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

How to Find and Hire a Virtual Executive Assistant in North America

How to Find and Hire a Virtual Executive Assistant in North America

Learn what a North-American-based executive assistant can do to help you scale your business

 

How awesome would it feel to take your to-do list from “overwhelming” to “complete”… and keep it that way?!

Manage Your Tasks More Effectively

VEA is a virtual Executive Assistant (EA) and bookkeeping company. We help business owners and executives free up their time so they can focus on what matters most – working on (not in) their companies!

You probably have a number of administrative tasks that are taking up too much of your time. VEA offers a solution that will help you focus on the most impactful tasks to grow your business while delegating other jobs to a trusted partner.

Administrative Tasks

In many cases, checking email, booking travel, managing expenses, and scheduling appointments is not the best use of your time. We call these items menial tasks, and offloading work to an executive assistant is a great step toward focusing solely on the biggest projects that help scale your business. 

 

When deciding what to hand off first to an EA, a good rule of thumb is to pass along the tasks that drain your energy, you don’t enjoy, and drain your time. 

For example, many of our clients have told us that they spend hours a day sifting through endless emails, many of which do not even provide valuable information. A skilled EA can help you achieve Inbox Zero, which is the idea that you spend less and less mental energy on managing your emails as your EA oversees that task for you. Can you imagine waking up one morning with no emails in your inbox? Miracles can happen.

What Tasks Can My Virtual EA Perform?

All of VEA’s EAs are highly experienced and possess a broad professional skill set. Here are a few of the top ways you can work with an EA to lighten your daily workload and refocus on the things that generate growth.
  • Email Management: Productivity and mental well-being improve when your inbox isn’t cluttered with hundreds of unread and un-categorized emails. Your EA will not only help you manage incoming emails but also establish filing protocols that will ensure you can stay on top of emails well into the future. Inbox Zero is possible with the right executive support. 

 

  • Document Processes: Make employee and customer onboarding a more successful and rewarding experience when you can easily share your tried and true business processes with stakeholders. Your EA can draw up detailed descriptions of how to execute processes and outline the exact steps needed to complete a task from start to finish.

 

  • Calendar Management: Ensure important meetings and deadlines don’t fall through the cracks. Your EA will manage appointment setting, reminders, and even help you get ready for appointments so you are always prepared and in control of your workday.

 

  • Travel Booking: Have you tried to change or cancel your travel arrangements in recent years? An experienced EA can effortlessly navigate the world of flights, hotel reservations, and rental car bookings. They also know all the tricks for transferring vouchers, using your points cards, altering itineraries – so you can be on your way without losing years of your life to on-hold music in meantime.

 

  • Vendor Management: If you run a business, or even head up a department within a larger organization, chances are you contract out for various vendor services on a regular basis. Your EA can communicate with vendors, track and place orders, and stay on top of contracts. There is a lot to do, and nobody should be expected to manage it all on their own.

 

  • Research: Similar to vendor management, an EA not only keeps tabs on all current vendors, but they can also help research and vet potential vendors, suppliers, product research options, software, etc. If you give your EA the parameters, they will be happy to find relevant options.

 

  • Data Entry: It may feel tedious to some, but accurate data entry is essential to knowing your customers and building valuable relationships. A good EA has an eagle-eye for precision, and fast typing fingers don’t hurt either, so your databases are always up-to-date and working for you.

 

  • Appointment Setting: How often do you set a meeting, only to have someone change or cancel it? Or, perhaps your unpredictable schedule oftentimes leads to scheduling gymnastics in order to accommodate you and the team? Rather than risk missing meetings or feeling frustrated over the amount of time you spend on rescheduling, let your EA take over this menial, yet critical, task, so you can be sure you are showing up to the right things at the right time, and not stuck in renegotiating times and schedules if something changes on the fly.

 

  • Transcribing: Yes, there are a host of tools and apps these days to turn audio into text. However, no technology is foolproof, and transcribed audio still requires some heavy editing in order to make it understandable. No surprise here that a good EA is happy to take on this transcribing challenge. Also, not all conversations can be perfectly recorded by a speaker. An EA can also transcribe what is said during key meetings or presentations so you have a long-lasting record of what was discussed, and when.

 

When is it Time to Hire an EA?

How do you know if you are ready to hire an Executive Assistant? Ask yourself – what is one hour of my time worth? Calculate your current hourly rate by dividing your salary by 48 weeks (assuming you take vacation) by 40 hours/week.

$125,000 / 48 weeks / 40 hour = $65 hourly rate

Or, calculate your intended future salary by dividing your desired salary by 48 weeks by 40 hours/week.

$250,000 / 48 weeks / 40 hour = $130 hourly rate

Once you have learned your business and you become profitable, start handing off tasks that drain your time and energy so you can focus on the highest-value jobs. If you are taking out a business loan or bringing on a VC, you can start to build your team and outsource faster.

 

 

Free up Your Time and Grow Your Business

VEA offers a range of executive services to support busy business owners. We find passionate, creative, experienced, and dedicated talent in many of the departments necessary to run a successful company. 

 

In addition, our staff is 100% North-American based. Whether you need a virtual Executive Assistant in Canada, a virtual Executive Assistant in Texas or anywhere else in North America, we will provide one for you. 

 

Our specialty is long-term partnerships that come at a fraction of the cost of traditional, in-house employees. There is only a 20-hour minimum requirement per month for our EA services and no minimum requirement for bookkeeping and fractional controller services. And, we’ll never ask you to sign a long-term contract. Set up is quick and easy, and your EA will become a vital part of your team in a short time frame.  

 

Contact VEA to learn more! Visit our EA services page to discover more about the many ways we can help you grow your business.

 

 

Derek Burbidge 

Manager of Sales & Marketing

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