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Hiring a Virtual Assistant: Are you in busy mode or growth mode?


Barnaby Lashbrooke

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

9 minute read

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Are You in Growth Mode or Busy Mode?

Do you remember the story of the two wolves? In it, a grandfather explains the concept of inner conflicts to his grandson with a wolf analogy. There are a light and a dark wolf in all of us, the story goes, and the one we feed is the one that will come out stronger.

In business, that analogy can be applied to being in busy mode and being in growth mode.

Entrepreneurs are often very busy - to the point where it almost seems like it’s a natural state for you to be. But there’s a big difference in the tasks that make up the majority of your day: are they meaningful, or do they simply need to be done?

If you’re busy because you’re in growth mode, that’s fantastic! That’s the perfect kind of busy.

But if you’re busy because you’re drowning under a pile of tasks that are calling for your attention but don’t move the needle forward, then it’s time to bring a virtual assistant on board.

After all, being in busy mode (which comes with many, many distractions) costs companies millions of dollars every year.

Here’s how to recognize the difference between growth mode and busy mode:

What Is Growth Mode?

You’re in growth mode if your dominant focus is on activities that grow your business, or directly help you achieve your goals.

For example, you might be in growth mode if you’re focusing on tasks like reaching out to leads to increase your revenue, working on new strategies to satisfy the market’s needs better, and creating valuable partnerships.

When you’re in growth mode, you set realistic goals, plan your days carefully, and structure the work you do.

You know exactly why you’re working on a task at any given moment, and you know how it’s going to contribute to your goals. You have a clear time frame for every activity and know how to measure your results.

At the same time, you’re very careful to avoid additional tasks that won’t help you achieve your goals.

You’re delegating tasks that other people can handle, and avoiding distractions that lead to procrastination.

For example, you might be focusing on market research, and delegating social media (a known entrepreneurial time-suck, as necessary as it is) to a virtual assistant.

In short, when you’re in growth mode, you’re completely focused on the activities that will definitely help you grow your business. You know what you need to do, and you are moving forward.

On the other hand...

What Is Busy Mode?

If you’re in busy mode, you are busy - but it doesn’t feel like there’s a specific growth-related purpose to the tasks you complete.

For example, you might spend a lot of your time taking care of repetitive tasks such as:

Busy mode is when your dominant focus is on any task that comes up, regardless of whether it helps you grow your business and achieve your goals or not.

You have goals, but your day-to-day activities don’t help you achieve them. Instead of doing the growth work, you find yourself working on the most important thing that comes up.

You don’t have a plan - you just go with the flow of new emails and social media notifications.

You don’t delegate (maybe you feel like you don’t even know where to start), and lose sense of priorities. You end up trying to fit time-wasting tasks into your day until you have to shift the really important tasks to the next day, and so on.

And at the end of that same day, you come home with a sense of frustration because you were busy, but it doesn’t feel like you did all that much to move the needle.

You’re frustrated because you got distracted by tedious tasks, emails, and social media.

These are all necessary activities, of course - but they’re not the activities that you should be doing as an entrepreneur or a small business owner. Busy mode activities aren’t the ones that will help you scale your business, generate more revenue, or expand your customer base.

Often, this leads small business owners and entrepreneurs to work even more.

In the US, over 33% of small business owners work at least 50 hours per week, with 25% of them working even more than 60 hours. And it doesn’t lead to higher profitability since only 33% of SMBs get to celebrate their tenth birthday.

Even beyond business, being in busy mode isn’t good for your health and your life quality. Busy mode leads to burnout syndrome, poor work-life balance, and general dissatisfaction with your life quality. Instead of unplugging and feeling content with everything you’d done, you spend your free time wondering how to shift the busy tide.

Why Are Entrepreneurs Prone to Busy Mode?

In her Forbes piece on the so-called hustle culture, Celinne Da Costa posed an important question:

“How much of our work is genuinely productive, and how much of it is an addiction to being busy?”

Wherever we look, we’re surrounded by people saying: “Busy, busy, busy!” As an entrepreneur, you know how important it is to work hard to achieve your dreams.

It’s a no-brainer.

But the real question is: are you doing the things that will help you grow, or are you just filling up your schedule?

The more your business expands (or your ambitions expand with it), the more tasks end up on your plate. Entrepreneurs are also notorious for wanting to take care of everything themselves. If you’ve bootstrapped your company or if you’re a solo founder, you probably know the feeling.

You might also want to reduce your costs. Instead of hiring a capable virtual assistant, you’re stuck thinking that you’re saving money - even if that’s costing you more money and growth in the long term.

Why Is Busy Mode Bad for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs?

For every tedious task on your plate, you are left with less time and mental energy to take care of the truly important tasks.

We have a finite amount of mental energy. Multitasking drains it - going as far as to reduce our productivity by 40% whenever we switch tabs or tasks. And after every distraction, it takes you 23 minutes to regain your full focus.

Now multiply this for every little task you’re taking care of when in busy mode.

At the end of the day, you feel more strained, stressed, but still, you think you haven’t done as much as you could have. That’s because you haven’t - busy mode kept you occupied, but it didn’t help you grow.

Recent research shows that, on average, you spend about 28% of your work time managing email alone.

Why is it so bad?

Because you’re losing the mental discipline you need to innovate, according to a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist, Eric Kandel. Kandel states that mental discipline helps you focus on what truly matters for your business. With the mental discipline that comes from growth mode, you can analyze competitors, create strategies, and learn from your employees so that you can leverage your knowledge to succeed.

When you’re in busy mode, this is impossible.

So if you’re in busy mode, a virtual assistant can help significantly.

How Virtual Assistants Help You Stay in Growth Mode

A virtual assistant is more than a secretary to handle your calls. They’re the tool you need to stay focused on meaningful tasks that bring you closer to your goals.


Your Virtual Assistant Helps You Set Goals and Priorities

Virtual assistants have to be very organized, and they’ll help you improve your organization and time management skills, as well.

Instead of handling everything yourself, you’ll now have a productivity partner in your virtual assistant. They can help you filter tasks so that you’re left with priorities that only you can handle. Let your virtual assistant take care of everything else.

(Remember: growth mode means focusing on tasks that deliver results and growth.)

If you’re not sure how to set measurable goals, your virtual assistant can help you set SMART goals:

  • S - Specific
  • M - Measurable
  • A - Attainable
  • R - Relevant
  • T - Time-bound

Even if you’re stuck deep in busy mode, a virtual assistant can help you cut through the noise and finally see what it is you need to be doing to get ahead.

Your Virtual Assistant Assists You in Work Planning

The pull of busy mode is incredibly strong, and VAs understand that. That’s why they help you manage tasks and plan your daily, weekly, and monthly work. Your to-do list will stop looking like an assorted list of minutiae, and turn into a road map to growth.

If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, your VA will help you decide what to:

  • Do
  • Delegate
  • Delete

They can also introduce you to time management techniques and tools you can use to stay focused.

Virtual Assistants Remove Distractions

If you know that it takes you 23 minutes to regain your focus after every distraction, then you can calculate just how much time and energy you’re losing every day.

Fortunately, virtual assistants are here to remove distractions:

  • Filter emails and voicemails
  • Handle social media
  • Automate processes
  • And more!

This way, you’re staying focused, but all the important tasks are still being taken care of. You can decide what you’ll do (stay in the growth mode), and what your virtual assistant should handle.

Virtual assistants Handle Repetitive and Time-Wasting Tasks

For your virtual assistant, replying to emails and offering customer support are meaningful tasks. But for you - as an entrepreneur or a business owner - they shouldn’t even be at the top of your to-do list.

Your eyes should be firmly set on the prize: growing.

Over 90% of workers are inundated by repetitive tasks, and it affects their productivity, creativity, and capacity to innovate. As an entrepreneur, you have to innovate, so handling repetitive work can be detrimental to your future.

The same goes for time-wasting tasks like checking email or responding to messages on social media. You have to stay in touch with your customers, but it’s affecting your ability to consider business strategy and growth.

It’s also a task that you can delegate to your virtual assistant.

Customers? Happy!

You? Focused on growing!

It’s a win-win.

Virtual Assistants Handle Social Media

... and help you avoid distractions!

No matter how important social media is, it’s designed to be a time-suck. You log in to check your DMs and see what your customers are talking about, and suddenly two hours have passed and you still have no new post ideas.

With a virtual assistant, you can sign out, and let them handle social listening, engagement, and even content creation.

Delegation Is Crucial to Staying in Growth Mode

If you want to grow your business, you need to be in growth mode. But how do you break out of the vicious busy circle?

By delegating your work to someone who has the skills to handle it.

Virtual assistants specialize in a variety of fields even beyond organization. A premium, managed virtual assistant service, like Time etc, can connect you with the perfect virtual assistant for your needs.

Finally, you can remove repetitive tasks from your to-do list and focus on the things only you can do.

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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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