Unlocking Efficiency: 11 Strategies to Reclaim One Hour Daily in 2024

Unlocking Efficiency: 11 Strategies to Reclaim One Hour Daily in 2024

Your time is a precious commodity as a business owner. Your team, tasks, projects, vendors, and clients are all vying for it. You can quickly become the bottleneck in every area turning your free time, family time and hobby time into work time. If you are falling behind, not sure how to get past this season and heading into burnout, discover 11 practical strategies to help you save a valuable hour each day, allowing you to focus on what truly matters.

Save a Hour a Day

Routines:

Having a tried and tested nighttime and morning routine is crucial to success. What worked in your 20’s won’t work in your 30’s, what worked in your 30’s won’t work in your 40’s. Keep tweaking the routine to fit each season.

1. A Tried and Tested Nighttime Routine

A productive day starts the night before. Having a nighttime routine will wind your body down before bed, relieve the stress of the day and prepare you well for tomorrow. Here is an example of a solid nighttime routine:

  • Nightly hygiene – Wash your face and brush your teeth.
  • Get into bed or a comfortable chair and journal to decompress the day.
  • Meditation or breathing exercises.
  • Read a book – Preferably one that is not work-related.
  • Lights out 7-8 hours before you must wake up.

 

2. A Tried and Tested Morning Routine

The habit of waking up and getting into your workday is tempting, especially if you are behind, causing a bottleneck or stressed. Starting your morning slow will help the rest of your day speed up. Here are a few ideas on how to start your morning:

  • First thing should be away from electronics. Whether that is meditation, breathing exercises or reading a self-help book. Start your day by getting your mind right.
  • Drink a glass of water or two. Before you have your coffee(s) start by hydrating, so you don’t get behind.
  • Work out, go for a walk or stretch. If you sit at a desk all day your body needs movement, this is another strategy to get ahead instead of trying to fit it in later in the day.
  • Eat a healthy, protein-packed meal and add a few pieces of fruit to fuel up.

 

Delegating:

3. Utilize Technology

Uncover the latest productivity tools and apps that can automate repetitive tasks, freeing up your schedule for strategic decision-making.

4. Strategic Delegation

Delegate tasks strategically to lighten your workload. Discover the art of assigning responsibilities based on individual strengths, fostering a more efficient and collaborative work environment. We saved a client 14 hours a month on their billing process because they asked us if there was a better way. An Online Business Manager created a process utilizing technology and handed off the work to a virtual Executive Assistant to manage. If they didn’t ask if there was a better way, they would still be doing the 14-hour process.

Other Time-Saving Ideas:

5. Cancel Meetings

Revamp your approach to meetings. Learn how to conduct concise, purpose-driven meetings that yield results without consuming unnecessary time. Our clients use their virtual EA as a Meeting Assistant. The EA schedules the meeting, prepares agendas, confirms the meeting with attendees, compiles notes during the meeting and sends to-dos afterwards. Imagine having a meeting where all you must do is review the agenda going in and attend the meeting, everything else is done for you. If you are finding your meetings are not needed, redundant or not a good use of time, utilize Loom to explain processes or tasks rather than spending 15-30 minutes in an unnecessary meeting.

6. Power Naps: Boosting Productivity, One Nap at a Time

Unleash the potential of power naps or short breaks to recharge your energy levels and enhance overall focus. We’ve heard “rules” where you should take a break for x number of minutes worked. The most common is 15-minute breaks for every 60 minutes worked but find your rhythm. If you find after 90 minutes you need a break, take a break, if it’s after 30 minutes of focused work, take a quick break. If you need a power nap after lunch, take one. It will take time to discover what amount of time works best for you but if you are putting in lazy minutes in your day, take a break to boost productivity.

7. Digital Detox

Strike a balance between digital connectivity and personal well-being. Implement strategies to detox from constant notifications, allowing you to reclaim significant pockets of time. If you need to install software like Shift to keep all your tabs, windows, notifications, emails, etc. in one place it is easier to shut off notifications. Whatever strategy you use, ensure you are not pulled away by constant email, phone, social media, and Slack dings. Having focused work time in your calendar helps with this.

8. Strategic Networking: Quality over Quantity

Optimize your networking efforts by focusing on quality connections. Learn to build meaningful relationships that bring long-term value to your business without the need for endless events. A lot of our clients take one day a week for networking. Whether it is back-to-back Zoom meetings, or they hunker down at a coffee shop for a few hours taking meetings, batch your networking together.

9. Efficient Email Management: Utilizing Inbox Zero

Transform your email management habits. Uncover techniques to streamline your inbox, reducing the time spent on sorting through emails and ensuring a more efficient communication flow. We’ve covered this in a separate blog post here and highly recommend you check it out. Inbox Zero alone can save you an hour or more each day.

10. Continuous Learning: The Accelerator of Success

Invest in your knowledge base for exponential growth. Explore methods to incorporate continuous learning into your routine, providing a competitive edge in your industry and discovering new processes, software or people who can help you speed up. This also helps you and your team if you are getting bored or finding work stale.

11. Reflect and Refine: The Power of Daily Review

Cap off your workday with a reflective review and create an agenda for your next day. Don’t carry the stress of your day into the evening. This strategy helps avoid burnout and prepares you for a stronger tomorrow, ensuring you start your day with a clear plan of action.

 

Conclusion: Reallocate that time purposefully

Incorporate these strategies into your daily routine to save you hours this year. Keep in mind these strategies and routines will always be changing depending on your season. If you are single, it will look different when you are married. If you have young kids, it will look different as they grow up. Allow every strategy and routine to be flexible while constantly assessing if you can do things differently.

 

Derek Burbidge
Manager of Sales & Marketing

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

How an EA Transforms Businesses

How an EA Transforms Businesses

If you’re a business owner, hiring an Executive Assistant can be a game changing addition to your work life. You might not have an Executive Assistant yet, but there will likely come a time when you should consider investing in one.

Are you able to perform many daily tasks efficiently and on your own? Of course you can. After all, you’ve probably been doing them all since the early days. But your company is bigger now, or you’re trying to grow it, so it could be time to consider the opportunity costs of going it alone.

A skilled Executive Assistant can be the backbone of your more efficient operations. Their primary purpose is to perform a range of administrative tasks, like managing schedules, making travel arrangements, and organizing your inbox–so you can focus on strategic decision making and other higher-value responsibilities. More specifically, a virtual Executive Assistant can swiftly adapt to your changing needs, because they are skilled at using digital tools to handle tasks, manage schedules, and provide crucial assistance without needing to be in a physical office.

Butterfly in Flowers

Curious about what jobs you should hand off first? Here are some guidelines about what we recommend you outsource first to a virtual Executive Assistant.

Case Stories

Rather than talk about the benefits of hiring a virtual Executive Assistant, the following case stories exemplify how two of our clients at VEA have incorporated these skilled practitioners into their businesses in the real world.

 

Case Story: Improving the Intake Process

One client regularly sends multiple intake forms to its customers. For years, these forms were attached to emails and sent to individual users. Not only did customers often forget to attach and send back completed forms, but gathering was a manual process, leaving the door open for human error.

Using a combo of Microsoft Office Suite, Power Automate, SharePoint, and Power apps, our VEA Executive Assistant created online forms that could be updated in real-time and sent out as a simple link. Fewer attachments translated into fewer mistakes and a welcomed uptick in customer compliance.

Versioning issues are a thing of the past. Information is digitized, eliminating all that copying and pasting that was eating up employees’ time. An error-prone system was cleaned up, and since all data is stored in one place, our client can run reports and learn more about customer behaviour. With just a few small changes, so much was gained.

 

 

Case Story: A Better Billing System

Our professional services client needed to streamline its time tracking system and invoice clients more efficiently. Under its legacy system, they were still creating all invoices manually. It took two whole days to compile information and send invoices!

Working in partnership with a VEA Online Business Manager, the virtual Executive Assistant successfully implemented new digital tools to improve processes and meet newly formed goals.

Using a mixture of Clockify, Excel, and business analysis, this virtual Executive Assistant was pivotal in reducing the billing process from two days to just two hours, saving the client 14 hours per month in labor. Freeing up time by creating better processes enabled the business owner to grow without a lot of added administrative muscle to make it happen.

 

Business Gets Personal

Do you ever feel like your personal life seeps into your workday? It happens to the best of us. At VEA, our virtual Executive Assistants not only handle administrative jobs, but they are also happy to take on personal assistant duties, like arranging social plans, ordering household basics, and even sending flowers and gifts, all in the pursuit of giving you more ways to stay in the game rather than getting yanked to the sidelines throughout the day.

 

An Executive Assistant can even drop work blocks into your schedule, giving you permission to simply focus rather than be pulled into last-minute meetings that sabotage your flow. They can also help you strive for “inbox zero”, a productivity strategy and philosophy that seeks to declutter your mind by decluttering your inbox through methodically deleting, sorting, and clearing incoming emails.

Is it Time for an Executive Assistant?

The right virtual Executive Assistant can truly transform how you structure your week and make it more productive. VEA prides itself on hand matching business owners to their Executive Assistants to ensure a good fit from the onset.

Give VEA a call to talk about your virtual Executive Assistant options. Our team can explain what to expect and then walk you through our tried-and-true onboarding process that ensures you and your virtual Executive Assistant work together as an indispensable team.

Book a Call or email me directly at  [email protected]. I am always happy to help.

 

Derek Burbidge
Manager of Sales & Marketing

How a Meeting Assistant Can Make You More Productive

How a Meeting Assistant Can Make You More Productive

You wake up in the morning and see your calendar is jam packed full of meetings. You take this schedule one of two ways:

#1 – Stress: You know you are going to be ghosted at least once or twice, you see the tight time windows and worry about being prepared for each meeting and having proper notes taken during. Then there is the follow-up afterwards that will take time out of your day.

#2 – Ease: You have a meeting assistant who schedules all the meetings, follows up with a reminder to confirm with those you are meeting with, prepares all of the notes and will take minutes, follow up and not only create to-do lists out of those meetings but complete many of those tasks as well. You know today looks busy but will be pretty seamless.

In the online meeting era with Zoom fatigue being a buzzword surrounding it, your days can look stressful, or you can enter them with productivity and ease knowing that these meetings are going to go smoothly.

What Causes an Unproductive Meeting?

To run a smooth meeting, we need to address what makes for an unproductive, clunky meeting.

An unproductive meeting includes no:

  • Agenda
    • An agenda provides guardrails for the meeting, if you haven’t properly prepared one or transferred a meeting template to this meeting it will delay the meeting or lead to an unproductive meeting.
  • Meeting notes
    • If notes are not properly taken with to-do lists created, important topics covered and completion timelines set, it usually means the meeting was a waste of time.
  • Reminder emails before the meeting
    • Setting these up for all attendees beforehand is crucial to prevent no-shows and 5-15 minutes wasted in an empty Zoom meeting room or coffee shop, not to mention potential time driving to the meeting.

Not having these three areas covered leads to meetings running over time, going off-topic, and ending with no conclusions or concrete takeaways.

 

How do I Set Myself Up for a Smooth Meeting?

Having an agenda prepared beforehand with meeting notes and reminder emails sent means you are much more confident going in. You know attendees are most likely going to show up and you have everything in front of you to get started immediately on topic. This is where a meeting assistant will save you hours a week and set you up for productive meetings. Business owners know how many hours are taken up by meetings, feeling like one was a waste of time means many wasted hours which translates to dollars.

Our virtual Executive Assistants are experienced meeting assistants for Business Owners, C-Suite Executives and Entrepreneurs. They work with clients who go from meeting to meeting with very little to no buffers. Instead of leaving one meeting with a few notes rushed and a quick follow-up email before jumping late to the next meeting, they structure their day and meetings to maximize their time.

Here are the goals of your virtual EA when it comes to your busy meeting days, your EA wants you to:

  • Rarely have to book a meeting.
  • Never be double-booked.
  • Go from meeting to meeting fully prepared.
  • Leave the follow-up to them.
  • Review the notes and to-dos in a specific folder or project management software that has been created by them.

Are You the Bottleneck?

If a decision maker is in a meeting it can quickly go off the rails if the decision maker is the bottleneck to the organization. If their team cannot get a hold of them to answer requests or move projects along everyone wants to have their ear during the meeting so they can move tasks/projects along. If you are being asked numerous questions by multiple team members during a meeting, ask yourself “is this part of the agenda for this meeting?” and “are they asking this because I haven’t responded to their email or previous request?” If the answer is yes, it means you are a bottleneck in your organization.

Chances are you will never have a focused meeting again. If you are finding yourself to be the bottleneck your virtual Executive Assistant can manage your email to ensure anything not needing your attention gets removed or answered on your behalf. This leaves only the most pertinent and important communication on your plate and removing the rest.

Your virtual Executive Assistant can also be a gatekeeper to your email and calendar. If your calendar is a free for all, your EA will help you set rules for who gets your time and for how long. They will set time blocks so you can focus on actual work, not just replying to emails and having meetings.

 

Conclusion

If you are sick of meetings, feel like you are in too many or meetings are unproductive your virtual Executive Assistant has vast amounts of experience being a meeting assistant, gatekeeper, calendar manager and email manager to help you gain your time back. If it’s time to get your life and business back under control schedule a call with our team to learn how a virtual Executive Assistant will get you more productive, in less meetings and back to doing what you love.

Derek Burbidge
Manager of Sales & Marketing