Make the next year your most productive yet

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Guest post from VA - Sadie Finch

As you review how well your business did in the last year, it’s likely you’ll have a list of things that take up more time than you’d like. Maybe there are admin tasks that you dread and slow you down. What can you do to organise your day and improve productivity?

As a Virtual Assistant, helping small businesses get organised and be more productive is my bread and butter. Let me share some tips with you.

Start with a tidy workspace

If you work in a cluttered environment, it can be harder to begin and stay focused on a job. Start each day with a tidy workspace and you’ll feel calmer, and everything you need will be at your fingertips. You’ve already set yourself up to be more productive.

Detox your inbox

Many of us check our emails at the start of the working day, but does it fill you with dread? Do you get a sinking feeling as emails flood in? Do you ignore emails because you simply can’t face them?

A bursting inbox is common, but it needn’t be a cause of anxiety. Dedicate time to clearing it out and you’ll be surprised how liberating it is. I’ve written a post about how to detox your inbox – here are a few pointers:

  • Be ruthless as you go through your it – your goal should be Inbox Zero!

  • Create folders to organise those emails you need to keep.

  • Unsubscribe from newsletters that no longer interest you.

  • Sort your emails (temporarily) into alphabetical order, scroll down and delete chunks of unwanted emails from the same sender.

  • If the thought of permanently deleting emails gives you sweaty palms, create an archive folder – they’re still available, but out of sight.

Keeping emails at a manageable number is key. You’ll feel in control and be spending less time going through them each day; this time can be spent on more profitable aspects of your business.

Look after your clients (and leads!)

You’re successfully making new contacts, which is fantastic, but when it becomes overwhelming and you’re worried about losing track of leads, you need a centralised system. This is where a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system comes in. Saving details of each client interaction will give you confidence every time you contact them. Many CRMs also have a tasks section so you can keep on track of all those things you need to action and remember too. A CRM is so much more than just an address book!

Set up processes

How do processes improve workflow? They allow you to do more in less time – it’s as simple as that. Having a defined process for each task means that it all becomes automatic and everything is completed consistently – greater efficiency gains you more time and reduces stress. It’s also worth looking at tools like IFTTT or Zapier that can automate certain steps of your workflow – save time on those repetitive tasks that often get neglected.

Free apps

There are plenty of apps to help keep you organised and increase productivity. The majority are free at entry level and come with a range of features. For a monthly fee most will give you access to extra functions if you feel they’re of benefit to you.

Here are a few of my favourites:

  • Asana – a powerful project management tool allowing you to organise tasks within multiple projects, keeping you on schedule.

  • Boomerang for Gmail – schedule emails to send later, and ‘hide’ emails from your inbox until you decide you want to read them.

  • Toggl – a super simple time-tracking app to accurately record how much time you spend on in-house tasks and jobs for clients.

It’s OK to get help

Once you’ve streamlined the tasks that you’re happy to do yourself, what do you do about the jobs you don’t enjoy? Outsourcing these to a VA could be your answer.

We’re experienced in making small businesses such as yours work as effectively as possible by helping with one-off tasks – such as an inbox detox – or ongoing jobs like updating your CRM system or tracking invoices and expenses.

I hope these tips will prove useful to you and allow you to have your most productive year yet! You can always get in touch with me if you need any help… I’d love to know how you get on!