Creating Business Owner Success: Your Virtual Executive Assistant and Time Management

Creating Business Owner Success: Your Virtual Executive Assistant and Time Management

Virtual Executive Assistants and Virtual Assistants are extremely popular in the remote world, but what exactly are they? As the name suggests they are both fully remote. A Virtual Assistant or VA, is less experienced working in their role and usually requires more hand-holding and training. A Virtual Executive Assistant or Virtual EA, is highly experienced, can work more autonomously, requires little to no hand-holding and has a vast skill set due to their years of experience.

At VEA we only hire Virtual EA’s who have at least 5+ years of experience working with business owners, Entrepreneurs or C-Suite level Executives.

Whether you are hiring a Virtual Assistant or a Virtual Executive Assistant, the end goal is to delegate tasks and save yourself time. Usually, business owners will hand off the tasks that drain their time or energy, freeing them up for higher-level tasks that grow the business. This is usually called “Working On” the business vs “Working In” the business.

Here are a Few Examples of Our Clients who Saved Hours in Their Day By Hiring a Virtual EA:

1. Meeting Assistant/Calendar Manager - 15 minutes per meeting

Imagine reviewing your calendar and seeing 5 meetings in your workday from 9am-5pm. There are two reactions you may have, either stress or peace. The stressful part is that you have to prep for the meeting by creating an agenda, take notes and send follow-ups afterwards.

Our clients have a peaceful reaction by allowing their EA to act as a Meeting Assistant. They know their Virtual EA:

  1. Set up the appointments
  2. Created the calendar invite
  3. Prepped the meeting notes
  4. Suggested software to take notes in the meeting
  5. Reviewed and sent the notes
  6. Put the to-dos in their project management software
  7. Sent a follow-up email on their behalf.

This allows their client to go from meeting to meeting fully prepared without wasting time doing administrative tasks. In one instance this saved their client 15 minutes per meeting, equaling 75 minutes in their day! This opens up more time to work on higher-level tasks, remove bottlenecks or meet with 2 more prospects each day.

 

2. Email Manager - 1 Hour a Day

The first thing most business professionals do in their workday is check their email. After weeding through spam, responding to requests and crafting the perfect email, an hour of their day has gone by. If you start your day in your email rather than spending time on what needs your attention, a Virtual EA will be a gamechanger for you.

Having a Virtual Executive Assistant check your email before you get to your desk will give you a head start on your day. They leave what is urgent and needs your response and remove everything else. In many cases, this saves our clients an hour or more a day! By utilizing the “Inbox Zero” strategy, your Virtual EA will keep your day on track.

 

3. Data Entry – 30 Minutes Per Appointment

A Solopreneur client of VEA’s would spend 30 minutes after an appointment entering information into spreadsheets and a PDF order form which kept a large amount of their calendar blocked off after every appointment. When their Virtual EA recognized this, they took over their data entry. This opened up an extra appointment time in their calendar to spend with clients and generate revenue, allowing for an extra $900+ to be made each day. Their next step is hiring an Online Business Manager to automate the process.

 

4. Process Management – 14 Hours a Month

A professional services client of VEA’s was manually invoicing their clients every month. This meant the first few days of each month were spent in QuickBooks. Once they were brave enough to ask “Is there a better way?” Our team went to work. An Online Business Manager (OBM) and Virtual Executive Assistant worked together to implement a new process utilizing digital tools to save them 14 hours a month!

 

5. Creating Work Instructions and Standard Operating Procedures – 15 Hours a Month

Implementing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Work Instructions across your business is the biggest way to streamline and grow. It helps onboard new employees, speed up every level of the organization and potentially sell your business at a higher evaluation. If you are finding that you work over 8 hours a day or 5 days a week, implementing SOPs and Work Instructions will allow you to get back to a normal life and take a vacation!

Our OBM’s are experts at both. If you need to speed up your team, onboard clients and team members quickly and take some time off, reach out to our team to see if we are the right fit.

 

Conclusion:

Have time management tips been your most searched Google term? Are you spending more time working this year? Feeling bogged down in administrative tasks?

Have a call with our team to see how we can streamline your business, free up your time and get you working on what you enjoy and what needs your attention.

Book A Call with VEA.

 

Derek Burbidge
Manager of Sales and Marketing

Automating Routine Tasks in Your Business: Automate, Delegate, Alleviate

Automating Routine Tasks in Your Business: Automate, Delegate, Alleviate

There is an infinite amount of advice on the internet that comes from experts, influencers, and AI. This leads to Business Owners and Entrepreneurs being inundated with ideas and resources on how to grow themselves and their businesses. There is never enough time in a day to implement everything you learn, and a lot of the advice won’t work for you. The easiest way to complete anything is to break it into bite-sized, manageable pieces.
It’s a lot like automating processes and delegating tasks. You are inundated with ideas and advice on how to automate and delegate processes, but you don’t know where to start. If you are looking at the whole picture and the hours it takes to complete something, it is way too overwhelming to grasp. This leads to you continuing to do it the way you always have and continuing to complete the processes that could be automated. If you are ready to bring in experts to free up your time, this is how VEA helps businesses grow by breaking down their processes into these 3 pieces: Automate, Delegate, Alleviate.

 

The first step is to automate that process which takes too much of your time. Whether it is email management, project management, travel booking, bookkeeping, invoicing, or recruiting and onboarding new staff or clients. A Business Manager will build and document each process, find faster ways to complete it and help you decide whether or not it’s worth your time. If it isn’t worth your time, we help you delegate it to a virtual Executive Assistant or Bookkeeper.
If you are stuck in the weeds and not sure how to audit your time or discover which step to automate, simply take a step back. Review what your days have looked like so far and even what you are dreading or putting off doing. Those should be the first tasks you automate. Many of our clients also audit their time. A resource like Clockify is very helpful for this. Sign up for a free account and track how long you are spending on each task. If email management takes you a combined 2 hours a day, that is a perfect opportunity to find better systems like “Inbox Zero”. After a few weeks, you can discover where your time is being spent and ask yourself, “Should I be doing this or automating it.”

 

You will quickly discover that you do not have to do everything. A business owner who tries to complete every task themselves will hit burnout, procrastination, and bottlenecks. The truth is some owners are micromanagers and find it nearly impossible to let go of tasks but usually, the issue is that they don’t have time to discover a faster way. That is where a Business Manager comes in to help them discover how to delegate and who to delegate to. It could be someone on your team or you can hire an Executive Assistant or Bookkeeper to completely take it over from you.

Some of the most common tasks our Online Business Managers improve are:

  • Project planning
  • Project management
  • Recruitment
  • Client onboarding
  • Team onboarding
  • Team mentoring
  • Biz dev research
  • Reporting

Again, these are common tasks but we are consistently receiving and discovering new opportunities to streamline processes.

Once our clients have automated and delegated processes they have saved anywhere from 5 hours to over 14 hours a month! Imagine saving yourself almost 2 full days! The hours you save can have you working fewer or no evenings and weekends, and removing bottlenecks from your organization. Freeing you up so you can run more efficiently and work on higher-level tasks to grow your business further.

If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, automating and delegating always leads to alleviating time, pressure and stress from your business.

 

Then What?

Once you have saved yourself hours a month, repeat the process. Our Online Business Managers can repeat the process for different tasks, processes, or projects in your business. If you’ve cleared up your emails and spent fewer hours in your inbox, move on to the project you have been putting off. If you have removed bottlenecks within your team by hiring a Business Manager to take over projects and mentoring, move on to a new internal system for them to streamline.

VEA has been helping small businesses run efficiently for the past 8 years and even though the term “expert” is thrown around everywhere these days, we are experts at what we do. If it is time to automate, delegate and alleviate, book a call with our team to see if we are the right fit for your business.

 

Derek Burbidge
Manager of Sales & Marketing

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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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15 Minutes a Day of Self-Care for Business Owners

15 Minutes a Day of Self-Care for Business Owners

Business Owners, Solopreneurs and Entrepreneurs, whatever role you fill, your day is full.

It could be working in the business doing day-to-day operations, managing emails, and doing the bookkeeping or working on the business where you are goal setting, meeting clients, forecasting, and doing sales. With all the tasks on your plate, your self-care is usually the first thing to be put on the back burner.

When you find your mental health declining or if you are having a difficult time during your day, here are 10 tips to turn your day around.

Infographic

Before I go into detail on each one, I want to mention that I am not a dietician, a counsellor or a guru. I have however utilized each of these steps and spent some time over the past 10 years trialling each for myself. These are what works for me, but what works for you will be unique to you. Give yourself time and grace to find what works for you.

Here are 10 self-care tips that you can do in 15 minutes or less. If you can’t justify taking 15 minutes for your health, book a call with VEA to start delegating tasks.

 

1. Eat a Healthy Snack

I have gone through seasons of eating terribly and have worked on bringing the right foods into our home. Instead of ramen for a snack, I cut up veggies for the whole week on Sunday night. It takes 15 minutes to cut them up and gives a healthy option to reach for when that impulse for convenient junk food comes in.

2. Call a Friend

Whether you are having a hard hour, day, or season, having a trusted friend or friends you can call is one of the fastest ways to turn it around.

3. Read

As much as we share our favourite business books this might be the time to pick up something else. Self-help or fiction books can take you away from being “on” all the time. If you are like me and have a hard time thinking about anything but work, these two genres will help you disconnect.

4. Go Outside

Nature bathing always works for me. But, to keep it short and sweet a walk around the block without my phone gives me time to breathe and jolts me back into productivity mode. Another favourite of mine is sitting on the patio with a cup of coffee or taking a few shots on the basketball hoop.

5. Meditate

Get away from electronics and find a quiet place to meditate. If you need your phone for a guided meditation set it to “do not disturb” and give yourself time to rest and reset.

6. Nap

My personal favourite and something I consider myself an expert in is power naps. When I was younger, I used to lie down and wait for my body to wake me up. This led to that confused wake-up where I didn’t know where I was or what time it was. Followed by the feeling of grogginess and not sleeping well at night, creating a cycle of naps, and not sleeping at night. When I started setting alarms, I found my perfect nap window of 13-16 minutes. I wake up feeling recharged and energized.

7. Journal

If your mind is circling with the same thoughts, get it out and onto paper. This has always helped me process my thoughts and change my mindset from problems to looking for solutions.

8. Exercise

I had a great exercise routine, then I had kids. It has taken me a long time to find a routine that works for this stage of life. Currently, it is 3 times a week after the kids go to bed and I am only at the gym for 30-50 minutes, but I am still seeing less stress and big body composition changes.

9. Deep Breathing

If you’re stressed and you know it take a breath. *Clap, clap* Slowing down your heart rate brings your body back to a calm state and away from anxious thoughts. This is another way of taking 15 minutes to slow down so when I get back to work, I am more productive than trying to force myself to battle through the stress.

10. Go For a Walk

This goes back to going outside as mentioned above but a big piece of removing yourself from work and resetting with some fresh air.

 

Conclusion:

As you can tell, most of these activities are meant to be a quick reset. By removing yourself from your current state or task and making a healthy choice for yourself will help clear your head. Allowing you to step back into work refreshed, recharged, and motivated. If you are facing a larger issue that can’t be resolved with a reset or break, find a trusted friend or counsellor to begin dealing with the bigger issue at hand. Being in business for yourself is rewarding but can lead to overwhelm, stress, burnout, anxiety, depression and/or trauma that can be avoided.

What is your plan of attack to prioritize your health? Write it down, share it with a friend and get started. But remember to give yourself time and grace to find what works for you.

 

Derek Burbidge
Manager of Sales & Marketing

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