Email Management in 2024: Utilizing Inbox Zero

Email Management in 2024: Utilizing Inbox Zero

Do you dread opening your email? Does the ever-growing inbox number send shivers down your spine? You’re not alone. In today’s digital world, email overload is a common struggle, impacting productivity, focus, and even mental well-being. But fear not, fellow email warriors! There’s a path to email zen: Inbox Zero. We have touched on Inbox Zero in a previous blog post, but with new AI tools scraping data from every corner of the internet, your email is on way more lists than ever. Without the proper tools, it can be a full-time job managing your inbox and we can guarantee important emails are being flagged as junk or missed altogether. Let’s learn about Inbox Zero along with a few tips to manage your email better.

Email Management Tips

What is Inbox Zero?

Forget the literal interpretation. Inbox Zero isn’t about a constant state of zero emails. It’s a mindset and method for managing your inbox efficiently, minimizing clutter, and reclaiming control over your time. As productivity guru Merlin Mann puts it, “Inbox Zero is the amount of time an employee’s brain is in his inbox.” You may never get down to “zero” emails in your inbox, but you will get to a place of having less of your energy spent on your inbox. That is the overall goal of Inbox Zero.

 

Keys to Unlocking Inbox Zero Bliss:

1. Embrace the "Touch it Once" Rule

When an email lands, decide its fate immediately. Reply, delete, archive, or delegate – don’t leave it lingering. This also removes the stress of having to get back to someone or putting out a fire. Get it done or delegated right away.

2. Batch Processing is Your Best Friend

Don’t check your inbox constantly. Schedule dedicated times to process emails in focused bursts. We usually recommend it before lunch or the end of the day. You will usually have an extra urgency since you want to eat or log off.

3. Folders & Labels

Use folders sparingly for long-term storage and quick review. Having labels for filtering and quick access are more valuable.

4. Unsubscribe Ruthlessly

Feeling overwhelmed? Unsubscribe from unnecessary emails – newsletters, promotions, anything you don’t actively use. I find myself constantly deleting emails from the same company before reminding myself of the unsubscribe button.

5. Set Boundaries & Communicate

Let colleagues and clients know your email checking schedule and preferred communication methods. Many of our clients utilize the autoresponder to communicate the times they will be checking email and if there is anything very urgent, to contact their Executive Assistant.

6. Leverage Technology

Tools like filters, autoresponders, and email clients with advanced features can automate tasks and streamline workflows. Shift is a great software that houses all of your browsers, email and apps. It also allows you to silence notifications which keeps you on task.

 

Why Choose Inbox Zero?

The benefits of achieving Inbox Zero are numerous:

1. Enhanced Productivity

Having constant notifications and emails needing your attention pulls you off task. Having Inbox Zero in place with the support of your virtual Executive Assistant to manage it, you will stay focused on the task at hand, without interruptions. No more being pulled away to see if that “ding” was important or spam.

2. Reduced Stress & Anxiety

Constant unread messages trigger a fight-or-flight response. Inbox Zero brings only the most important emails to your attention while the rest are taken care of.

3. Improved Work-Life Balance

Define email boundaries and avoid work bleeding into personal, family, hobby or vacation time.

4. Sharpened Focus

Eliminate distractions and channel your energy into meaningful tasks. Inbox Zero helps you create time blocks in your day without distractions pulling you away.

5. Boost in Motivation

Seeing a clean inbox is psychologically rewarding, fueling further action and creativity. It’s like having a clean workspace, car or home…it just makes you feel better.

 

Beyond the Basics:

1. Tailor the System

Inbox Zero isn’t a rigid formula. Experiment, find what works for you, and adjust as needed. Like anything we recommend and as we did in our “15 Minutes a Day of Self-Care for Business Owners” blog, try different methods and tweak them to fit your season.

2. Prioritize Accordingly

Use a system like Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize emails based on urgency and importance. This should be done utilizing folders in your inbox. My virtual Executive Assistant (virtual EA) does this first thing in the morning so when I get to my computer, I only check email in the “For Review” folder.

3. Automate Where Possible

Set up filters, canned responses, and autoresponders to save time and effort. If you are not sure how to do this yourself or would rather have a professional take over your email, book a call with our team.

4. Remember, it's a Journey

Don’t get discouraged by setbacks. Consistency and progress are key. Inbox Zero takes learning and as mentioned above, you will need to tweak it to work for you. Sometimes important emails will be moved to junk or the wrong folder. Keep tweaking the filters and communicate with your EA on what requires your attention. As time goes on, this process will be a well-oiled machine saving you hours and hours.

 

Conclusion

If you haven’t tried Inbox Zero, give it a try with a few folders in place and start creating filters. Don’t forget to unsubscribe to emails that don’t add any value to your life. Within the first week of setting up time blocks, folders and filters, you will see more tasks getting done, higher levels of focus and less time spent scrolling up and down your inbox.

Derek Burbidge
Manager of Sales and Marketing

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Mistakes Business Owners Make When They Hire a Virtual Assistant

Mistakes Business Owners Make When They Hire a Virtual Assistant

Through our countless sales calls with business owners, c-suite executives and entrepreneurs, we’ve heard the many reasons why hiring a virtual Assistant hasn’t worked in the past.

We even had a lot of turnover in our first three years for the same reasons virtual Assistant (VA) services hasn’t worked for a lot of people. It is why we created our onboarding process a few years ago, it comes with your own Onboarding Concierge who asks targeted questions to understand you, your business, and your goals. From that call we hand match you with one of our talented virtual staff and discuss the game plan with them before you officially get started.

Whether you are looking for a virtual Executive Assistant (virtual EA), virtual Bookkeeper (BK) or Online Business Manager (OBM). If you’ve tried and failed in the past, we see your pain and understand what the main issues are. Thankfully, we have grown VEA to help you learn how to hire a virtual Executive Assistant to ensure a long-lasting relationship.

Guy in front of a computer

The mistakes and hiccups of hiring a VA stem from the following:

1. You Didn’t Have Enough Work for Them

This can lead to you spending more time finding work for your virtual Assistant than the time it takes to complete the tasks you create for them. So, how do you find and create work for your virtual Assistant?

Rule #1 is to give your virtual EA recurring work that takes your time but doesn’t need your attention. An example is to hand off your email and calendar management. You spend too much time reading through, responding to, and deleting emails that don’t really require your attention. If you are like many of our clients, you also spend a ton of time setting up meetings, booking appointments, and playing email tag trying to “find a time that works.”

Your virtual Executive Assistant can double as a Meeting Assistant which allows you to jump from meeting to meeting without having to set up, take notes or follow up, saving you hours in a week. Having your virtual EA managing your calendar, meetings and emails are three simple ideas to give them re-occurring work.

2. Your Communication Was Sporadic

In many cases, the first point of not having enough work leads to sporadic communication. If you don’t have enough work or are too busy, meetings get pushed which causes a breakdown in the relationship and any trust that has been building, starts to decline. We recommend that all our new clients meet with their EA every day for the first 2 weeks. Even if that is only for 15 minutes. Each day in those 2 weeks should have a theme.

On Monday you get them an email address with your domain and have them connected to your inbox to clear out unwanted emails, set up filters and ensure you no longer have to spend hours a week managing your inbox. On Tuesday, you give them access to your calendar; Wednesday is invoicing…every day for 2 weeks there is a goal. This gets your EA set up quickly and starts to build the relationship. From there, you can go down to a meeting once or twice a week, whatever your needs are. Without set meetings, communication will be sporadic, any changes that need to be made won’t be and tasks will start piling back up on your plate.

3. You Didn’t Know What to Hand-Off

This usually applies to your virtual Executive Assistant. For a Bookkeeper you don’t need to think twice about what to give them and our OBM services have an initial strategy call to set the pace of the engagement. Without the Onboarding Concierge setting the pace for your launch with your EA, it is easy to go aimless without a clear plan. If you are not utilizing VEA for your virtual services the same answer from question 1 applies here but to expand on that, add in your to-do lists.

Whether that is for work or personal. Your virtual Executive Assistant can double as a Personal Assistant by placing grocery orders, buying gifts, setting personal appointments, and blocking off time in your calendar to ensure you don’t miss important life and family events.

4. They Were Too Inexperienced

During our initial call, we always ask if you’ve worked with virtual staff before. If the answer is yes, the main reason clients have ended services was because their virtual staff were too inexperienced to complete the tasks. They are usually offshore VA’s or family members completing their bookkeeping.

As your business grows, you need a higher level of support which is where we come in. Our virtual EA’s and BK’s have over 5, but most have over 10+ years of experience in their role. Our OBM’s have up to, if not over 15 years of experience. If you’ve settled in the past

Call now

Conclusion

If you are giving it a go again, ensure you have tasks assigned to them. For example, every time a new client request comes into your inbox, they set them up in the CRM and schedule the call/appointment. Having your virtual Assistant managing your email is also a time-saving task that keeps you in front of what is important. By handing off repetitive tasks, you ensure that your VA will have work to do and keep the relationship going

Derek Burbidge
Manager of Sales and Marketing at VEA

How to Hire a Virtual Assistant

How to Hire a Virtual Assistant

As small business owners your world is fast paced with hundreds of tasks landing on your plate, leading you to work evenings and weekends. You have quickly discovered that this new life is not sustainable and look to outsourcing various tasks.

Usually, you want to hire a Bookkeeper to take those tedious tasks off your plate, next, is your administrative tasks. Removing data entry, research, calendar management, email management, travel booking and ensuring that meetings go smoothly with an Assistant who doubles as a meeting assistant. Now that you are looking to outsource, an Administrative Assistant, virtual Assistant (VA) or virtual Executive Assistant (VEA) become search terms you are familiar with. However, what is a VA, or virtual EA and how do you hire one?

Shaking Hands

What is a Virtual Assistant or Virtual Executive Assistant:

A VA or VEA takes over tasks much like an Administrative Assistant, however they are strictly online. A VA will have less experience and generally requires more hand-holing and back and forth. A virtual Executive Assistant is highly experienced working with c-suite executives and business owners. Our clients usually call us because they are doing the tedious, time-consuming tasks that don’t require their attention. Those tasks can be travel booking, invoicing, setting up rules and filters in your email to remove junk or spam before it reaches your inbox, CRM management an countless other tasks on your to-do list.

What to do Before Hiring a Virtual Assistant:

Recognize how much your time is worth and tasks that are draining your energy. If you are unsure of where to start, our onboarding process helps create a plan of action over the next 6 months to ensure your launch with VEA is successful. Our Onboarding Concierge asks pointed questions to draw out your needs, your loves, your hates, your dreams for your business and discusses them with your virtual Executive Assistant before you begin with us. The last thing any of us wants is to waste time for weeks discovering the gameplan as we go, let’s create it before we start and tweak it along the way.

How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Cost:

That all depends on experience. If you don’t mind handholding for the first few months and waiting 24 hours for a response, hire overseas. This is usually the start for companies looking to hire for only a few hours a week. If you are looking for a highly experienced Assistant who will be client facing, the price can go up. If you are hiring a less experienced Assistant, the price can range from $5-$30 USD per hour. If you are hiring an experienced Assistant, the price ranges from $35-$60 USD per hour. Most of these Assistants will be hired on contract so you don’t have to worry about benefits and perks.

How to Hire a Virtual Assistant:

You need to first discover what you are looking for and how many hours you need. Once you have your gameplan in place, it is easier to discover more tasks to hand off and how many approximate hours you need. From there, decide whether you want someone experienced or inexperienced, this factor will most likely be determined by your budget. If your budget is lower a lot of these factors like location and experience will be decided for you. A higher budget comes with more experience and on shore Executive Assistants, where a lower budget (under $750/month) will take you offshore with less experienced virtual Assistants.

How Many Hours Does a Virtual Assistant Work:

This is all based on how many hours you need and can limit the pool of Assistants. If you are looking for only a few hours a week or close to full-time, you may have a harder time finding or keeping a VA. Most VAs are remote and prefer to control their hours, having close to 40 hours a week makes that harder for them to be flexible with their schedules. Hiring someone around 2-3 hours a week makes you less of a priority and normally means you have 0 hours for them in one week and 5 in the next. With the unpredictability or hours and pay, many VA’s end up firing you as a client. At VEA, we have 20 hours a month as a minimum to ensure that you are consistent with your EA and their hours are guaranteed. If you need full-time, we offer that as well. Our team of over 70 virtual staff are all over the map with their desired hours, ensuring that we have someone experienced to fit your needs.

Hiring a Virtual Assistant, Again:

We’ve heard the many reasons why hiring a virtual Assistant hasn’t worked in the past. It is why we created our new onboarding process complete with your own Onboarding Concierge. If you’ve tried and failed in the past the main reasons, are you didn’t have enough work for them, your communication was sporadic, you didn’t know what to hand-off or they were too inexperienced. If you are giving it a go again, ensure you have tasks assigned to them. For example, every time a new client request comes into your inbox, they set them up in the CRM and schedule the call/appointment. Having your virtual Assistant managing your email is also a time-saving task that keeps you in front of what is important. By handing off repetitive tasks, you ensure that your VA will have work to do and keep the relationship going.

Conclusion

If you are looking for highly experienced virtual Executive Assistants, meet VEA. Our EA’s have over 5+ years, but must have 10+ years of experience, working for C-Suite level executives, business owners and Entrepreneurs. If you have tried alternative routes and failed, our onboarding process will give you the perfect jump start you need to make this time around successful. Book a call with VEA to get those time-consuming, energy- draining tasks off your plate so you can get back to what is important.

Derek Burbidge
Manager of Sales & Marketing at VEA

Why Your Business Needs a Virtual Executive Assistant

Why Your Business Needs a Virtual Executive Assistant

Before we even get into this, you might be asking yourself, what exactly is a Virtual Executive Assistant? The answer is simple! They are highly valuable and experienced team members that can access the necessary tools and data that a traditional in-office Executive Assistant does. Only remotely.

Before you argue that you need someone in-house to be able to truly get the job done, let me give you some insight into why your business needs a Virtual Executive Assistant.

A cup and a laptop on a table.

1. Your day is filled with monotonous tasks leaving you no room to focus on growth.

Your time is valuable. You are the head of your company. The visionary. The creator. Therefore, you need time to be in your Zone of Genius. To be able to grow your business to new heights. To be able to focus on the bigger picture, not the day-to-day tasks.

Common administrative tasks such as, booking meetings, answering emails, or even making travel arrangements, can be time-consuming, daunting, and ruin your creative flow. You don’t need to use up your energy with these tasks, a Virtual Executive Assistant can handle all of these with ease.

2. You know you need help but not enough for a full-time assistant.

Your business is growing but you don’t have a big enough workload to fill 8 hours of the day that a full-time assistant would require. You don’t want to pay someone to stare at a computer screen for 6 of the 8 hours in a typical workday and hiring a part-time employee is no easy task. It’s hard enough trying to find a full-time good fit these days. That pool gets even smaller when you are looking for a part-time person.

Most Virtual Executive Assistants work with multiple clients, so you get the expertise of a full-time employee that has worked with various executives for a variety of different organizations. But you only pay them for the time you need them.

3. You don’t have time to hire and train an employee.

Listing the job posting, sorting through thousands of unqualified resumes trying to find the diamond in the rough, interviewing multiple people only to have to do a second round and possibly lose your top candidate to another company because you didn’t have the time to offer them a position before they got scooped up by someone else. Sounds like a long, inefficient, and arduous process, doesn’t it?

VEA has a large team of Virtual Executive Assistants which means you don’t have to sort through a pile of resumes and take the time for monotonous interviews. We do it all for you. After our initial call we hand-match you to the best fit or let you interview between the top two we think will be a great fit for you and your business. No AI or “next up”, everything is done by our experienced Onboarding Concierge to make sure the fit is right for you.

VEA’s home base is in Calgary, Alberta, Canada but has contractors all over Canada to choose from. Virtual Executive Assistants in Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver or surrounding areas from coast to coast.

Each of our Virtual Executive Assistants has years of experience already and if there is something they need help with? Well, they also come with a whole support system ready to help. VEA can provide training on certain software, assist with problem-solving, and even provide a backup EA if needed.

4. You’re a creator, not an organizer.

Let’s face it, we are all built differently. It has been proven that many of us only operate on either the right side or the left side of our brains most of the time. This means if you are a creator, a designer, or an entrepreneur, you more than likely are not the most organized individual. If you happen to be an individual that is both, congratulations! You are an anomaly! But still, your time could be better spent than doing administrative tasks.

However, if you are more like other right-brain entrepreneurs, you may need some assistance with your organization and administrative tasks. Executive Assistants thrive on organization and structure. They are wired to take on the tasks that you may normally find a constant struggle. They love to help and make your life easier.

Conclusion

Bottom line: Virtual Executive Assistants can offer even more than most traditional EAs because having a whole team of support and resources constantly backing them up makes them an endless bucket of knowledge. Some that maybe even have a few organization tricks you never even thought to help streamline your processes helping eliminate time-wasting clerical errors.

Virtual EAs cost you nothing in equipment or office supplies. No need to pay for an office space for them and no need to provide traditional employee benefits because they come with their own. They are independent contractors that have already taken care of everything they need.

A clock with averlay text "Looking for more time to do what you love? Hire a Virtual EA."

So, is the question really, why your business needs a Virtual Executive Assistant or is it, how can you afford NOT to get a Virtual Executive Assistant?

If you are ready to join thousands of business owners that have already realized that Virtual Executive Assistants are a smart investment in your company’s future, give VEA a call today!

Derek Burbidge
Manager of Sales and Marketing

Tips for Maintaining Work-Life Balance Using a Virtual Executive Assistant

Tips for Maintaining Work-Life Balance Using a Virtual Executive Assistant

“Work to live, not live to work.”  How many times have you heard this from friends and family, or have seen this motto on promoted in a meme on social media?  For many Small Business Owners, working to live is easier said than done.  

Let’s face it – if you don’t work to run your business…then there IS NO business.  So, what can you do to turn the tables?  You could go back to a ‘9 to 5’ again…but then again… NOT!  You love your small business and are hungry to make it thrive. Your business is a big part of who you are, and you’re not prepared to give it up, no matter what the cost.  So, then what?  

Maybe it simply means that you need to work smarter, filling your days with the business you love, and less time spent doing business tasks that, while are necessary, are not your jam.

Unorganized computer desk

If you feel like your work-life balance is more off-balance than balanced, it’s time to enlist the help of a Virtual Executive Assistant.

1. Take Back the Night

Or your nights…and your weekends!  As a Small Business Owner, you attend to your core business and the needs of your clients all day.  Your business is all consuming and it’s what pays the bills!  Unfortunately, that may mean you are stuck doing your business administration work after hours, often eating into your much needed free time.  You know – making client invoices, reviewing the day’s emails, basic bookkeeping – that kind of busy work that must be done, but is so time consuming and tedious.

You need and deserve a break!  Hiring a Virtual Executive Assistant could be the solution you are looking for.  By offloading administrative and routine tasks to a Virtual Executive Assistant, you can open time for yourself to make your nights and weekends FUN again.  Finally check out that new restaurant you’ve been wanting to try, escape the city for a weekend, catch-up with friends, go for a run, binge that Netflix series everyone is talking about – the sky’s the limit, and a Virtual Executive Assistant can help take you there by giving you the gift of free time.

At VEA, our Virtual Executive Assistants come to the job ready to work, armed with experience and skills that let them hit the ground running.

2. Get a New Rhythm (And We Don’t Mean Dancing)

As a Small Business Owner, you know that there are administrative tasks that simply must be attended to during working hours.  The problem with these tasks is that they can be noisy and demand immediate attention, cutting into the productive routine of your day.  Answering client inquiries, scheduling appointments, returning routine phone calls – these are just a few of the administrative interruptions that can wreak havoc on the precious time of your daily business.

Yet there is no doubt that the completion of these tasks in a timely manner, while not your core business, are critical to your success.  Why not hand these tasks over to an Virtual Executive Assistant and consider them done!  Our Virtual Executive Assistants are experts at time management, making it easy for them to juggle many balls in the air at the same time.

There also may be personal tasks that need attention during the day, that ever-growing nagging list of to-dos that you can just never get to:

  • making a dentist appointment
  • booking lunch with a friend or colleague
  • finding that perfect gift for your significant other.

These kinds of things are important in your life too, and somehow you need to find the time to get them done.  But like the shoemaker’s kid, they are the last to ‘get the shoes’.

Our Virtual Executive Assistants are double agents and also complete basic Online Personal Assistant tasks.  Having helped other Small Business Owners just like you, our Virtual Executive Assistants can easily slip your personal tasks in amongst your required business administration work.  Not only that, but they also come equipped with tons of experience and may be able to provide you with suggestions or ideas of things they can help you with that you may not have considered.

3. More Time = More Business

Do you ever feel like you are busy all day, jumping from business task to meeting, and back to business task – but you are not making any headway?  Frustrating, right?  

This kind of exhausting, busy tempo is all too familiar with Small Business Owners because there is just so much to do and so little time.  But there is also the possibility that you could need some help with time management.  One of the beauties of having a Virtual Executive Assistant is they are one step removed from your core business, so they can step back and look at the bigger picture of your day with a fresh perspective.  

A Virtual Executive Assistant can help you by managing your busting-at-the-seams calendar, helping to create some much-needed space in your day.  By being mindful of how and when appointments are booked, your Virtual Executive Assistant can create time blocks in your day for focused time.  And focused time is what small business owners need.  Focused time offers you uninterrupted THINKING time, which is what you need to brainstorm ideas to maintain your businesses or push it to the next level. 

Conclusion

So, to summarize, if you are a Small Business Owner who needs help creating more time in your day but are hamstringed by an overload of administrative and personal tasks or by a lack of time in your daily calendar, it’s time to consider getting help.

You know you don’t want to commit to a part-time or full-time salaried employee, so a Virtual Executive Assistant could be just the ticket:  no overhead; on demand and flexible services; experienced, professional, and ready to work.  A Virtual Executive Assistant could mean the difference between you working to live – and not living to work.  And let’s face it, isn’t that what life is all about?

 

Derek Burbidge
Manager of Sales & Marketing