpose

Finance Management

A VA armed with bookkeeping skills can keep tabs on unpaid bills and outstanding invoices through the company's bookkeeping systems. Database entries of essential information such as business cards from companies and other documents that may be for future use to the business, can also be easily maintained by a VA for the busy entrepreneur. Likewise, preparing data presentations and summarizing research findings for a CEO who is about to attend a meeting is a huge time-saver that a VA provides.

Virtual assistants are also equipped for more specialized and technical work within a specific industry like public relations, marketing, and real estate. Content management services, SEO, website development and design, blogging, digital marketing, software development, medical and legal transcription, are only a few of the growing list of expertise a VA now has.

To wit, because many entrepreneurs get bogged down by low-level administrative obligations within their organizations, a VA who can take on simple day-to-day tasks or highly-specialized duties empowers the business owner to focus on responsibilities that directly link to his vision and spur his company's growth.

A Virtual Assistant Will Make You Look Good

Social Media

A virtual assistant is an entrepreneur's "secret weapon". By monitoring the online behavior of your customer base, listening in on conversations about your brand, gathering feedback from your clients and observing your competitors, your VA provides you with all the essential tools to steer your company into the hearts and minds of your target market. In addition, a VA is the "eyes" and "ears" of every business owner who aims to keep abreast with the latest in his industry.

A VA is also your best bet for all things digital. As a key player in the virtual landscape, your online assistant can assist you in implementing effective online strategies for your business. By repurposing content your company already has, VAs can infuse new life into old podcasts, blog posts, and webinars, into other types of content such as slideshare, infographics, and ebooks, just to name a few. Some virtual assistants also provide content production services such as writing and graphic design for shareable images.

Another strength of a VA is the ability to find and develop the right framework for an organizational system that would best fit your business. Your online assistant can set up a virtual workplace to give structure to your workflow that covers time-keeping, project management, and file sharing, among others. With this kind of framework in place, it will be easier to delegate work, track performance, and collaborate effectively within your company. A VA, therefore, enables businesses to get more work done while limiting the occurrence of mistakes and oversights.

A VA, in effect, makes you look good from the outside, as well as from the inside.

A Virtual Assistant Will Grow Your Business

Globalization

The rise of virtual assistant services may be attributed to globalization and the internet, but it may also be appropriate to link this to the decline of secretarial services which is said to have begun in the 1980s. Forty years later, the VA has gone from being a "work-at-home secretary" into being a team member of an organization who is armed with more specialized skills that can drive businesses to its full potential.

Another important factor that propels "digital-first" services to be the burgeoning industry that it is today is its flexibility. Whether they work in the comfort of their own homes or in a cozy cafe, virtual assistants function remotely and can come from any corner of the world. VAs enable companies to operate beyond the usual business hours. By providing customer support 24/7, virtual assistants widen your market and enable your enterprise to compete on a more global scale.

Aside from giving support while on a different time zone, a virtual assistant can effectively do the following: quickly respond to customer questions, create urgent email responses or Frequently Asked Questions, check on clients who may also be in a different time zone, and deal with complaints or requests for refunds or discounts in a timely manner. What's more, a VA can step in for unexpected shortages on manpower, most especially, during your national holidays.

By providing essential support, a virtual assistant energizes the entrepreneur to shift their focus to future-proof and expand their business.

A Virtual Assistant Will Let You Live More

Family

The most important asset in the world is not money, but time. An entrepreneur who values his is someone who maximizes every second of the day to enrich his life. A virtual assistant emboldens him to do this and more.

Administrative duties and office support for supervisors and managers, fielding phone calls, responding to inquiries through emails or company websites, creating spreadsheets and presentation decks and internet research, are some of the undertakings a virtual assistant does for a business owner. And the repeated tasks that would otherwise demand several hours from an entrepreneur might only take half that time if done by a VA who is more knowledgeable and skilled in that specific field.

A VA who assists in managing, overseeing, and accomplishing tasks for you relieves you of your workload and stress that often comes in the day-to-day operations of your business. What's more, an online assistant allows you to have the time to focus on your personal life. Hiring a virtual assistant, therefore, is as much an investment to your company, as it is to yourself.

Now, picture the same scenario in the beginning of this article, but this time, you decide to go back to your son's school and hand over his lunch, because: 1) you have sent an email to your business partner earlier, 2) your inbox has been sorted and responded to accordingly, 3) your mother knows you are visiting her for the weekend, and 4) you know your business is being taken cared of even while you attend to your personal errand. And this is all because you have chosen to hire a virtual assistant.

It comes as no surprise then how virtual assistant services transform the way we do business. With the mantra of "work hard, play harder" taking the backseat from the new concept of "working smart versus working hard", a virtual assistant is fast becoming a non-negotiable to the business owner who wants to become a global player. Moreover, the considerable impact that virtual assistants generate in the world today as a highly agile business model gives us hope that we do have the capacity to withstand even the most turbulent of times.