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Time Management

declutter your desk

Declutter Your Workspace to Boost Productivity

declutter your desk

Declutter Your Workspace to Boost Productivity

TASK Virtual Assistant

August is the perfect month to declutter! A couple of years ago, I followed Marie Kondo’s advice and completely purged and got rid of everything that didn’t give me joy. It was not an easy path to take, but I will admit, I felt much joy after. The feeling of peace, and weightlessness, was just overwhelming. I’ve never considered myself a hoarder, but I am a “filler”, meaning I have to fill every border space inside my walls.

I had odd tables, chairs, benches, pillows, blankets, baskets, clothes, and of course, my shoes! What possessed me to go through this process? I moved to a much smaller apartment. It was very nice, and I was able to remodel it to fit me, but did I mention much smaller?? I am so grateful for a very understanding landlord!

I had boxes in the building foyer, boxes in my old apartment, and boxes in my new apartment, and he made space for me in the garage.  I knew what I had to do, and it wouldn’t be easy.

First, let me give credit where credit is due. If you ever have to go through a significant purging process as I did, I recommend the Tidy Up process with Marie Kondo. It’s gut-wrenching, emotional, temper-tantrum throwing, but it works.

We’ve tidied up our space, maybe even decluttered our minds in the process, but how about our workspace? When was the last time you saw the top of your desk?

We may not be able to go to the Marie Kondo extreme for our everyday work lives, but I have some tips I have used and still use that I hope will help.

I know There's A Desk Under There...Somewhere

Take an honest look at your workspace. What bothers you the most about it? Is it the stacks of unfiled papers or the empty coffee cups? Visualize how you want your desk to look and write down a list of changes to make it happen.

Start with unfiled papers. Add an inbox where you will place all incoming paperwork. This could be incoming mail, papers you need to review, or work to do. The point is to have one place for all new papers, so you know you have to deal with them.  I have a set of three trays for my inbox, stuff to review, and stuff to file.

As you go through the papers in the inbox, separate the things that need your immediate attention, things that have important dates or contact information, and those that you can handle at another time. Write meeting information in your calendar, add contact information to your address book or card file, and either file the paper where it belongs or get rid of it.

Create a simple filing system to keep important papers. This could include a tickler file you will look at when the day begins. A tickler file is a 31-day system that allows you to place papers you will need for the future. It is a reminder system to ensure you handle future items on time. I use the smaller post-it notes with a drop dead date written on them and stick them on the edge of the paper. This way, I can quickly see what needs my attention. Once you have your system in place, use it daily to keep papers from piling up again

A Place For Everything And Everything In Its Place.

Finally, clear all of the paperwork from your desk, even if it means only stacking it in the inbox so you can see what else you have to do. Clear the desk of all other items and decide to create a specific home for each one. If there are some office supplies that you use regularly, you will want to have them available when you need them. You will want to place anything you do not regularly use in a drawer or cabinet. When you have a place for everything, put each item where it “lives” when it is not in use.

Devote A Few Minutes A Day To Organization

Before leaving, take a few minutes to prepare for tomorrow, and put away things you used during the day. And don't forget to make tomorrow's task list tonight.

Yes, I probably sound like a broken record here, but I cannot emphasize enough how important a task list is – they keep you focused, clear your headspace, show you what your day looks like at-a-glance, and so much more!

If you know me by now, you know I will say, at the end of each workday, set yourself up for the following morning. Before you leave to go home, create your priority list for the next day. But don't stress if you didn’t do it the night before! You’ll get into the habit soon enough. So, for now, set a few minutes aside in the morning and create your list. Put the three most important tasks on the list. These three priorities are the most critical tasks you must focus on.

Once your desk is cleared off, do your best to keep it that way. Take 15 minutes at the end of the day to clear off the desk, so you have a blank slate when the new day starts. Work at keeping your desk cleared for a week before you begin focusing on the cluttered next area of your workspace.

distractions

Dealing With Distractions

distractions

Dealing With Distractions

task virtual assistant

In a perfect world, you would be so focused on your work that nothing could distract you. But our world is not perfect, and it rarely works that way. So why does something so minor as an interruption mess up our entire day?

Distractions can be either external or internal. Some distractions are entirely beyond your control, while others are entirely up to you. What they all have in common, though, is the impact on your day. Let’s look at some of these in detail:

Distraction: Overwhelm
Many accountants feel there’s just too much coming at them all at once, most of it needing to be done yesterday. Add in the constant phone calls and never-ending emails, especially during Income Tax season, that seems to need urgent replies, it’s normal to seek escape. Think of it as reacting in a fight or flight way to a scary stimulus. Running to a distraction in this situation is a flight response to stress.

Distraction Buster
Establish your priorities for the day. With most accounting businesses it’s impossible to avoid phone calls and emails that need to be returned, but you don’t have to answer every phone call or immediately respond to every email. Set aside a specific time of day that you’ll handle those replies.

Then, keep distractions down by sending calls to voicemail and shutting down your email window. If this isn't a viable option for your firm, have your virtual assistant monitor the voicemails and emails, and then flag those that need your immediate attention. All others can wait until your designated time.

Distraction: Doing Everything at Once
Multitasking is a huge distraction, simply because it feels productive when you do it. When you multitask, you get less done than you think. Studies have proven people drop up to 20 IQ points while multitasking. This is because the mind is constantly being distracted by every other task you’re trying to do.

You listen to an eBook while exercising but are mentally making a checklist of what you need to do next. You’re on the phone with one person while checking your calendar to reschedule an appointment with another. You’re answering emails while talking to a team member.

It’s everywhere. In the end? How much of that eBook do you remember? What about that phone conversation? Have you really accomplished anything, or do you now need to go back and double-check your work, or worse, re-do it entirely?

Distraction Buster
When you have no guided focus in your day, it’s hard to keep your attention where you need it most. Schedules set out small goals that let you know when you expect to have those goals completed. Without those guidelines, it’s easy for your day to fall apart as minor distractions sneak in to take up blocks of time not meant for anything.

Create your daily task list the night before, don't wait until that morning when you're running late for an early meeting, or already looking at a full inbox of emails. Then, use your list. Complete a task before starting the next. If new projects come up during the day, add them to the bottom of the list. If they need to be moved up, do it at the end of the day, when you're preparing the next day's task list.

Distraction: Out of Resources
There’s only so much attention you can give to a problem before you run out of gas. How are you supposed to keep plugging away when you're tired, exhausted, and worn out? It’s no wonder you welcome distraction just for the relief it gives from having to think or do another thing.

The truth of the matter is, sometimes we just get tired. Consider this, do you find yourself saying "I forgot to eat", or looking at the clock at night and thinking, "if I fall asleep now, I'll still get a couple of hours of sleep", and if so, how often? If we’re not eating or sleeping properly, our bodies start to show signs of fatigue. It’s impossible to tune out distractions when you’re so worn out you can’t think straight.

Distraction Buster
When you don’t want your day to get away from you, grab your calendar, and put things where you can see them. Look at your task list and schedule your tasks (allowing enough time for each), so nothing gets left out or ignored. When you set out a schedule, you leave less room for distraction. Remember to block out time for things unrelated to your goals, such as sleep or time to eat. You’ll be less likely to skip meals or stay up too late if you have these things already in place on your calendar.

Distraction: Too Much Time Staring at a Screen
Wow, it’s easy to get focused on electronics. When you constantly check your phone, it quickly becomes addictive. Literally! Studies have shown time spent staring at screens releases dopamine into your brain, making a little screen time every bit as effective at giving you a quick ‘buzz’ as a hit on a cigarette.

Before you disagree, think about the last time you left your phone at home. How far did you get before you felt a little twitchy about not having it? If you’re like most people, it’s not just your smartphone grabbing your attention. Between laptops, tablets, and every other iteration of device connecting to the internet, it’s no wonder it’s hard to put the screen down and get something done.

Let’s face it, they’re interesting. Filled with apps, connection to friends and family through social media, the ability to check email…there’s just too much to do, and it’s all right there in your hands. It’s no wonder you’re distracted!

Distraction Buster
Again, schedule your screen time, instead of letting it become a distraction. For example, you can plan your lunch break to be a time to relax and do things that take your mind off work. Most smartphones today have a "Do Not Disturb" setting. I have mine set for nighttime, as well as during the day when I need to be completely focused.

Distraction: You’re on a Treasure Hunt
When it turns out you lack the knowledge to continue, falling into the trap of research distraction is very common. What starts as hunting for an answer to a single question breeds diversion and sends you down rabbit trails that keep you from ever returning to the project if you’re not careful.

How many times did you go to one source, but end up looking at something that wasn't even in your original search? With all the information including social media that you can turn to; you can easily waste hours without even realizing it.

Distraction Buster
First, you need to realize you're getting distracted. The minute you notice that your short foray into something has turned into a distraction, stop right there! If you didn't get the answer within a short time - about 5-10 minutes - then this needs to be added to your schedule for further research. Schedule the time for it and make the conscious choice to focus on something else now.

Distraction: What If or How About?
Are you full of ideas? While this is a good thing on many levels, thoughts can also lead to distractions, especially when you start coupling ideas with action.

Moving from one idea to the next, from one project to the next, can feel efficient…at first. In truth, you’re getting less done than you think. Imagine a job involving the remodeling of a house. Say you need to update the kitchen, want to renovate the bathroom, are building a front porch, and painting the dining room. You might think you’re being efficient if you’re doing all projects at the same time. After all, that means you’ll be done at once and have a great house to live in…right? Now imagine finding other home repair jobs as you go and adding to the chaos until the whole place is a mess.

Having too many ideas is very similar. You’re throwing time at first this, and then the next without ever completing anything. You’re adding new things in. In the end, you’re so distracted by so many things to do, that you’ve lost the ability to prioritize, and nothing gets done at all.

Distraction Buster
Keep a notepad nearby so that you can write down ideas that hit you throughout the day and give yourself permission to come back to them later.

Distraction: You’re Trying to Save the World
If a team member is having difficulty working through a return and comes to you for help, do you end up doing their work as well as your own?

If you continuously involve yourself in other people’s problems, it’s hard to get your own projects completed. This ‘save the world’ mentality means distraction comes in the form of altruism, which looks pretty on the outside. Nobel, even. On the inside, though, is the stark truth that you’re distracting yourself under the guise of doing a favor for someone else.

Distraction Buster
While it’s great to want to help and lend a hand now and again, you need to ask yourself if this opportunity is just another distraction? If so, is it one you can afford? Next time, ask the team member to offer you possible solutions to their problem rather than just handing it off to you.

Distraction: You’re Getting Organized
Simply put, you’re not getting anything accomplished, and now you're caught up in the spiral of trying to throw yourself into a new system to fix everything. Organization is another one of those distractions that looks helpful initially. After all, every self-help course is going to recommend cleaning your workspace to make it ‘work better for you.’

The truth of the matter is this kind of organizing can take on a life of its own very quickly. What might start as a quick tidying up suddenly devolves into color-coded notepads, a series of highlighters, and a complex system of calendars. Because it feels like progress, you don’t see it as a distraction. It becomes one when you’re losing out on serious work time as you keep poking at the ‘system’ to make it work.

Distraction Buster
Ask yourself, are you spending more time working on your projects or talking about working on your projects? Handoff the organization to your virtual assistant. Work together to come up with the best tools for your firm, then let your VA set it up and put it into motion.

As you can see, distractions are honestly everywhere, surfacing for a variety of reasons, with a lot of baggage behind them needing to be dealt with if you’re ever going to move forward. You are the master of your fate. It’s up to you to tune out the world and put your focus where it matters most. You really do have the ability to control the situation, whether it’s stamping out the distractions before they gain a foothold, or knowing how to put yourself back on track when the distractions find you.

No matter what, don’t expect easy answers. Nothing here is going to happen overnight. It takes time to build new habits and a new way of thinking. If you fail, simply try again. Give the process time. It will happen.

productive people

How Productive People Think

productive people

How Productive People Think

task virtual assistant

Productivity is not just about working hard or being busy. It's about being effective with your time and resources. Productive people are able to focus on what's important and make sure that they are using their time wisely.

A productive person is someone who has the ability to make their own decisions and take action on them. They are able to prioritize tasks, manage time, and set goals for themselves.

So how do productive people think?

Priorities matter

People who are the most productive are clear about their priorities.  They know that some things are more important than others and they’re able to attack the most important things first.

Start each day by making a list of tasks and placing them in order of priority.  This will help you to get the most important things done first and even help you to eliminate tasks that really aren’t necessary.

Understanding priorities also makes it easy to delegate tasks and avoid things that might take away from reaching goals.

Plan for success

Productive people make a plan.  They schedule their next day at the end of the current workday.  This makes it easy to jump right into work the next day without having to take time to decide what’s next on the list.

Eliminate time wasters

There are many things throughout the day that could threaten to take away from productivity.  Productive people know how to put those time-wasters on the back burner and stick to the important work.

It could be social media, chatty coworkers, emails, text messages, phone calls, or reading online news that prevents you from getting business done.  Set those things aside and schedule a specific time when you will allow yourself to participate in those things.

Take responsibility

Productive people are happy to take responsibility for both their successes and their failures.  Rather than looking to point the finger at someone else, they stay accountable for their work.

Learn from mistakes

Productive people have a healthy attitude toward failure and are able to use it as an opportunity for growth. They are not afraid of making mistakes and they learn from them.

The key is to take the time and think about why you failed so that you can learn from your mistakes instead of letting mistakes throw you off course or cause you to quit.

Efficient tools

Productive people also know it’s important to have the right tools to do the job.  That means having a high-quality computer, the proper software, and even the right desk setup.  When you have what you need in your workspace, it helps you to get more done.

If you want to become more productive, it helps to understand how productive people think.  Think about your own productivity levels.  Where can you make changes in your mindset to become more productive?  Small changes can lead to big results.

time management

5 Tips To Stay Ahead Of The Curve

time management

5 Tips to Stay Ahead of the Curve

task virtual assistant

Running an accounting firm is not easy, and oftentimes, not the most exciting. There are so many mundane, everyday tasks necessary to keep the business running. Tasks such as filing, billing, and data entry bog down a daily task list; they have to be done, but not by you! Hiring a virtual assistant can be a simple solution. But how do you know when to outsource? These five tips will keep you ahead of the curve by helping you sort through your tasks and decide what you can do and what you could be letting someone else do.

1. Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

Have you looked at where your firm is, and where you want it to be? Do you have a clear road map to get there? Many times, we fail to reach our goals because we haven’t defined them clearly. It’s simply not enough to say, “I want to make more money this year,” or “I’d like to spend more time with my family.” Your goals need to be very specific. They should provide direction, and motivation, and clarify the importance of what you’re aiming for. Setting up SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely is a recipe for success! So, instead of "I want to make more money this year", say, "I will increase sales 17% by end of Q4".

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2. Know Your Why

Once you settle on a goal and a specific target, you need to clarify the purpose of the goal, or ‘your why’ If your goal, for example, is to increase earnings over last year, determine WHY you need more money. Do you want to take on more clients, or maybe you want to staff the office?

 

The ‘why’ is more important than the ‘what’.  Your ‘why’ is the foundation, the passion driving you. If you lose sight of why you have settled on your goal, it will be much more difficult to stay motivated.

3. Work Smarter Not Harder!

Building a successful accounting firm isn’t easy. Many accountants burn out within the first 5 years. They lose the passion and the drive that is necessary to stay competitive, especially if they are too busy working 70+ hours a week. Believe it or not, there is proven research behind the 40-hour workweek. It wasn’t designed to help workers, but to boost productivity, which has been shown to drop dramatically after working more than 40 hours per week for a month. Being busy is not the same as being productive.

 

time management

Let me say that again - Being busy is not the same as being productive.  Top performers focus on the activities that support their goals. They leverage technology and other services to help them be more productive.

4. Create A Daily Task CheckList

If I were asked which one of the five tips I'm providing is the most important, it would be this one. A task checklist is a visual tool of accountability.  Start the first 10 minutes of your day by writing down all the things you need to accomplish. Ask yourself: which activities generate the most income? Begin prioritizing your most income-producing tasks first using the Eisenhower matrix:

time management

1. Do First

Tasks in the green box should be the core tasks that directly earn you money such as responding to new leads and current clients.

2. Schedule

Important, but not urgent tasks belong in the blue box.  Schedule tasks like continuing education, reading the latest IRS updates and researching virtual assistants.

3. Delegate

The yellow box should be reserved for less important tasks, but need to be done rather quickly. These are tasks that do not necessarily have to be done by you. These tasks can and should be, delegated to someone else. Hiring a Virtual Assistant is a great way to delegate tasks.

4. Don’t do

The red box is for STOP. These are the tasks that aren’t helping you at all. For most people, these will be time-wasters such as spending time on social media related. For example, have you been spending an hour a day on Facebook with nothing to show for it? Probably time for a new strategy. These tasks should definitely be turned over to a Virtual Assistant.

Prioritizing your daily tasks will make you that much more productive and mindful of how you spend your time. By using a Task Checklist daily, you’ll start to recognize patterns in your routine and find solutions to improve your results.

5. Hire a Virtual Assistant

 

No one person can do it all. Delegate or outsource everything except the stuff you’re good at because it allows you to focus on the tasks that you’re amazing at, like analyzing the numbers!

Virtual AssistantLook back on your daily task checklist, how many of the tasks are not high priority or goal-oriented, but need to get done? How many of those tasks can you delegate to your VA - social media accounts, your monthly mailings, engagement letters, administrative tasks.

A virtual assistant is your customizable asset!

optimize workflow

5 Tips To Optimize Your Workflow

optimize workflow

5 Tips to Optimize Your Workflow

task virtual assistant

Whenever I speak to an Accountant about their business, one of the recurring struggles I hear is the workflow, or rather, the lack thereof. Whether it's a small staff under ten, or over fifty, the common denominator is a clog somewhere in the workflow. This usually means the work is bottlenecking somewhere, and it's at that point optimization needs to happen.

I don't have to tell you that to run a successful accounting firm, you have to be able to manage the workflow of your team and make sure that everyone is on top of their game. The tips below can be adapted for one person or the entire office staff.

There are five basic essentials for optimizing your workflows:

1) Start with the end in mind - Break it Down

The most important thing you can do to optimize your workflow is to know what your goals are. If you don’t know what you want to accomplish by the end of the day, then it’s going to be very tough to figure out how best to use your time.

Think about what you want to accomplish, how much time you'll spend working on it, and when you'll do it. This will allow you to plan your days accordingly and make sure that you're focused on what's most important. Then break down your tasks into similar groups or batches. This creates a workflow that will allow you to get your work done quickly as you no longer go back and forth between different tasks.

2) Work with what you’ve got - know your workflow

To effectively optimize your workflow, you have to know your working style. Knowing your working style is important for two reasons. The first is that it helps you to know how to manage your time more efficiently. Secondly, it helps you to know what type of environment you work best in.

There are many different working styles. Some people like to work alone, others like a more collaborative environment. Some find that they do their best work early in the morning while others need a good night’s sleep before they can be productive.

The importance of knowing your working style is that it helps you to know how to manage your time more efficiently and what type of environment you work best in.

3) Find a way or make one - Project management

Whether you work alone, or have a fully staffed accounting firm, creating a project management plan is imperative if you want to be successful. There are many ways to manage projects, from cloud-based systems like TeamWork to using a series of spreadsheets, documents, and files that are shared with everyone. The bonus is that by setting up a project management plan, you will see a time management plan emerge, which will keep you from wasting valuable time.

4) Use what you know - the Calendar

Believe it or not, you already know how to make this work, you just need to figure out how to implement the process. Many of you reading this are CPAs and spent four long years of learning and studying to get that recognition. Think back about how you did that. You had a system of note-taking, reviewing, and studying. You had time set aside to write papers. Your business is not much different. Use a calendar for yourself and your staff. Color code Urgent and Normal. Color code client work, admin work, and continuing education work. Add drop-dead due dates, and set multiple notifications prior to that date. Have you ever met someone and wondered how in the world she does it all? It’s probably a very thought-out and coordinated schedule that allows her to accomplish so much.

5) Do it now

Probably the most important step is to stop putting it off. The bottleneck is not going to go away on its own, obviously. The workflow is not going to magically happen. You have to put things in motion, and the sooner the better. Stop waiting for that "perfect day" when you don't have tax returns to worry about, payroll to get out, or general ledgers to reconcile; it's never going to happen. But you already know this.

lifetime learning

Lifetime Learning is Essential

lifetime learning

Lifetime Learning is Essential

task virtual assistant

There is one thing that is certain in life, and that is change. If you are like me, you embrace change because it is another chance to learn and gain something new. I am an avid learner, a lifetime student if you will. I learned early on that if you want to succeed, you must stay one step ahead, and the way to do that is through learning.

Increase Your Confidence and Motivation

A lot of anxiety or fear stems from a lack of knowledge. If you strive to learn something new as often as possible about your niche and the world at large, you will empower yourself to do better, thus making you believe in yourself, and boosting your confidence while giving you the knowledge to be successful.

Keep Up with Your Competition

"The simplest way to learn business is to study your competition and improve what they are offering." - Ehab Atalla

"Study your competition", is exactly what Netflix did. Netflix saw a change in technologies and tried to understand and learn new ways to improve its business model as well as its biggest competitor, Blockbuster. They now lead their industry by streaming movies and television shows straight to your T.V. and have become a model for all streaming services.

Tawnya Sutherland, a pioneer in virtual assistant training and networking, fully understands the importance of studying your competition and dedicates an entire section on the subject in her signature, "Virtual Assistant Career training program"; from knowing your customer to introducing your business, she spells it out and walks you through it.

Fully Understand Your Potential

Learning unlocks skills and resources about yourself that you would have never discovered if you didn't make an effort to do so in the first place.

"Learning is a constant process of discovery - a process without end" - Bruce Lee.

I remember mom always saying, "you can't say you don't like it if you don't try it." Same idea here, if you don't continue to learn, you'll never know what you could be.  And you can quote me on that 😉

Be Successful

To be successful and keep up with your business, you must continue learning new technologies, software services, and social media platforms. And I can't think of a better "one-stop learning center" than Freelance University. Here you can hone a specialized skill, get live training support, attend workshops and learn the latest technology, all in one place!

But success doesn't stop with learning new skills. If you want to keep up with the crowd you need to learn new strategies. What worked five years ago, might not work today. As a business owner, it is important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and news in your industry. This way, you can always be on top of what’s happening and address any issues as they arise.

Create the Job or Life You Want

Learning is an important part of our lives. We learn from childhood to adulthood, and it is never too late to learn something new. Learning unlocks worlds, ideas, values, and inspirations you never knew existed. When you learn, you create more choices in life to live the way you want. Not sure what you want to be when you grow up? Check out LinkedIn Learning; whether you're looking for continuing education, or want to try something new, this is a great source to have. If you already have a premium account, then LinkedIn Learning is free, otherwise, it's a nominal monthly fee, and has a 1-month trial. 

Learning is a lifelong process that takes place anywhere and anytime - at work or at home, on the bus, or in the car. It can take many forms: reading a book, listening to a podcast, watching a video on YouTube, attending a conference or workshop - the list goes on and on. Education, knowledge, and experiences are fun and rewarding. They, together with practice, are vital for growth, understanding, and compassion for the world. Education and learning provide no consequences if you want to accomplish your dreams and be more productive. Keep reading, experimenting, and jump out of your comfort zone to learn and gain more knowledge.

"You'll never be bored when you try something new. There's really no limit to what you can do! - Dr. Suess

defining a virtual assistant

Getting the Help You Need Virtually

defining a virtual assistant

Getting the Help You Need Virtually

Defining A Virtual Assistant

task virtual assistant

Keeping up with all of the routines can be difficult for those who work hard in their company or personal life.  There are fifty million things to accomplish in one day with too little time and too few people to help.  If you want to begin saving time, you can invest in a virtual assistant who will take some extra things off your plate.

The best way to evaluate whether you need a virtual assistant (VA) or not is to see what you are doing all day.  If you are spending time on administrative correspondence and not your vision, then a virtual assistant might be the right answer.

When you need an extra helping hand, look to a virtual assistant.  Most VAs offer a variety of services, from administrative to technical to creative, and will advertise themselves in their area of expertise.  For example, some assistants will focus on designing websites for you and maintaining the website or database after completion.

One of the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant is cost savings.  They will work for you from their own home office; they are not employees, so you do not need to pay employee tax or benefits. Partnering with a VA allows you to pay for the work you need and not for idle time.  Simply put, if there is no work, you don't pay them.

Finding A Virtual Assistant

Finding the right virtual assistant means looking into the most well-known areas for virtual assistants.  There are many resources available, all of which can help get you to the right person.  For example, VANetworking, the VA industry's market leader since 2003,  thoroughly vets their VA's and the businesses looking to hire and will help you find the best Virtual Assistant for your business needs.

Pricing a Virtual Assistant

As a business owner, you know the important questions to ask before you get involved in anything.  One of the common questions you have probably grown familiar with asking is, "how much will this cost me?" Knowing how much each service will cost with a virtual assistant can help you define what work you want and need to complete and what isn't essential to get done.

Pricing systems vary among VAs. Some will charge by the hour or on retainers, and others might have standard pricing for projects or packages such as website maintenance or social media management.

Long-Term or Short-Term

You can hire a VA for long-term management projects, such as ongoing social media management, or short-term projects, such as planning an upcoming event or building a website.

Short-term projects usually focus on a specific function or task; however, they can also be on-going, such as performing maintenance, which requires regular updating.  For example, bookkeeping is typically a short-term project because it only needs to be maintained once every quarter.

No matter what type of extra help you need, you can find a virtual assistant who will see your vision and help you to reach your goal.  You can easily find a virtual assistant who will do what is in your company's best interest.

Have questions? I'm here to help! Set up a NO OBLIGATION, and TOTALLY FREE call to discover the possibilities!

computer speed

The Kaizen Way to Better Computer Performance

computer speed

The Kaizen Way to Better Computer Performance

task virtual assistant

If you run a business then you may be familiar with the concept of Kaizen, a technique designed to improve your business process. This basically means making continuous improvements to your business model and workflow so that you see exponential gains in your productivity and profits. When we think about making small changes on a regular basis in order to ultimately improve on a larger scale, it brings to mind areas like Financial, Business, Personal Goals, Relationships, and Health. But there is another time-leak source that is often overlooked - your computer's boot-up time. And it could be costing you money.

The Time You've Lost
A good computer should boot up in approximately 1-2 minutes. Bad ones though can take anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes. And while 10 minutes a day might not seem like the end of the world, it's worth bearing in mind that that's 50 minutes a week. 50 minutes a week meanwhile is 200 minutes a month, which is 2,400 minutes a year. To put that in further perspective, that's 40 hours a year.

Imagine what you could have accomplished in 40 hours a year!

Now apply that to an office full of workers. If you have a team of 20 people, all with computers that take 10 minutes to load, then you've lost 800 hours of work every year! That's like having 33 extra sick days in that year and all the while you'll still be paying the heating bill and rent. Not to mention, computers that are slow to boot tend to be slow to run also. So you've probably actually lost much more time than that in reality.

Hopefully, this has made it clear how important it is to keep your computers running smoothly. Follow these simple steps and you will speed up your boot time, help keep your computer running efficiently, and maybe even increase your ROI:

Delete unnecessary files and empty the recycle bin

You should check your files regularly as well as empty your recycle bin. Files in the recycle bin are still on the hard drive, and as the hard drive nears capacity, your computer will slow down.

Run virus checks and malware checks on a regular basis.

Malware can seriously impact your computer's performance and significantly increase your bootup time. Make sure you keep your software updated to the latest version. You can find out more about Malware in my course "Cybersecurity At Home".

Stop unnecessary programs from starting when you start your computer.

Many apps, or startup programs, automatically load while your system is starting up. Reducing the number of active startup programs is an effective way to get a fast startup in Windows 10.

Upgrade your hard drive.

It takes much longer to load Windows on an older hard disk drive (HDD) than on a newer and faster solid-state drive (SSD). SSDs access data instantaneously, which can load your files in seconds rather than minutes. Now that's ROI!

Upgrade to Windows 10 or 11

If you're running  Windows, upgrading to Windows 10 or 11 will make a big difference in your bootup time. Also, enable fast startup in Windows 10. This can be done through "Power & Sleep" under "Additional Power Settings" in the Windows 10 settings menu.

This is one example of how making a very small change can have profound impacts on your productivity, overheads, and profits. Imagine what else you could accomplish if you took this approach in every area of your business?

mindset traps, 5 mindset traps, how to escape a mindset trap

5 Mindset Traps You Don’t Know You’re Stuck In

mindset traps, 5 mindset traps, how to escape a mindset trap

5 Mindset Traps

(You Don't Know You're Stuck In)

task virtual assistant

Today is the Lunar New Year, and it's the Year of the Tiger. The Tiger symbolizes recovery and growth so I thought this was the perfect time to talk about mindsets, or rather mindset traps.

What are Mindset Traps?
The term "mindset trap" is used to describe the ways in which we limit ourselves by thinking about how things are done in the past, or how they should be done. Mindset traps are not always obvious, and definitely not easy to escape. If you find yourself saying things like "I'm not good enough", "It's too late", or "I don't know what I want", you could be stuck in a fear trap, or living in the past. How about, "I can't do anything about it anyway", or "I'm not creative enough"? These are common thoughts of a self-saboteur.

1. The Trap of Living in the Past
Living in the past can be a trap that keeps you from moving forward. Sometimes we get so caught up in what has already happened, that we forget how much potential there is for what can happen next. It is important to let go of the past and not allow it to control your life. I used to have a small wall plaque growing up, "We can't change the past, but we can ruin the future by worrying about the present". In order to live a fulfilling life, you have to let go of the past and focus on what lies ahead of you.

2. The Trap of Letting Fear Stop You 
The fear of success is a common emotion that many people experience when they are on the verge of achieving something great. We may doubt our own worthiness, be afraid we'll suck at it and we'll fail in epic proportions in full view of the whole world.
The first step in overcoming this fear is to understand that it's natural for anyone to feel some level of anxiety about success, especially if they’ve never experienced it before or if they have experienced failure in the past. Understanding that fear is natural will help you realize that there is nothing wrong with feeling some level of anxiety before accomplishing something new or difficult.

3. The Trap of Self-Sabotage
Are you giving yourself the wrong pep-talk? Instead of using some positive self-talk to get things done, are you by any chance using negative self-talk to keep you from trying? After all, it's very easy to convince ourselves that we're failures. Why do we do it? Because if we know it's not going to work out, we never have to try in the first place. The self-sabotage trap is a common problem, yet it's hard to identify and even harder to solve. The first step is awareness. You need to be actively aware of your thoughts all day, every day. When negative thinking tries to sneak in, stop it and remind yourself of all your strengths. Become your best friend!

4. The Trap of Doing What is Expected
In today's world, most of us have fallen into the trap of doing what is expected at least once or twice. Staying in this trap, and continuing to live your life doing what you think you should be doing and not what you want to be doing, can lead to emotional burnout. But this doesn't have to be the case. If you are not happy with what you are doing, then it's time to break free from the norm and do something different. Listen to your inner self, your gut. You'll find the answer.

5. The Trap of Being Overwhelmed
When we are constantly bombarded with information, we start to feel overwhelmed. When we feel overwhelmed, it is hard to focus on what matters. We need to learn how to manage our time and our energy so that we can stay grounded and balanced. Use a time management process such as the Eisenhower Matrix, the Pomodoro Technique, or the Pareto Principle - or develop your own from a combination of the processes. This will be your roadmap to follow each day as you focus on your tasks. Also, limit your time spent on social media, stop watching 24-hour news programs, and limit your podcast time to only programs that provide you valuable insight into your success. Declutter your mind and you will be more productive, less stressed, and more motivated.

You will stumble upon mindset traps often on your road to success. You can avoid stepping on them by developing a daily routine that includes meditation, and mindfulness activities such as journaling, deep breathing, and single-tasking. Stop being a perfectionist. We all make mistakes, learn from them. You will fail, and you will do it many times in your life. Embrace this as a gift rather than a burden. Don’t tell yourself you are a failure, tell yourself that you just learned what doesn’t work.

strategic planning, goal setting

Your Complete Guide to Strategic Task Lists

strategic planning, goal setting

Your Complete Guide To Strategic Task Lists

task virtual assistant

Here’s the honest truth for entrepreneurs - your task list will NEVER be complete. There will always be more to do! So how can you manage everything without tasks or projects slipping through the cracks? Use strategic task lists.

Why You Should Use a Strategic Task List

A strategic task list is a list of tasks that can help you achieve your goals. It is a tool that can help you stay organized and focused on what you need to accomplish. It can be used for a variety of purposes and is one of the strongest time-management tools you can have in your arsenal.

Strategic Planning:

Use the list to organize your thoughts and plan out your agenda for the day or week with each item representing an action or project you want to complete.

Goal Setting:

The tasks on the list are those things that support your goals, making it easier to remember what needs to be accomplished in order to reach them.

Resource Management:

This type of task list is often used by people who need reminders about what’s happening at work so they know which meetings they need to attend, identify gaps, and maximize capacity.

Change Your Strategy by Having a Strategic Task List

If you have a task list, you are more likely to complete it within time limits which will lead you to accomplish your goals faster.

With a written strategic task list, you are less likely to be derailed or distracted by small tasks that may not seem urgent but actually are urgent. Being able to identify what needs immediate attention is important for an organization’s success.

When there is clarity about what needs to be accomplished time gaps are eliminated and you achieve maximum productivity levels.

Create the Perfect Strategic Task List

Creating the perfect strategic task is easier than you might think. Following these simple steps will ensure that your task list is effective:

First, do a brain dump! Using a pen and paper, set a timer for 15 minutes. Write down EVERYTHING that you need to do - business and personal. Do not assign deadlines, edit or prioritize yet. When the timer goes off, try to go for another 5 minutes.

Next, prioritize the tasks using the time management matrix:

Urgent + Important: Must do tasks with a clear deadline such as paying taxes, paying bills, completing work on a deadline. If this isn’t done - there is a clear consequence!

Urgent + NOT Important: Time-sensitive tasks that should get done such as replying to your emails, client communication, working with your team. This is an excellent area to automate and systemize.

NOT Urgent + NOT Important: These are tricky tasks because these are the ‘should do’ tasks we say yes to without determining if they really help us reach our goals. Learn to say NO to these tasks. Outsource to another to handle this area.

NOT Urgent + IMPORTANT: This is where you want to play! Focus your time and energy on important revenue-generating tasks such as marketing, sales, or developing new revenue streams.
Many of the tasks should be based on your goals. I find it helpful to keep a printed copy of my goals on my desk, usually in my day planner, for quick reference.

Finally, check your daily task list at night and prioritize the remaining tasks based on what you should be working on first. Create a fresh list every morning pulling forward the unfinished tasks from the day before.

It is important for any organization to have a strategic task list. Whether your company has 1 employee or 100 employees, using strategic lists will help them understand the steps needed to reach the end goal and thus, provide stability and consistency in your strategy.

It is important for any organization to have a strategic task list. Whether your company has 1 employee or 100 employees, using strategic lists will help them understand the steps needed to reach the end goal and thus, provide stability and consistency in your strategy.
Holiday vacation

Tips For A Smooth Return After The Holidays

Holiday vacation

Tips For a Smooth Return After the Holidays

thetaskva

Taking some time off during the Holidays? Looking forward to enjoying some festivities, but dread the mountain of work you know will be waiting when you return? Make a few preparations now, before you leave, and follow some tips when you return, to help ease you back into a routine and maybe even stretch your relaxed and festive mood well into the first week or two of the new year!

christmas

Tips Before You Leave:

Automate Your Email

Create Rules to Filter Emails:

Setting up filters to determine which emails should receive priority upon your return is a huge time saver! Gmail allows you to mark which email type, or contact, as important or with a star. You can even color-code your stars in order of priority in the Settings section.

In Outlook, go to “Rules & Alerts”. There you can fully customize how you want your incoming messages to behave. Sending them to a folder or marking as high priority, are just a couple of timesaving filters.

Out of Office Automatic Reply:

First, take time right now to set up your Out-Of-Office and Voicemail message. These are probably the two most overlooked yet simplest tasks to quickly take care of. Outlook’s “Automatic Replies” and Gmail’s Vacation Reply will let you schedule the OOO in advance. Your message can be anything from “I’m outta here!” (not really recommended ????) to something more elaborate with information the sender may need. You can also decide if you want the automatic reply to go to everyone, even those outside your organization, or contact list only.

Most voicemails will let you schedule an outgoing message to run at a specific time, but if your phone system doesn’t allow for advance messaging, write the message out now and have it ready to quickly record.

Remember, the idea of advanced settings is so you don’t stress yourself unnecessarily by waiting until 5 minutes before you’re trying to get out the door!

Organize Your Calendar Now

Schedule Meetings Now:

That New Year staff meeting can wait until  Tuesday afternoon – 2:30PM to be exact – after you return. A study by YouCanBookMe, shows this to be the very best time to schedule a meeting. Also, don’t forget to schedule a reminder, preferably with a scheduled email in addition to the popup reminder notification.

And, while you’re adding meetings to your calendar, I want you to schedule 3 lunches your first week back. As you ease your way back into the routine, time away becomes paramount. Schedule alternate days (I recommend this!), or consecutively, but do it in “ink” and do not allow yourself to cancel.

Make Time to Socialize:

Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of "The Humor Advantage,” recommends:

"If your work situation permits it, leave a day after you've 'officially' booked off and arrive a day before you've announced your official return. This buys you an extra distraction-free day at both ends of your vacation so that you leave feeling better prepared and more relaxed and return to work without feeling overwhelmed."

 Another wiggle room tip is your catch-up time. Everyone wants to catch up, get the details of your holiday, whether they stop by your desk, or catch you in the Zoom meeting,  these quick “water cooler” chats can quickly morph into a time vampire! Block about 30 minutes of “catch up” time to socialize and catch up with your office pals. Scheduling this time will help avoid unnecessary interruptions and keep you focused.

Prioritize Your Task List:

Make a complete list of all the projects you are working on. Are there any projects that have been on a backburner for over a year, take a good look at it – are you really going to work on them? Can they be delegated or even discarded? Take a few minutes to prioritize everything – use the Eisenhower Matrix to help organize these projects. Your “vacation brain” will thank you when it’s time to jump back into things.

time management
The Eisenhower Decision Matrix

Set up your return task list now for at least the first two days back. When adding tasks, keep it real! Don’t set unrealistic deadlines for your first day back and don’t try to do everything on that first day, this will only leave you overwhelmed, underproductive, and put you behind in your work.

The first day should be sorting through and answering priority emails, just dip your toe in the water, no cannonballs on this day!

Day two should consist of your top three priorities, in order of deadline dates.

Schedule Social Media Posts

Schedule your Holiday messages now using programs such as Hootsuite and Sendible. You can also schedule posts directly on your Facebook and Instagram business pages using Publishing Tools.

If you have a lot of customer interaction, you could hire a Virtual Assistant to reply to comments and private messages, and keep the engagement going.

Communicate

Get in touch with your clients and let them know you’ll be away. If you’re able, have a backup contact for them in case any urgent needs arise.  Clients will appreciate the high-touch service.

Kerr says:

"Contact any high-priority clients before going to make sure you've answered any questions and addressed their needs before heading out. It's not only a great customer service habit to get into, it will give you greater peace of mind. It also gives you a simple but legitimate excuse to reach out to clients you may not have talked to in a while."

If you work with a team, make sure everyone is aware of your travel plans and how to reach you in case of an emergency.

Clean Up Your Desk

About 20 minutes before the end of your day, take some time to clean up your desk. Put away the files you’ve been working on, put books back where they belong, straighten up the supplies. Take one last look at your Task list. Are there any projects that have been on a backburner for over a year – are you really going to work on them? Can they be delegated or even discarded?

christmas

Tips For Your Return:

Stealth Mode 

Try to stay in a selective stealth mode the first few days back, giving those that “need to know” a heads up about your return.  Break up the first few days into little chunks. For example, take care of emails and phone calls on the first day,  and review reports on day two.

Do Not Stay Late

As tempting as it might be, slowly easing back into that full “work late” schedule will help you be more focused and productive.

Part of the lure of a vacation is that you're free to do as you please. Work often seems like the end of the fun part of your vacation. Nonetheless, with a bit of strategic planning, and following a few return tips, you can help relieve the stress of the return and harness the excitement and happiness of your vacation.

christmas

Happy Holidays!

time management

The Ivy Lee Time Management Method and Why It Works

time management

The Ivy Lee Time Management Method and Why It Works

task virtual assistant

Throughout the years, time management has accumulated many rules and tricks. As a result, there are many proven methods of time management techniques that we use today that appeal to your work type. For example, problem solvers and analytical thinkers may use the Pareto Principle or the Time Blocking Method.  Creative thinkers will do well with the Pomodoro Technique, while critical thinkers may thrive using the Eisenhower Matrix. But only one method boasts simplicity and has stood the test of time and efficiency: The Ivy Lee Method.

What is the Ivy Lee Method?

The method goes back to 1918, when Charles Schwab, president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, sought help with making his team more efficient. So he scheduled a chat with Ivy Lee, who was a respected businessman and productivity consultant.

Lee agreed to help, free of charge. His only request was to spend 15 minutes with each of Schwab’s executives. Then, he said if the method worked within three months, Schwab could send him a check for whatever he thought the process was worth. Fast forward three months, and the method, although simple, was worth $25,000 in Schwab’s eyes, saying it had been the “most profitable advice he received.”  

Ready to see the steps for this incredibly simple but powerful time management technique?

The Steps

Step 1:
At the end of each workday, write down six tasks you think are essential to accomplish tomorrow.

Step 2:
Decide priorities for each of those tasks, ranking them in order accordingly.

Step 3:
First thing tomorrow, get started on the first task. Work on it until you finish and then begin the second task. Continue to work through your list, one task at a time.

Step 4:
When you finish your day at work, look at your list. Move any unfinished items to tomorrow’s list of 6 tasks for the day.

Step 5:
Repeat this method every day of the workweek.

Why it Works

As I said, this method is simple, which is precisely why it works so well. With cell phones, social media, and all other forms of advanced technology, we’ve become activity addicts. As a society, we’re often restless and antsy to do a million things at once, multi-tasking.

We used to believe that multi-tasking was the most effective way to work. But neuroscience has now proven that it is the exact opposite. We get less done in more time and end up frazzled at the end of the day. It can take our brains up to 25 minutes to get back into a work rhythm after we’ve been interrupted. When we multi-task, we switch quickly between tasks and never get into a rhythm, which kills our productivity and stresses us out needlessly.

The Ivy Lee Method is straightforward and goal-oriented. It keeps you on track so that multi-tasking and distractions do not interfere with the important stuff. It provides you will the kind of laser-focus that will help you get through your work tasks without breaking a sweat.

 

Want to learn more about prioritizing your tasks and get more done in less time?

Our FREE workbook along with the complete time management series will help you take control and manage your time.

TIME MANAGEMENT WORKBOOK

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Part I – What Is Your Time Vampire

Part II – 12 Steps to Vanquish Your Time Vampires

Part III – Improve Focus and Productivity for Better Time Management

Part IV – The Truth About Procrastinating