Time Management Skills
If time is money, then what is good time management? Simple: it’s an essential way to think about the way you run your business. But time management doesn’t always come easy. It’s perfectly normal to set ambitions time management goals - only to see them disappear as soon as the rubber meets the road.
That’s where a virtual assistant comes in.
A virtual assistant—an assistant who works remotely—can handle a wide variety of tasks to help you improve your time management skills. Not only can they take calls and respond to emails, but they can step in when you need to focus on the most essential work at your business.
Whether you’re in C-level management and need more hours in your day or simply an entrepreneur who needs to grow, time management skills are how you do it. That’s why we’ve put together a guide on the essential time management skills you need to practice with your VA.
This Article is Part of Our Resource Series: Time, Productivity & Virtual Assistants
- Time Management Skills (you are here)
- What Should I Delegate
- Do I Need a Virtual Assistant
- Virtual Assistant Cost Calculator
- Getting Started with Your Virtual Assistant
Before we begin, let’s focus on some of the key takeaways you can expect to get from this resource:
- Change doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with the process. The work you put in to manage your time might not yield a perfectly-efficient system within a day or two. But it will worth it in the end. And as you improve, the savings of time and energy will justify the investments you made.
- You’ll find more long term success and growth. It’s always better to adopt healthy time management habits as early as you can. As your company grows with more virtual assistants and new employees, you’ll have the systems in place to manage that growth effectively.
- You won’t just help yourself. Sure, it’s great to reduce the stress of coming home from work after a twelve-hour day. But it’s not only about what a time management can do for you. Learning how to manage your time with a virtual assistant will make more room for your big-picture business decisions. It will also free up your personal time so you can enjoy it with family and friends.
Your Core Goals: Restoring Freedom, Building Efficiency, and Maintaining Sanity
Let’s all admit it: we’re stressed out. With poor time management techniques and no virtual assistant to make our life easier, we often don’t know how to handle it. According to Stress.org, 83% of U.S. workers are experiencing some form of stress. Clearly, something is going wrong.
Time management should be more than a business buzz phrase for you. It should be a priority. It can help you claim more of the freedom that made you choose the path you chose in the first place. And no matter where you are in your business, it never hurts to build greater efficiency by maximizing your use of the time in your day.
Let’s remember those core goals as we look through some important time management techniques.
What is Time Management?
Time management refers to the planning and organizing of your business structure to maximize efficiency. In plain English? Time management is how you spend your time. And since time is the only resource you have that can’t be renewed, can’t be extended, and can’t be grown, time management might just be the investment that returns your greatest ROI.
In this resource, we’ll dive into the specifics of what time management looks like on a daily basis. And we’ll especially recommend some ways to use a new VA to plug into your time management strategies and give you more freedom and flexibility with your schedule.
Tips for Making Time Management Work for You
Below, you’ll see some essential time management strategies for utilizing a VA at maximum capacity. But before we start, let’s incorporate some basic tips that will help you along the way:
- Prioritization. One unique time management method is to schedule your to-do list by priority. Your first item of the day should be the item you most need to accomplish. Your second should be the second-highest priority, and so on. When you approach your day this way, you’ll naturally have less stress by the time the afternoon rolls around.
- Use SMART goals in interacting with your VA. The SMART acronym stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. As you assign your virtual assistant these tasks, make sure that the tasks fit each of these variables; otherwise, the tasks might be too vague.
- Find where your results are coming from. Utilize the Pareto Principle: in most businesses, you’ll find that a majority of your results come from a minority of your actions. How can you maximize those actions with a VA while cutting down on the low-yield activities that aren’t improving your business?
- Break big tasks into small, achievable chunks. Bringing on a VA is a great way to handle big tasks. But if you find that the larger goals you want to accomplish seem like too much, break them down into smaller milestones so you can measure your progress and not feel overwhelmed as you progress.
- Start “chunking” your time. As you’ll see in our first skill below, eliminating distractions is one of the best ways to ensure that you don’t waste time. We’ll get into the specifics of why that is later on. But here’s how you can start incorporating this change immediately: “chunk” your time rather than working on one thing for five minutes before moving on to the next. The momentum you create when you use focused, distraction-free time is time well spent.
- Make your new habits routine. It’s great if you read this guide and try these tips out for one day. But until you can create a system for making the habits consistent, you haven’t realized the full potential of time management skills. Set calendar reminders to keep you on task and turn these actions into daily habits.
Time Management Skill #1: Eliminating Distractions
Most of us think of distractions as a minor nuisance. The science tells us otherwise. No, it doesn’t tell us that distractions are harmless issues that cause no problems with our daily work—quite the opposite. Distractions can be downright derailing. If you want to be as productive as possible, eliminating those distractions should be one of your top priorities.
Consider this: according to some data, a single distraction can come with a recovery time of 23 minutes before you get back to where you were. That means if you’re in a “flow” at 10:00 a.m. and you get momentarily distracted, it can be near the bottom of the hour before you get back into that same state—and by then, you’ve already lost an entire chunk of time.
The question is: how do you eliminate distractions with a VA?
Here are some suggestions:
- Have your VA manage your schedule to block off large chunks of working time. If you hand over management over your schedule to a virtual assistant, then make sure they know that you value your time without distractions. Avoid meetings that occur too close to this time.
- Have your VA take phone calls on your behalf. Having your phone nearby as you work can seem like a great way to stay “plugged in.” But even if you need the phone for emergencies, you can have a virtual assistant take the calls and only send them your way when the phone call is truly serious. Training your VA to be efficient at recognizing the difference means you can block off even more of your time to devote to the critical tasks at hand.
- Outsource your least-favorite jobs. You can eliminate distractions by not having some of your least-favorite business tasks on your mind. For example, let’s take Twitter: if you notice something in your work that would become a good tweet, you’ve just distracted yourself. Sure, you’re shared something valuable on Twitter, but that’s now time you can’t get back. But if you outsource your social media scheduling to a VA, you can keep rolling through your work with the knowledge that your social media accounts are well taken care of.
Time Management Skill #2: Find Your Most Productive Time
Are you a late sleeper who needs time in the morning to rev up for the day? Or do you do your most productive work in the wee morning hours? For this skill, you’ll need to know yourself well. You’ll need to know when your most productive time is—and then have your VA help you to schedule your life around that.
For example, many of us suffer from the “post-lunch” lag period. This is the time of day, usually in the afternoon, when we would prefer to take a siesta than work. If you struggle with this time of day, you might enlist your VA to help you with scheduling: you can schedule around it, you can handle some of your least mind-intensive work, or you can simply move your lunch.
This requires handing over some degree of responsibility. Your VA can’t help you unless they have access to your calendar and some authority when it comes to deciding your schedule. But that’s not a problem. You can always overrule your VA if you feel they haven’t made a good decision on your behalf—and then you can use that as an opportunity to provide them feedback for the future.
Time Management Skill #3: Becoming More Efficient With Your Scheduling
Scheduling your time isn’t just about finding a way to block everything out. It’s also about being more efficient about the process itself. To that end, it helps if your VA can use tools that make it possible for you to schedule new clients easily—not to mention follow-up with people.
A VA with experience in managing a schedule should be able to bring the strategies they’ve learned at previous positions to help you with your own scheduling.
Here are a few options for becoming more efficient in the way you go about scheduling:
- Tools for to-do lists. Maybe the problem isn’t scheduling so much as it is never having a schedule in the first place. For many business owners and entrepreneurs, they’ve been able to come in the office at a set time, approach their day in a haphazard way, and then hope for the best. With enough hard work, you figure, you’re able to get through the day and accomplish what you want. But a VA can help you generate a to-do list that prioritizes actions and gives them assignments for helping support your day.
- Tools for scheduling and communication. Sick of playing phone tag? A VA is a great resource for setting up appointments with other people so that you never have to deal with it yourself. But there are other tools for scheduling and communication that will help you become more efficient with the way you go about your day as well.
- Implement CRM. Customer relationship management software can not only be critical for keeping tabs on all of your customers, but will help you manage your time more efficiently. Be willing to delegate some control to your virtual assistant so they can manage contacts, follow up with clients, and otherwise manage a piece of your business that would take up a considerable portion of your time if you didn’t have a VA.
Time Management Skill #4: One Thing at a Time
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was famous for being able to compose multiple pieces at a time—it seemed he always had multiple irons in the fire, and somehow he would end up with masterpieces. So why can’t you?
For one, Mozart is something of a freak of nature. But you might also consider that these anecdotal stories about renaissance men aren’t always an ideal way to build your own system for getting things done. When it comes to managing your time properly, you’re better off doing one thing at a time.
Some of the habits we’ve mentioned earlier will help you in this regard. For example, creating a to-do list is one of the best things you can do to become more efficient. By attacking a to-do list with one item at a time, you’re free of the “multiple irons in the fire” distractions and can work towards finishing your day with nothing hanging over you.
The best way to do this is to get used to prioritization. Your VA can help. You can not only consult with them on your to-do lists, but you can ask them to implement the tools that make it easier to review these to-do lists on a regular basis, saving you time from handling your daily schedule and freeing up more time to focus on the tasks at hand.
Time Management Skill #5: Delegating
One of the best time management skills to learn is delegating. It’s also one of the most challenging.
Why? Because many C-level executives, business people, and freelancers get used to the idea that it was their own ingenuity that got them to where they were. And they’re not wrong. If you’ve done your own data entry in the past, you likely have a system for it. If you’ve done your own sales funneling in the past, how can you be sure that delegating something as important as that will continue to bring in more leads and clients?
Delegating is a challenge not always because of the VA, but because of the attitude of the person who’s doing the delegating. As such, it’s important to remember a few ways you can give yourself the best possible chance of making an effective change:
- Introduce the delegation gradually. If you don’t want to let go of one of your key tasks just yet, there’s no reason you have to do it all at once. With your VA working hand-in-hand with you—at least, virtually—you can continue to take an active role in your favorite tasks while simultaneously training the VA to perform it the way you would.
- Give the VA a trial period, after which you provide feedback. At some point, if your business is going to grow, you’re going to have to trust someone else to do the activities you would usually take on. That’s not something to be feared. In fact, it’s a great way to improve your business while simultaneously getting better at your time management.
Time Management Skill #6: Creating a Malleable System
When you want to manage your time, it’s very easy to think about it in a linear way. You might set goals for yourself. Accomplish this, finish that. And that’s great. But there’s another way you can think about time management that doesn’t necessarily fit so neatly into this method of thinking.
Think about creating a system of time management that you can use on a repeated basis. For example, if you were to sit down and write your three most important goals for the day on your to-do list, that would be an example of a system that regularly helps you prioritize your time.
But you’ll find that every system needs some development. Maybe you have five things to do one day. What do you do then? If you have a virtual assistant, you’ll be able to outsource the remaining tasks to them. Or this system might make you think about adding more team members who can handle the exact situation you have in mind.
Another example of a system you can implement is bringing your VA into your regular communications. You can have them set goals as well, so you have a third party looking at your tasks for the day objectively. This gives you an extra set of eyes and helps you avoid taking on those tasks that aren’t essential.
This is an especially great system for anyone who’s new to having a VA, as you might not know what they’re capable of just yet. So if a VA tells you that they can handle something that you would otherwise do yourself, pay attention. It may just save you a lot of time.
Time Management Skill #7: Shutting Off at the End of the Day
No one likes to have work hanging over them all day long. When you’re done for the day and you’re ready to spend time with family, friends, or simply relax, do you still have work lingering in your mind? If so, it means that you might have to get used to this essential time management skill: the clear delineation between work and pleasure.
This is another area where some serial entrepreneurs can struggle. They’re used to working long days. They’re used to their life being about the formation and growth of their business. They’re used to being the key decider in just about everything that comes their business’s way.
But why add a VA if you’re not going to take advantage of the life improvements that come along the way?
When you hire a VA, you might try something for the first time: shutting off at a specific time every day. Give yourself fifteen minutes before “shutoff” time to review what you did and didn’t accomplish. If you have more that needs to be accomplished , send it off in a to-do list to your VA.
Time Management Skill #8: Tracking Time
You might think of “Tracking time” as an occasional glance at the watch. And sure, that’s a great way to keep an eye on the time if you have to get home soon. But what about tracking the quality of your time?
A VA can help you set up tools like RescueTime and Beeminder to get a sense of how you’re spending your time. A VA can also review this time and provide you detailed feedback on how to improve it.
For many businesspeople, you’ll have your VA on a time tracker of some sort so that you can be sure they’re hard at work and earning their fair pay. But you might also find that it’s a good idea to put yourself on a similar plan. You can use these tools to keep better tabs on your most basic habits. You can also consult with your VA about alternatives to the time-sucking sites you’re currently using. This is a great way to diagnose where the time might be “leaking” out of your current routine and where you can change it in the future.
Time Management Skill #9: Ending Procrastination
One of the things that vexes so many people who can be hard-working on one hand and lazy on the other is the ever-present issue of procrastination. Simply put, you don’t like to do what you don’t like to do.
This may be where the VA truly shines. There’s no procrastination with a VA. They have their time, they work during that time, and they get as much work as can be done within that time period.
You, on the other hand? You might still struggle with it.
Procrastination doesn’t have to be something that you fear. It shouldn’t be something that haunts you every day as you try to build a business. Instead, it should be something you can remove from the equation.
Been putting off transcribing that interview? Give it to a virtual assistant and you don’t have to procrastinate anymore.
Been meaning to turn that pamphlet or blog post into a slide show from which you can launch an online seminar?
Hand it off to a virtual assistant.
A virtual assistant is there to make sure that you don’t have to worry about issues like procrastination anymore. And if you work with them to schedule your day right, you remove many of the distractions that affect business people, and you begin to improve your time management system, you’ll learn that procrastination doesn’t have to be a part of the way you do things.
And if it is, let the VA deal with it instead.
How to Incorporate These Changes into Your Life
If you save ten minutes on one day, you haven’t accomplished much.
If you save ten minutes every day, you’re saving over three hundred hours per year--equivalent to taking three weeks off of work.
Does that sound like time management might be worth--forgive the pun--your time?
If so, you’ll need some great ways to avoid overwhelm. After all, this is a lot of information to process. Here are some ways you can incorporate these strategies without overhauling everything at once:
- Start with one strategy a week. Pick just one strategy per week and task it to your virtual assistant. Provide feedback as you go. Keep tweaking until you feel that a new system is in place, and then move on to the next strategy.
- As you provide feedback, give your VA more responsibility. The more you lean on a VA, the less you have to worry about your own time. But that doesn’t mean that you should ask your VA to handle everything at once. Provide feedback as you go and increase the amount of trust you place in them. If they demonstrate the skills and organization necessary to keep your business life humming along, you can give them more responsibility.
- Set aside time every week to “work on your business.” There’s work within a business (sales, writing, bookkeeping) and then there’s work on a business (hiring, outsourcing, organizing). We think that time spent working on your business is important. Make time for it. Set aside a portion of your day every Friday to wrap things up and improve your systems. Look for software you can use to automate your systems. Ask your VA for their input. Over time, your systems will improve and your daily life will be that much easier.
Finally, set clear boundaries for yourself. Go home no later than 5:00 p.m. Tweak your daily routine until you have more time, more energy, and more resources to devote to what matters most.
And don’t forget to let your VA help.
In our next resource, you’ll learn how to use the power of delegation to make these systems work for you. But keep these strategies in mind as you go along. You’ll have less stress, more time in the day, and a business still capable of fantastic growth.