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7 Ways A Virtual Assistant Can Help You Work Smarter


Barnaby Lashbrooke

Founder and CEO of Time etc, author of The Hard Work Myth

8 minute read

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From the tedious and routine to the engaging and exhilarating, the number of projects and jobs entrepreneurs must tackle on any given day could make our heads spin.

If you’re running your own business and have way more tasks than time on your hands, you may have heard that hiring a VA (virtual assistant) to help manage your workload could be just the answer to your prayers.

But what exactly is a virtual assistant, and how exactly can they help you work smarter?

Let’s dive in…

What is a virtual assistant?

You may be asking yourself, "How does a virtual assistant work?"

A virtual assistant typically operates on a self-employed, independent basis, or through an agency or dedicated service that finds clients for them. They provide administrative and executive support from a remote location outside of their client’s business.

A virtual assistant can help you save time—loads and loads of time. They will take all the repetitive and energy-zapping tasks off your hands and handle them like clockwork.

Anything that is tedious for you—from scheduling meetings and maintaining the minutes to researching facts and figures and managing your inbox—you’re bound to find a virtual assistant who can do it for you.

How to work smarter with a virtual assistant

Being an entrepreneur can be tough, but you can make it easier on yourself and the people around you by finding ways to work more effectively.

If you want to do more high-quality, impactful work in less time, here is how a virtual assistant can make it possible:

1. No more multitasking

Human brains are not wired for multitasking. And that’s not just us saying this, but an extensive study on the subject. It turns out that around 97.5% of people can’t multitask effectively.

The truth is, we were always meant to be “mono-taskers” and never multitasking machines. Multitasking burns up oxygenated glucose, the fuel our brains use to stay focused, and has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can cause brain fog or scrambled thinking.

  • When you work on just one thing at a time, you think sharper, smarter, and find better solutions to problems.
  • Offloading tasks to a virtual assistant reduces the number of demands on your time, making you less likely to try and multitask in order to complete them all.

2. Focus on pivotal tasks

Day-to-day recurring admin tasks can take up a lot of our time, and as a result, we can’t give the full force of our attention to the tasks that will make the biggest difference to our goals.

The Pareto principle – or the 80/20 rule – states that 80% of results come from 20% of actions. In terms of business, one example could be that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers or clients, and vice versa. And if you were to look at your entire task list, I’d bet that 20% of those tasks result in 80% of the impact you could realistically generate each day. So rather than spending our time and energy on the 80% of our tasks that create a lesser impact, we need to make the 20% our highest priority.

  • Virtual assistants handle tasks that otherwise hold you back from focusing fully on growing your business. You don’t have to worry about responding to customers or posting on social media because your VA has got it covered.

3. Enhanced time management

Once you’ve identified the tasks and type of work that you should be spending your time and energy on as the head of your business, let’s take it one step further. How can we make the most out of the time and energy we’re spending on these tasks?

Task batching involves grouping similar or related tasks together to make it easier on your brain to remain focused. Time blocking is when you allocate a set period of time in your schedule to work solely on a specific task (or batch of tasks). Combining these two methods together helps to minimize the chance of distractions, avoid the perils of multitasking, boost your focus, and do more in less time.

  • If you provide your virtual assistant with your list of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, they can batch your tasks into similar groups and schedule the time blocks into your calendar to save you even more time

4. More time for breaks

When your workload is piled high and you feel like you have a million deadlines approaching, emails to respond to, calls to return, and meetings to attend, a break can be the last thing on your mind. But in terms of your energy and focus, I always think of the saying “the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long”. I know firsthand how easy it can be to want to power through the day and work non-stop until you get as much done as possible, but this is not an effective method either in the short or long term.

Making time for breaks, even if it’s just making sure you take a half-hour for lunch, gives you the opportunity to refresh your mind and keep your energy levels topped up. Some successful CEOs even swear by power naps and often attribute them as being the secret behind their sharp minds.

Turns out there is even a scientific study to support this claim. The 2008 study suggests that power naps improve verbal memory, memory recall, motor skills, and perceptual learning. Not only that, power naps are supposedly more effective than caffeine. How about that!

  • When you have fewer tasks to worry about completing each day, you likely find it easier to find space in your schedule for much-needed breaks.
  • Breaks help to relieve stress and refresh your mind, making it easier to focus when you return.
  • You will find yourself less likely to “crash” or “hit a wall” than if you try to power through the whole day, and you’ll be less likely to procrastinate or leave work until the next day as a result.

5. Reclaim your work-life balance

If you hire VAs, you will gain something that might otherwise always elude you — a healthy work-life balance.

Of course, this may from person to person, but at its most basic, most of us would agree that a healthy work-life balance involves not sacrificing too much of your personal life for your professional life.

Why is this important?

Simply put, the quality of your work-life balance affects the quality of your performance at work. A poor work-life balance often results in higher stress levels, increased absenteeism from work, and lower productivity. Not only that, research has shown that the higher your position or involvement with your company, the more the lines between work and home are likely to be blurred, putting business owners in the top-risk category for poor work-life balance.

  • When you are able to do more impactful work in less time, you can reinvest that time back into your personal life.
  • The very reason virtual assistants are booming among business owners is that they make their lives less stressful, and happier as a result.
  • These positive effects spill over back into their professional lives, as less stress and more energy lead to greater motivation, productivity, and quality of work.

6. Bridge the skills gap

Let’s be honest, no matter how hard we try, there are some things that we’ll naturally be more adept at than others.

By prioritizing your strengths or genius tasks, you’re not only making the most of your energy to grow your business, but delegating tasks that are not your strong suit could glean much better results in the hands of someone more skilled or knowledgeable. Ask Virgin Group founder Richard Branson about the secrets to his success, he’ll say “When my friends and I started up Virgin, I knew that I was lacking vital knowledge on some subjects, and so I started learning (delegation) very early on in my career.”

Most professional virtual assistants have invaluable skill sets layered upon hours and hours of previous career experience, and their expertise could help take your tasks (and ultimately, your business!) to the next level.

  • Maybe you will discover new tips and tricks for enhancing your working style, or perhaps you’ll be introduced to new ways of improving your existing processes.
  • VAs are usually quite forthcoming about their knowledge and methods and are happy to share if asked.

7. Remove distractions

Did you know that having an unread email in your inbox while you’re trying to complete a task can cut 10 points off your effective IQ?

Did you know that adults check their phones every 12 minutes, on average?

It’s not just the time lost to the distractions themselves that can derail your productivity, it’s also the time we spend afterward (around 23 minutes!) trying to refocus and get back on track.

One of the best decisions I ever made was outsourcing the processing of all of my emails to my virtual assistant, Lisa. Each morning, she organizes the emails I receive according to priority, and once a day I check the top priority folder and reply to any urgent emails. This stops me from being constantly distracted by pinging notifications and lets me do more important work in my business.

And we’ve all been there, it starts as a quick check of your business’s social media accounts but before you know it, you’ve been hooked into scrolling down your feeds. Whichever tasks you find are prone to diverting your attention and energy away from focusing on the bigger picture, chances are you can find a skilled virtual assistant to handle them for you.

  • While you’ll still need to reply to some emails, your virtual assistant can save you significant amounts of time by prioritizing them and even replying to some of them.
  • As a result, you can concentrate fully on communication that matters, rather than being constantly distracted by new incoming messages or new posts in your social feeds.

See: Five Essential Tech Tips For Getting Started With A Virtual Assistant

What’s The Bottom Line?

As a business owner, you know how tough it can be to find the time and energy to get everything done. You’re constantly trying to improve your workflow, trying to make your business run more efficiently. While there are many tools and strategies for optimizing how you work, a virtual assistant is one of the most useful assets you can have.

Still on the fence?

Why not try a virtual assistant for free today or speak to our team to build a plan that’s perfect for you?

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About the author

Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Virtual Assistant service Time etc as well as the author of The Hard Work Myth, recently recommended by Sir Richard Branson. Barnaby is a Forbes Columnist on productivity and is also an accomplished entrepreneur, selling more than $35 million worth of services.

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