What’s Your Plan?

Most business folks spend their days being nibbled to death by ducks.

You want to print the meeting agenda but the printer is out of ink.

Your website manager still hasn’t updated your bio.

That new client postpones their call. Again.

The prospect can’t meet for lunch at noon so would 1:30 work? Or next Friday?

The path to success requires relentless focus on what’s important but that’s hard to do with mallards and drakes nipping at your heels.

To Stay on Track, You Need a Track

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably never get there, and even if you do you won’t know it.

In the frantic scramble of the average entrepreneur’s workday, marketing your book is one of the first things to fall through the cracks. If it’s not a priority, it won’t get done, and if it’s not part of the plan it won’t be a priority.

The Plan

You need to have your own plan, of course, but here is the big picture for a business person who has written a book to support their business:

  1. People engage your services because
  2. they read your book after
  3. they followed your blog, Twitter feed, and other social media when
  4. they saw your insightful generous comment on Linked In, Twitter, Facebook, or another blog, which happened because
  5. it was on your schedule.

Getting Started

My father used to tell the story of little Billy, who told the teacher he was late because he ran beside his bicycle all the way to school. When she asked why he did that, he said “Because I didn’t have time to stop and get on.”

Make the time to stop and get on the bike. You’ll lose a few minutes now, and gain them back manifold in the coming weeks and months.

Write down your plan. Even if, at first, it’s as vague as my list above, write it down. What’s the path someone will take from total stranger to client?

Until you have that, you’re flailing in the dark.

Once you do have it, you’re ready to create a formal marketing plan.

If you need help with that, or even with the informal plan that comes first, give Sue a holler. We love helping folks figure out social media.

Time Management: Checking and Replying to Emails

Don't let your email choke you!Always running out of time? Perhaps it’s because you’re constantly checking and replying to emails. Don’t let your email choke you!

If managing your email is preventing you from having good time management, take control. Set specific times during the day that you check and respond to emails. You may pick two or three times a day; perhaps at 9 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm. Choose what works best for you.

Then let clients know you check and reply to emails at those specific times. You may even create an auto reply message indicating that you’ve received their message and will reply at the designated time. This way your clients know you did receive the message and will get back to them in a timely manner and they won’t be wondering why they didn’t hear from you right away.

You will find you are much more focused, less distracted, handling email in this manner. It also will lessen the feelings of guilt you may have at checking your email constantly when you should be working on a client project.

Please share your tips for managing email and any other time management tips you use!


Scheduling Your Time

scheduling your timeDo you sometimes feel there’s not enough time to get all the tasks done in a day? Virtual Assistants usually have several clients – each with a variety of tasks to be completed. Often these tasks are done on a daily basis. If you have a dozen clients and need to touch their account daily and complete three different tasks for each of them every day, that’s 36 different things you need to schedule that day. How do you manage your time to get everything scheduled done?

Here’s what I’ve found is working best for me at this time. (I find that works best for me sometimes changes depending on how many clients I have and how many tasks I need to accomplish. Feel free to change how you schedule your time as the need arises.)

1. My Google calendar helps me see at a glance for the day, week, or month what client calls I have scheduled, what projects are coming due, and gives me a daily reminder to check my daily task list.

2. Currently my favorite way to be sure I get everything done I need to do everyday is to use a spreadsheet similar to the one pictured here. Each Monday morning I print out my daily task list and then physically check off each task as I complete it each day. I had tried to do this on the computer without printing it out. However, I love the feeling of having something in front of me I can see, touch, and write on. Since I have so many clients with so many different things to do, I actually have a 2-page task list. It sure has helped me accomplish a lot.

Everyone has their favorite time management tool. I’d love to hear what works best for you. 

Effective Time Management: Set Realistic Expectations

When I first started working as a virtual assistant and had just the one client, time management wasn’t much of an issue. When the client clled or emailed requesting a task to be done, I could immediately jump right on it and within minutes or an hour, depending on the task, I could let the client know the task was complete.

As my client base grew to two, three and more, it was still fairly easy to immediately handle an incoming task. Not only were clients impressed by the quick turn around time, they now had the expectation that anytime they called or emailed, their task would get done – immediately.

Now, I do want each of my clients to feel special and important. They need to know that when they send me a task it will get done in a timely manner. But is it realistic that each task will always be done immediately? Of course not! The expectations I set at the beginning of my business were not realistic and did not allow for the growth to 20 plus clients. Time management now became an issue. Imagine if even six clients called or emailed within a fifteen-minute period and requested a task and they each needed it within the hour! What if I was already in the middle of handling an urgent task needed within the hour? It just is not feasible to think that each client could get their task handled immediately.

As my business has grown, I’ve adjusted my work flow procedures and my client’s expectations. They still expect a timely response and quick turn around. It’s just a more realistic expectation. Instead of having to learn this the hard way for yourselves, here are suggestions, based on my experience, for effective time management and setting realistic expectations.

1. Decide early on what your working hours will be and include the information in your contract. Recently my clients were informed that my working hours are 10-12 am and 1-4 pm (PST) Monday through Thursday and that Fridays are for administrative tasks. This allows me one day to handling billing and bookkeeping and prepare the plan for the following week. This helps me be more productive.

2. Create an email policy and inform your clients. I just instituted a new email policy as follows: Another step in effectively managing my time is to respond to emails at 10 am, 1 pm and 3:30 pm. Should your matter require more immediate attention, please call my cell (XXX) xxx-xxxx. Thank you for your understanding.

3. Make sure you clearly inform your clients of your turn around time. My clients know I will respond within 24 hours to their request, excluding weekends. My response will indicate when I expect their project or task to be completed. If for any reason it becomes necessary to extend the timeframe, let the client know as soon as possible.

I recently informed my clients of my new work flow procedures and timely responses to emails and other requests. Each has responded in a positive manner, understanding the need for managing time effectively and still promptly handling their projects.  Some of their responses are:  “Love the new schedule!  Thanks for letting me know.” “I certainly will honor your new schedule and hours.”

What have you done to manage your time effectively and how do you set realistic expectations?

Time Management and Trust

Virtual assistants need to be able to manage their time effectively. As my business has grown to the point that I now have several team members assisting, this has become critical.

It is important to organize your time around priorities. What needs to be done immediately? Is there an ongoing project that could be done later in the day?

Everything we do is accomplished by means of delegation – whether to someone or to time. Since my business has grown to the point of having team members, delegation is a very important aspect of managing my time. Delegation results in growth, both for each team member and the company.

Delegating to others requires trust. Trust in others is the highest form of motivation for them. When team members know I trust them to get the job done in a timely manner, they are motivated to do just that.

Please share tips on how you manage your time.