3 Admin Tips to transform your working week

Admin is one of those things that, as business owners, we’ve come to accept is an unavoidable part of our business journey. Many clients and fellow business owners often say they are setting aside the day to do admin, or they need a Virtual Assistant to keep on top of things. Whilst a Virtual Assistant is a great option, you can certainly make yourself more productive and save yourself hours each week with these three simple admin tips.

1. Simply, get structured.

Hands up if your electronic filing system is either your Computer Desktop or local computer drive? Keep your hands up if you spend more than 30 seconds locating files. If your hand is still up, you are wasting time, not just finding your files, but your computer will most likely be SLLLOOWWW because the computer needs to use operating memory for no reason other than to maintain a messy desktop.

admin tips, time saving, organisation, virtual assistant
Messy Desktops are time wasters. Image Credit: About.com

Messy Desktops are time wasters. Image Credit: About.com

The great thing is, setting up a filing structure doesn’t have to be (and it shouldn’t be) complicated. It just has to reflect your business, and be intuitive enough for you (and your staff) to quickly and efficiently locate files. If you still don’t think having an efficient electronic filing structure is important, consider this. Every file that you cannot locate instantly, creates an unnecessary workload. If you have to spend more than 30 seconds looking for a file, being interrupted by a colleague to check if the file is saved on your personal drive, you’ve wasted everyone’s time. An example of a simple, yet effective filing structure is below. I use DropBox (Google Drive is also a great option) to store my files, as I can invite others in to folders to find and save files.

An effective, simple filing structure is an easy way to save time.

An effective, simple filing structure is an easy way to save time.

My tips for creating an efficient filing system are:

  1. Don’t Over-complicate.
    • Have a few broad, but descriptive folders that cover the main aspects of your business. Being overly specific can cause confusion, and isn’t necessary in most cases.
  2. Keep Sub-Folders to a minimum. 
    • Sub-folders may seem like a great idea, and have you feeling super organised, but it can be like navigating through a stranger’s mind. You’ll spend far too much time going in and out of folders to find the correct files. I recommend 2-3 levels of sub-folders at most.
  3. Sequence your folders.
    • Create a sequence to display your most important (or frequently visited) folders first, rather than having the folders listed alphabetically. Simply name the folder 01 Folder Name, 02 Folder Name, and the second level, 01.1 Sub-Folder Name, 02.1 Sub-Folder Name and so on.

2)      Make your Inbox Sing!

Many of my clients and previous colleagues report feelings not dissimilar to anxiety, stress and overwhelm when faced with their Inbox. It is estimated that 212.1 billion emails are sent and received each day. Without an effective Inbox strategy, it is really no wonder people tend to avoid their Inbox. A complete Inbox Detox is a great place to start.  Consolidate your email accounts, organise your Inbox and introduce automation to make your Inbox work harder – not you.

Read about the Inbox Detox over here. http://www.pro-assist.com.au/blog/inboxdetox

3)      Standardise for Success

If you seem to always be creating documents and emails from scratch for the same type of purpose (Client Reports, Proposals, Letters), then you will benefit from creating templates.

You can customise these each time you use them, but get the body of the template correct and you’ll save so much time. CRM systems such as HubSpot integrate with many mail clients so you can effortlessly add templated responses to your emails.

The 3 admin tips are quick and simple to implement, but will drastically reduce time spent on admin, leaving time for the more exciting aspects of your business.

 

 

 

Effortless Optimisation: How I Save Time, Money and Grow My Business Each Week

Saving Time, Saving Money, Virtual Assistant, Scheduling, Optimisation, Optimization

Like thousands of other businesses around Australia, I am a Service Provider. I have existing and potential clients that I meet with regularly. But unlike the thousands of other businesses, I don’t spend hours coordinating these meetings.

I hear you asking, “How?” Well, I implemented an online booking system. It was quick and easy to implement, and I saved hours and secured more bookings, straight away – and I can help you do the same.

Here’s how it used to be (And I’m certain you’ll be able to relate!) An email would come in from a Hot Lead –they loved the service, and wanted a consultation. I’d go to my calendar, note times I was available, and email them with “How does this time suit you?” They’d reply back sometime later, something along the lines of “How about x time/date?” I’d go back to my calendar, no, I wasn’t available.. And we’d go back and forwards until we found a time and date that worked. Sometimes I’d miss the email, and leave my lead waiting for a response; and, unfortunately, it was common for a hot lead to go cold, stone cold – like they vanished off the face of the earth. I got frustrated. I’d spend hours coordinating these consultations and it just felt like a huge waste of time!

"Regret for wasted time is more wasted time" - Mason Cooley – Tweet That!

So, here’s how I stopped wasting time, and secured more bookings.

  1. I researched online booking systems – there are hundreds, for all different industries. I provide a service to businesses, and my consultation offerings are limited to 1 type – so I settled for a simple program, Acuity Scheduling.
  2. I tailored the program to my offering. The program steps you through this.
  3. I embedded the link as a header on my website, in my email signature and on my social media page. And if someone asks for a consult? I provide them the link.
  4. My client chooses the time that suits them. The program syncs to my calendar, sends appointment confirmations to the client, and to me to notify of a new booking.
  5. I rock up to the consult when my Calendar notification tells me to.

This is one of the most simple and effortless optimisation strategies available to you. If you want to save time, money and get more bookings, book in with me for a complimentary consultation.

The day my keyboard died…

It’s safe to say, I make a living with immense help from my computer keyboard. So when my wireless keyboard went flat, and I couldn’t seem to find a single AAA battery in the house; and my emails and To-Do list began to overflow, I started getting frantic. After taking apart all of my son’s battery operated toys to scrape together 2 pre-loved batteries, I was ready to start the day – except I wasn’t, because my internet was down – oh the luck.

Do you ever have those days where, no matter how enthusiastic, ready and willing you are, it seems the world is against you? In my case, I was honestly ready to give up for the day – just take the day off to enjoy my family and the sunny weather. But I didn’t give up, I persisted, and something magical happened. As I was enjoying the delights of my half-empty batteries and Mobile Phone WI-FI Hotspot, I stumbled across an opportunity to grow my business – I pounced on it, typing out an email as fast as I could in case the batteries dropped out. Shortly after – the opportunity was mine, and my business is all the better for it.

They say it’s darkest before the dawn; and I have had a lot of moments where I’ve (almost) been down and out, but something magical followed quickly after. So from me to you, if you being dealt a bad hand, hang in there baby. Something magical is about to happen.

Virtual Assistant; Hang in there baby

Inbox Detox 101

Out of Control Inboxes can cause anxiety, lead to late nights and early mornings to catch up, and can quickly become not so useful and efficient. 

Sadly, the days of receiving a letter in the humble mailbox are gone. Email has become the preferred method of contact, and it truly is a marvelous technology; it keeps us connected, informed, and can get us access to free content, exclusive deals and so much more. The 2014-2018 Email Statistics Report estimates that in 2016, there are approximately 4.62 billion email accounts, and on average, each person owns 1.7 email addresses. What's more, 212.1 billion emails are sent and received each day; that's a lot of emails for you to sort through! So what does this information overload do to us? Having an out-of-control Inbox can seriously limit productivity (read about how to be more productive over here). Some report anxiety attacks, others working longer hours just to keep on top of their emails, and those who are naturally flighty, try to avoid their emails at all costs. 

So what can you do about it? Doing a simple Inbox Detox is a great start; I can’t promise its painless, but its oh-so-worth-it!

Detox Step 1: Consolidation

Not so long ago, I had 6 email accounts, yep 6. Why you ask? Well at the time, each had a purpose;

  1. my full time job email;
  2. my at-home business email;
  3. my first email address I ever had (hello, dustyangel32);
  4. a more professional one to successfully “adult” with (enter kfollent);
  5. my university email; and
  6. a Hotmail account that I could never bring myself to get rid of, despite the fact it only ever collected spam. 

How on earth do I consolidate, I hear you ask? You have to make some tough decisions. Granted, your full time job email can’t go, but consider whether you really need that old Hotmail account or the embarrassing combo of numbers and letters email address. 

After deactivating unnecessary accounts, you can consolidate further by creating a forward all email rule for accounts that you actually need, but don't need to access regularly, to an account that you do access regularly, such as your work email or personal email. (Not sure how to do this? Outlook Readers find out here, Gmail Users find out here). 

Iphone Users can also add their accounts into the phone's settings, so at the press of the Mail App button, all your emails are at your finger tips.

Detox Step 2: Organisation

This is actually the part I really love - sorting through all the emails and organizing them. (Hey, don’t groan, this is short-term pain for long-term pleasure!)

Firstly, tackle those email subscriptions that have gathered and multiplied in your Inbox. If you no longer want to receive a subscription, you’ll find the ‘Unsubscribe’ option in the footer of each email.

Next, introduce some organisation in the form of Folders or Tags (for the Gmail users out there). Don’t have a clue what your categories could be? You can start off simple, say have 3 categories; "To Action", "For Information" and "Complete". You can get more creative later when you have a better handle/ time to break your categories down. Set up these categories as folders or tags. 

Depending on the number of emails in your inbox (I've seen inboxes with in excess of 4000 emails), this may take you a long time. Set some time in your calendar each day/ week to sort through and file the emails. 

Detox Step 3: Automation

So you’ve now got a (mostly) squeaky clean inbox, and we need to keep it that way in the most efficient way possible: Automation. If you regularly receive a particular email, you can create rules to automatically send it to a Folder, or highlight it for your immediate attention;  for example, if I receive daily emails from cutecats.com, I can create a rule that puts that email into a folder called ‘Subscriptions’, so my inbox stays clear, and when I want my daily dose of fuzziness, I can go into the Subscriptions folder and read my cute cats subscription email; or, if I receive an email from my client, I can set up a rule that highlights their email in my inbox if a particular phrase is mentioned such as "ASAP", so I know I need to read that email first. Read all about rules in Outlook here, and filters in Gmail here.

So that’s it! Three simple steps to detox your inbox and quit the dread of opening your inbox. Email really is an amazing tool, just be sure to give it a bit of TLC every now and then to keep it in tip-top shape.

5 Tips To Save Time And Be More Productive

Time is a precious commodity; we all wish it would slow down or hurry up and we wish we had more of it. You may be surprised to know that nothing drastic has to change in your life to give you more time in your day. Just 5 simple tips will have an untold influence on how much time you get back in your day.

Following these 5 simple tips in my business saved me on average 4 hours per week AND I'm working less and being more productive because of these tips. 

1. Embrace Technology

There have been some mind boggling advances in technology, even in the last year. In my business, I do a lot of file sharing and collaboration with clients. At first, collaboration between my clients and I was done via email - back and forwards we would go, and it started to get confusing and time consuming. So, I embraced 2 technologies in this case: Asana and Google Docs. At commencement of a project/ task, I open Asana, create a new project, give my client access and set up step by step the tasks to be done, assign as necessary and add deadlines. Questions and comments are also made through Asana. Then comes Google Docs. I give my client access, and they can pop in whenever they like and see how things are going. Before embracing these technologies, I wasted on average 2.5 hours week collating and sending progress reports and answering queries. Now, that time is next to nil. Yep! I save on average 2.5 hours a week, just by embracing 2 technologies!

2. Automate Processes

This one is somewhat tied to the first tip, but we can take it a little further, and even make it more basic. For example, I tend to get the same questions asked over and over "What are your services?", "How much do you charge?", "What's your availability?" I took some time to collate these Frequently Asked Questions, and put the answers on my website, and I direct them to my website. For my availability, I signed up to a free Online Booking System, so I send the link to my calendar for people to see my availability for themselves. These are BASIC automation processes, but they have saved me untold amounts of time. Imagine how much time you can save if you automate your largest, most time consuming process.

3. Schedule your time

This one is important, as it not only saves you time, but keeps you productive, not just busy, because Busyness is the enemy of Productivity. Create themes for each day. For me, Mondays are Dreaming Days - I think about where my business is going, then document what I need to do to get there. Wednesday is Blogging Day and so on. Flitting between tasks not only wastes time, but it creates a false feeling of productivity. 

Busyness is the Enemy of Productivity - Tweet that!

4. Stop the distractions

The most common distractions are email and social media notifications. Lifehacker reports that after a distraction, no matter how small, it takes on average 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on task. If you receive 10 notifications in a day, how much time are you losing in Productivity? Inbox Pause is an amazing tool to manage email. Gmail users, can download it, here. It works by pausing emails from entering your Inbox; when you are ready, un-pause and TADA! They transfer to your inbox. You can even set it so the new emails enter your inbox on a schedule rather than one overwhelming wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am moment. So, stop the common distractions and enjoy more productivity time.  

5. Optimise Meetings

People view meetings differently. Some view them as the best way to be productive, and others sit there for the hour wondering why they are there. If you've been invited to a meeting, ask for an Agenda. If you are hosting a meeting, see if you can squeeze it into 30 minutes - you'll be surprised that most times you can. 3 x 1 hour meetings a week optimised into 3 x 30 minute meetings? Time Saving of 1.5hours.