Time management – do you really know what that term means? “The ability to use one’s time effectively or productively, especially at work.”
The idea of time management is an often-discussed topic among VAs. There always seems like there is so much to do and not enough time to do it.
But there is always enough time. You just need to start planning yours better.
Start with a task list and then decide what you need to do and when. The thought of actually writing down everything that needs doing might make you cringe, but it will help you get it under control.
When you work from home, there are lots of things around you that can get in the way of completing your work in a productive way.
Managing your time is one of the most important pieces of managing your business well.
There are many ways you can get this done – the key is to find something that works for you, and use it.
Block Your Time
When you are setting up your workday, block time to do certain tasks. So that means that from 9:00 am until 9:30 am you will work on client X tasks. The shorter these time intervals are, the more you get done. Concentrating for more than 30 minutes at a time can be nearly impossible, but 15 to 30-minute blocks of time can be very productive. After 30 minutes, take a quick break and switch to another block of time to do other tasks. By teaching yourself to focus for a 30-minute timespan, you will be able to become more effective with your everyday tasks. And by practicing stopping work after a short period of time instead of losing yourself in a project, you will be more respectful of yourself as well.
If your family is around when you are working, let them know your schedule. Not your business hours – but your schedule for the day. It is nearly impossible to have them not distract you for an entire work day. But tell them what time you will be taking breaks. It really helps everyone to understand that when you are working you have to focus. But then when you are on a break, they get to have some time with you. Try it for a week, I guarantee you will see a big difference in interruptions you are having.
Focus on the Task at Hand
When you are in a block of time, stay away from phones, email, and social media. You can schedule a time to check email after a block of focused work time, but having everything open at once is a distraction that is very easy to manage, simply by turning it off. Focus on the task at hand and you will be more productive. If you are someone who runs to the Internet to Google something when it comes to mind, keep a notepad beside your keyboard and jot it down so you don’t forget. Then when you are in between task times, focus for a few minutes on looking up what you wanted to.
Prioritize Your Tasks
When you are looking at your task list, prioritize things so that you can maximize your time management. Group tasks together that are similar. Allow time to do your more difficult, time-consuming or challenging tasks at a time when you typically have the most energy. Trying to tackle a large project when the kids are arriving home from school is just a bad idea. Give yourself the opportunity to succeed from the start.
Set Client Boundaries and Deadlines
Ask your clients to submit their task requests to you by a certain deadline. Typically a 24 to 48-hour request works well so that you can plan your schedule accordingly. Some VAs ask for even more than that. By allowing your clients to send you last minute or short turnaround time, you can throw a wrench into your schedule any day of the week. Be more prepared by having them submit work requests in advance and you can manage your time better.
Manage Client Expectations
Give your clients a turnaround time estimate with tasks when possible. Not everything is urgent, and not everything needs to be done five minutes after they request it. Remember you are not their employee. You are a contractor who is partnering with them in their business. Let them know when you will deliver the work they need, and then be sure to keep your deadlines.
Being able to manage your time well is one of the things that escapes many business owners. The idea that there are too many things to do and too little time to do them is common. Busy Time, it’s called. But when you break it down and really understand what you are trying to do, it becomes much easier.
Tracey D’Aviero is a veteran VA and Founder of Your VA Mentor. Tracey trains and mentors professional women and men who are brand new to the VA industry or who have been struggling to make their business successful. Her mission is to educate professionals on how to build and grow successful and profitable virtual businesses in the VA industry by implementing systems and smart principles. Contact Tracey for speaking engagements, group training or private coaching at www.yourvamentor.com.