Case Study: Email and Diary Management

Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about how you can outsource your inbox to a Virtual Assistant, as well as providing top tips for how to better manage your email yourself. This week I wanted to give you an example of the work I do for one of my clients, and how it’s helped.

Jon runs a hugely successful property management business in Essex. To keep his overheads low he runs a virtual office, with the vast majority of tasks associated with the business either being undertaken by himself and his wife, or outsourced to experts.

He has a marketing firm handle all of his branding and social media, his wife Reenie manages the admin, a bookkeeper comes in twice a month and then there’s me. I’m in charge of Jon’s email and calendar.

So, what exactly do I do?

Although Jon has his own email, only the members of his team know what it is. Every other email comes to the generic “office” email address, which I manage. On an average day we can receive anywhere between 50 and 120 emails per day.

My job is to whittle this number down significantly. Ideally to less than 10.

Every morning I therefore filter the emails and delete any obvious spam. Any newsletters that might be useful in terms of content production I forward to the marketing team, and then delete.

I then answer any obvious queries, for example, requests for information on when work will be completed, or a property will become available again. The answers are all easy to find, thanks to the processes we have already put in place, and it just takes a few minutes to grab what I need and send it over to the enquirer.

Next I focus on meeting requests. These can be 121’s from his various networking activities, meetings with existing landlords or new ones, property visits etc. To save email exchanges taking place I tend to pick up the phone and call people to book them in there and then. There is nothing worse than suggesting a time and date, only for Jon to have filled that slot himself in the time it’s taken the person I am speaking to to get back to me.

Finally, I forward directly to Jon any emails I am unable to deal with myself. Usually these will simply be brand new contacts or potential prospects, as he always likes to be the first contact. Over the last two years, I have never sent him more than 8 emails in one day. Everything else I save him from, which saves him an insane amount of time each day.

The process is repeated during the late afternoon, at which point I also check his calendar and confirm any appointments he has for the next day to avoid wasted time.

Where necessary I also arrange travel, both domestic and international, and send invitations to his database for viewings and any events he is speaking at.

The time he saves in not having to deal with the mundane day-to-day management of his inbox is worth far more than what he pays me to deal with it on a daily basis. He’d be the first to admit that he was sceptical about it all at first, but after working with each other for a few weeks, we got in to a great routine, and he’s never looked back. Most people know that it’s me they’re going to be hearing from, and none of them realise I am not based in the same area (though, my accent probably helps out with this a bit).

 

If you want to find out whether outsourcing your email could bring benefit to you and your business, please give me a call on 0161 883 2024, email lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk or send me an InMail. I am always happy to discuss your options, or provide tips to help.

Why you should outsource your Inbox

We all know that a VA is thereto hep you become more productive, and will stop you from feeling overwhelmed.  But how exactly do they do that?  What tasks can they perform to make your business life run more smoothly?

Of course the answer to that isn’t entirely simple. A lot will depend on what you do, how good you are at delegating and letting go of control, and what your VA specialises in. Some VA’s have a varied skill set as many will be time served PA’s, others may focus on specific areas.

However, one thing your VA should be able to do is handle your emails.

Now, hear me out. I know there’s a huge part of you (if not the whole part of you) that is visibly recoiling at the thought of handing your inbox over to someone else, someone who may, in all reality, be a perfect stranger, but ssssh my pretty.

Take a deep breath and carry on reading.

According to an O2 Business report published in 2015 the average worker sends 4,000 emails per year. Working on the basis there’s 365 days in a year, 105 of which fall on weekends, eight of which are public holidays and 28 are owed as personal holidays, that average worker only actually works 224 days a year. That is assuming they are never ill or have to take a personal day.

That means, on average, they are sending 17 emails a day. It might not seem like a lot, but assuming each email takes a minimum of five minutes to compose and send (which, in all honesty, is unlikely), that’s one hour and 29 minutes per day just sending emails.

Or, to put it another way 19,936 minutes per year, which is also known as 332 hours or 13 days.

That’s 13 days a year lost in email responses alone. And that’s assuming they’re quick and easy responses in the first place, or you’re a fast typer.

Apparently we receive even more than we send – 6,000 on average per year. You can do the math on that one.

The point is emails can be hugely time consuming, and a lot of them are utterly pointless. There is no legitimate reason that the task of dealing with them can’t be outsourced to a VA. Other than you perhaps find it a little alien and difficult to relinquish control.

Think about the emails you receive on a day to day basis. How many of them ask for the same sort of information? Could you set up template responses to send back a quick-fire response, or direct enquirers to a particular page on your website? How many are junk, forwarded from mailing lists you subscribed to years ago? If you’re not getting the benefit from them or the information you once thought you were, cut the clutter and unsubscribe immediately. How many group emails are you included in, that keep you tied up in a long thread that really has little or nothing to do with you?

These are just some examples, but it’s very easy for a VA to sift through the rubbish, reply to the standard requests and leave you only with the actual things that require your attention specifically.

Why not spend the rest of this week keeping a note of how much time you’re spending on your work emails? What could you achieve if you were a bit more precious with your time than you were with your inbox?

Find out how Time Saving Heroes can help – call 0161 883 2024, email lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk or get in touch with Lu via LinkedIn.

The One Day Rule

Few of us go for long at work without feeling completely overwhelmed. Whether it’s a never-ending to do list, or a mountain of paperwork to go through, we all have constant demands on our time that can occasionally clash to create a perfect storm of stress.

While there might be very little you can do about the amount of work you have physically come in, there are ways you can ensure you are handling it all a lot more effectively. While people talk about “managing time”, what you actually need is a way to manage your approach to the use of your time.

Unless you make a conscious effort to schedule your time, you are probably not being as productive as you’d like, or need to be. It’s this which leads to feelings of being overwhelmed and out of control.

One way to try and combat this is to utilise the one day rule.

Remember what it was like in your office just before Christmas? Everyone knew they were going off work for a few days (maybe longer if they were lucky) and a sense of panic ensued. So much to do, and a very finite amount of time to do it in before Santa arrived.

We’ve all seen the meme’s doing the rounds on social media stating you get more cleaning done in the ten minutes before someone comes over than you do in a week. Work is the same. That period before you go on holiday, or shut down for a few days, is your most productive.

Why? Because you become more ruthless with your to do list. Through the pressures of time you are able to see clearly what must be done, and what can be done – everything else can legitimately wait.

When you are feeling totally bombarded, try behaving as though you genuinely only have one day to get everything done. You will be far more focussed and efficient, and will be able to tick a lot of things off your to do list.

That’s one way of getting back in control, for everything else, there’s a VA!

If you want to find out how a virtual assistant can help reduce your work load in the first place, just give me a call on 0161 883 2024, drop me an email to lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk or contact me directly on LinkedIn.

Social Media Resolutions for 2018

You’d be hard pressed to find a blog post or article that didn’t contain some reference to resolutions this week, and I’m sorry to say this one’s going to be no different. The start of a new year automatically brings with it the promise of fresh starts and new challenges, and so it should.

Many articles are going to focus around your personal resolutions; how to lose weight, achieve work-life balance or even further your career in 2018. But what if you run your own business? Can you still make career-based resolutions to propel you forward over the next 12 months?

Of course you can, and you most certainly should!

What you decide to focus on will depend on what it is you’re hoping to achieve by the end of the year, but here are my top five tips for things you should resolve to do with social media throughout 2018.

#1 – Automate

Let’s not waste time by discussing whether or not you should be using social media as part of your marketing mix (you should, there is no argument). Instead, let’s look at how to take the hassle out of it.

Many people worry they don’t have a consistent time where they can be online to publish content, and that’s a fair enough comment. However, you can use a wide variety of online tools to help you manage your social media accounts, and allow you to schedule your posts in advance.

Buffer is a great option, which will also help you source interesting content online, and then schedule it for a time that suits. Alternatively, my personal favourite is Hootsuite, as this will allow you to manage multiple social media accounts in one place.

Depending on your requirements (i.e. how many accounts you want to add) you may not even have to pay anything to use it!

#2 – Time Limits

I love social media, both personally and professionally, but it has a dark side – a side that means you can “pop” on for a five minute break, and then realise three hours later you’re still flicky-wooshing and commenting on pictures of other people’s meals! If I get stuck in a YouTube cycle of funny animals, I can be lost for days!

The key to managing your social media is therefore to set strict time limits, so you don’t get sucked in. Whether you want to go on every day to respond and post new content, or you want to schedule everything once a week or month, it doesn’t matter. Pick a time to do it, and decide, beforehand, how long you are going to complete the task you need to. Use a physical timer if necessary or even an alarm clock.

#3 – Reuse content

If you follow tip #2 hopefully locating or creating content to use in your social media posts won’t take up too much of your time; however, any time it does take up is not being used to its full potential if you only use that content once.

Some people hold the view that it’s “wrong” to share content more than once, certainly on the same platform, but that’s simply not true. I assure you, the social media police are not going to come looking for you!

I always try to produce “evergreen” content for my clients. This means it’s not tied to a specific one-off event, and can be useful days, weeks, months and even years in to the future. This way the content can be shared on multiple occasions.

Remember, not everyone on your Facebook page might have seen your original post at 12pm on a Monday, but they might catch it at 7pm the following Thursday.

#4 – Accept not everything works for you

As I said in point one, using social media as part of your marketing isn’t negotiable (not if you want to make any form of meaningful impact). However, what channels you use, is. Just because you have decided to embrace social media doesn’t mean you have to use every network going. Some simply won’t be of any use to you.

The important thing to remember here is what works for one business, may not work for another (even if they are in the same industry). It is vital you find out what does work for you, and you can do this either by trusting your gut or looking at analytics. Don’t be afraid to get rid of a social media account/page if you feel it’s zapping too much of your time for absolutely no return.

Remember, social media is meant to be social, if you find yourself posting content but no one is liking, sharing or interacting with it, then it’s serving no purpose whatsoever. Either see if you are doing something wrong which is impacting on your success, or accept it’s not the right choice for you and try something different.

#5 – Share it and outsource it

While it’s great to have original content, it’s not always possible or practical to create it on a regular basis. That means you have to find content from other people to share. This in itself is no bad thing, as it can still help you establish yourself as an authority in your field.

However, every so often you should create your own content to help express your own knowledge and opinions on a particular industry topic. For some, this might come easily; for others, less so. If you find that writing a 500 word blog is taking up a large part of your day, it may be worth paying a professional writer a fee to produce content on your behalf. It probably won’t take them much more than an hour and will be well worth whatever you have to pay for it, especially if you can keep reusing it.

Social Media Review

To get off to the best possible start with your social media marketing why not grab a FREE review from Time Saving Heroes?

What’s the point of a Virtual Assistant?

When people ask me what the point of a Virtual Assistant (VA) is, I always reply “to make you better”. While no two VA’s are the same, their fundamental purpose is. Namely to make their client’s life easier, one way or another. What that means, in reality, will depend on what it is you’re trying to achieve.

We all have a very specific skill set, and it may well be that you are the only person in your business that can do whatever it is that you do. If you are spending your time doing other things, such as answering the phone, dealing with mundane enquiries, typing up invoices or even getting involved in debt collection, your skill sets are being wasted.

If you are doing everything else, then you can’t possibly be focussing on what’s needed to drive the business forward, and that means you’re going nowhere fast. A VA can take over these time consuming tasks on your behalf, thus freeing your time up to spend on other aspects of your business.

If you constantly feel overwhelmed by how much you have to do, always say you wish there were more hours in the day (or bemoan how much time you actually spend at work) and want to be more productive and less stressed then it’s time you seriously considered hiring a VA.

The New Year is a great time to make some changes, both personally and professionally, and an experienced VA on your side could be the kick up the what-not you need in your business. Having someone who “has your back”, no matter what, could provide you with a large amount of extra time, to ensure you are moving in the right direction.

If you want to find out more about what a VA could do for you and your business, pick up the phone and give me a call today on 0161 883 2024. Alternatively, message me on LinkedIn directly or email lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk

I am always happy to help.

Have a great day, and all the best for the New Year!

Three Ways to Make More Time

Ruth and I have just been to the Big Bolton Conversation, hosted by the fantastic team at theBestofBolton. I have to say, I was blown away by how well run the entire event was, and what an amazing mix of people were in the room.

As a featured supplier, Time Saving Heroes had the opportunity to have a stand in their “expo” section, which was great – as all exhibitors were B2B, and limited to one per industry.  People actually took the time to talk, and we made some fantastic connections we’ll need to touch base with later this week.

Going through the services we offer, and why we offer them, the dilemma of “too much to do, not enough time” kept coming up.  Obviously, it’s something we hear day in, day out with our existing clients, but it seemed particularly heightened today.

Many people want a quick fix, jokingly asking if we can turn their 24 hour days in to 33 hour ones instead.  Of course we can’t, but the truth is this question says a lot about our approach to managing our time.  Instead of wishing we had more, we need to be better at using what we’ve got.

Here at Time Saving Heroes that’s what we specialise in.  Working with what you’ve already got, and making it better.  You don’t need more time, you need to be more productive with the time you have.

On the drive from Bolton back to the office I got thinking about my top tips to help people manage this, and here they are:

 

#1 – Buy it

I’m always telling my clients they can do anything, but they can’t do everything.  The simple truth is if you take everything on there’s nowhere for you to go.  There reality is there are only so many hours in a day, and no matter how long you work, you can’t do it all.

The good news though is that you can buy time.  If you look at the tasks you currently spend time on, but don’t have to be dealt with by you, find a way to outsource these.  If you spend a lot of time trying to update your website, would it make more sense to pay a web developer to do it?  What about a bookkeeper to handle your accounts?  A Virtual Assistant might have all the necessary skills you need.

Whatever it is you need doing, there is someone out there who has the right skill set to be able to help you.

 

# 2 – Find it

It might seem like a daunting task, but actually taking the time to track how you spend your days is well worth it.  Logging everything you spend your time on, from personal tasks to replying to emails, will highlight all your many obligations throughout the day.

You can then sit and look through the things that are taking up your time that you don’t think are personally worth it.  Rather than adding more things to your list, you can see this as a golden opportunity to cut out the things that aren’t working or don’t really working.  This way, you can free up some of your time to focus on other things.

 

# 3 – Create it

OK, you can’t actually create time, but you can create the illusion of more.  For example, do you find yourself writing the same sort of emails day in, day out? Do you get similar questions from customers or clients?  If so, producing a standard response that you can send out with the click of a mouse is a great way to save yourself heaps of time every single day.

Rather than spending lots of time shuffling bits of paper around, why don’t you use something like Evernote to keep everything simple and organised in one place?  That way it’s always accessible as well and you can add to it as and when needed.

Can you multitask any of your chores?  If you commute to work, can you use this time to deal with your emails, or listen to an audio version of that book you keep meaning to read?

 

 

There are lots of ways you can do more with the time that you have. Perhaps getting on with it, instead of complaining about how much you have to do would be a good first step?  #JustSaying

5 Things You Need To Do Before You Outsource Anything!

Here at Time Saving Heroes we’re clearly fans of outsourcing.  If you don’t have the time, knowledge or inclination to do something, there’s no reason why someone else can’t take it off your hands, and that someone doesn’t have to be a member of staff.

 

Outsourcing specific tasks can be a great way to keep overheads down, and remove the stress of having to actually manage a workforce. However, we also know it’s now always plain sailing.  Many of our clients have come through referrals, and most have had bad experienced with Virtual Assistants in the past.

 

How then do you make sure whoever you’re outsourcing a task to (whether it’s a HR firm, VA or web designer) is actually up to the job?  Here are Lu’s top tips to minimise heartbreak down the line.

 

#1 – Google them

This one should be pretty obvious, but if you’ve been given the name of an individual or company, actually look them up.  Ideally a search will bring them up on LinkedIn, and show their website – but what else do they have going on?

 

Hare they on Trust Pilot or any other independent review site?  Do they feature in affiliated bodies or on industry sites?  Find out as much as you can from the get go.

 

#2 – Social proof

Social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are great ways to find out more about a company and/or individual.  What does their LinkedIn profile say?  Do they have any recommendations or endorsements?  What’s their approach to social media like, and do they actively get involved with other people online?

 

These are all valid questions no matter what you’re hiring for, but definitely take that in to account when looking for a self-confessed social media specialist.

 

#3 – Time management

Everyone charges differently, whether it by the hour or per job.  You need to make sure you understand your partner’s pricing structure, and how that can impact you.  If they do charge by the hour, is it full or part of?  Will they keep a timesheet so you can see precisely where that time is being spent?  If you block-book time, can you be sure that time is being used, and do you have control of how it’s used?  If you have multiple projects, will they allocate time equally, or based on urgency?  Are you in danger of 20 hours being used on one thing, and having to buy more time to get the other jobs done?

 

#4 – Payment terms

This goes for everything – find out what the payment terms are!  Don’t assume it’s 30 days, even if that’s your company standard.  Equally, ask about VAT and any other charges you might be expected to pay.

 

Are phone calls free, within reason?  Or does every single bit of contact cost you money?  Make sure you know what the score is before you sign up so as to avoid any nasty shocks down the line.

 

#5 – Sign a contract

Unexpected invoices can quickly sour relationships, so it’s important everyone knows where they stand.  You might be as good as your word, but are they?  Have a contract signed at the start so there are no arguments later on as to what was expected.

 

If they don’t have a contract as standard, run a mile!

 

 

Remember, Time Saving Heroes offers a wide range of services from content writing to social media management and invoicing to document preparation.  If there’s anything you don’t have time for, Time Saving Heroes can help.

 

Give us a call on 0161 883 2024 or email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk