Fast Company

Virtual What?

With the ink not yet dry on our New Year's resolutions, here are three ways to get 10–15 more hours out of your week. That is a lot of gym time. Saving "just an hour a day," successful businesses and entrepreneurs have time for just about anything, including being more successful.

Ah, the elusive work/life balance. For successful entrepreneurs and business people like yourself, work/life balance might seem like an oxymoron. But the good news is that it doesn't have to be.

Ask yourself this important question: "How am I spending each hour of my day?" Chances are, if you're like most other entrepreneurs and businesses, each hour of your work day is spent on some combination of checking and responding to emails, answering the phone, responding to voicemail messages, writing letters, and meeting with clients and referral partners. It can definitely be chaotic and stressful on a daily basis!

To increase your peace of mind and decrease some of the chaos in your work/life, here are a few easy-to-implement tips that Sarah Leah Gootnick, founder of Secretary in Israel LLC, shared with me and I use today. Start slowly, implement one at a time, and you'll notice a major time savings for you, as well as an increased balance in your life.

Our 3 secret tips :)

1. Reduce Emails in Your Inbox :)

Most business owners spend a majority of their day in their inboxes responding to emails. These tips alone save me two hours EVERY DAY!

  • 1.1 Unsubscribe from E-Newsletters You Don't Actually Read
    When you bought that awesome pair of boots, you somehow managed to sign up for their e-newsletter. Or, when you took that course on how to increase sales, you now get their e-newsletter.
    Any e-newsletter you are getting that you don't read is just email clutter that takes your time (even if you just have to delete it). So save yourself the headache — take the next week to unsubscribe from any and all e-newsletters that you get and don't read. Most of these e-newsletters have a button at the very bottom that will enable you to unsubscribe. Click it! Or, if they don't, mark the e-newsletter as spam. That is, all e-mails besides mine.
    This way, you'll dramatically reduce the number of emails you receive on a daily basis. Most likely, you'll clear out 5–10 emails each day with this simple tip!
  • 2. Have Certain Emails Sent to a Separate Inbox with an Autoresponse Set Up
    If on your web site you want people to contact you but you don't need to check those emails every day, have them respond to you at a separate email account. You can set up an autoresponse from this account, thanking the sender for the email and letting them know when you will get back to them.
  • 3. Forward Other Emails to a Virtual Assistant
    Any emails that come into your inbox that your virtual assistant can respond to, forward them to her. What's great about this is that it will save you many minutes every day.
  • 4. Have Your Virtual Assistant Read Your Inbox
    The ultimate time-saver is giving your virtual assistant access to your inbox. This way, she can respond to the emails that come in and handle them without you having to deal with the emails. In addition to not having to prescreen and forward these emails to her, people won't know it's your assistant responding; they'll think it's you, which may or may not be a plus for you and your business.

2. Stop Checking Voicemails:)

Checking voicemails can take anywhere between five and 25 minutes every day! Save time and instead use one of these solutions to stop checking voicemails (but still have them checked):

  • 2.1 Use One of the Voicemail-to-Email Transcription Services
    There are a number of relatively new companies on the market that will take your voicemail messages and transcribe them into text, which they then email you or text message to you. Each has a different payment plan depending upon how many voicemails/month you want transcribed. These companies include
  • PhoneTag.com
  • Ureach.com/spinvox
  • YouMail.com
  • 2.2. Have Your Virtual Assistant Check Your Voicemails
    As recommended by Timothy Ferris in The 4-Hour Work Week, you can have your virtual assistant dial in and check your voicemail twice a day, say at 11 AM and 3 PM. If you do this, make sure you leave an outgoing greeting on your message machine that says something like:
    "Hi. You've reached the voicemail of Sally Smith from Sally's Cookies. I'm sorry I missed your call, but please leave a message. My assistant Amanda checks my voicemail twice each day, at 11 AM and 3 PM Pacific Time, and she will respond to your message at one of those times. Thank you, and have a great day!"

3. Stop Scheduling Appointments

On average, it takes 15–20 minutes to schedule each appointment. Think about it: you email your client, they email you back, and this email chain continues for at least 6–8 emails until you get the right appointment. There also might be some phone calls related to this scheduling, too. All of that is precious time that you could be using for revenue-generating activities.

To stop wasting time when you schedule appointments, here are some tips:

  • 3.1 Use a Free Scheduling Program like Doodle.com
    Doodle.com is a great, free program that enables you to send out a "poll" to the people you want to schedule with. You choose the different dates you're free, and it will email your attendee(s). S/he/they can then vote on the time they want to meet with you, and then you have the date set. All it takes is one email, not 6–8.
  • 3.2 Have Your Virtual Assistant Schedule Appointments for You
    There are three easy ways to have your virtual assistant schedule appointments for you:
  • 3.2.1 Forward Your Emails to Her
    If you're uncomfortable giving your virtual assistant access to your inbox, simply manually forward to her any emails that are appointment-related. This way, she can respond to the people you'd like her to meet with and make the appointments for her.
  • 3.2.2 Set Up a Filter for Emails to go to Your Assistant Automatically
    In Gmail, you can easily set up filters to automatically forward emails to your virtual assistant. What's great is you can set these filters to have these emails skip your inbox, so there will be less for you to see!
    To set up the filters in Gmail, go to 'Settings' at the top right-hand side of the screen. Next, click on 'Filters' in the orange header at the top, center of the page. Then set up filters for each of these words (and any others you'd like to automatically filter to your virtual assistant): lunch, dinner, getting together, coffee, meeting, etc. You can also choose if you want those emails archived or left in your inbox (but we suggest you archive them!).
  • 3.2.3 Give Your Virtual Assistant Access to Your Inbox
    If you feel comfortable doing so, give your virtual assistant access to your inbox. She can go through and schedule any appointments for you automatically. When she responds to these emails, people will think it's you, and not an assistant, which may or may not be a bonus for you.

Kirk Hylan, founder of InSite Networks, Inc., acknowledges, "I know that delegating is hard for me to do. I really wanted help going forward in this area so that I could maximize my time savings. But I wasn't giving her everything I needed her to do. My assistant is wicked smart; realizing that I wasn't getting the full benefit of having her, she started doing more. I realize now that I should have been giving her more to do the whole time. After having been in business for 25 years, I finally now have my virtual assistant doing everything from billing my clients to answering my phones. Instead of being stuck behind my desk, I'm out with clients making money while Chaya handles my office work. It is nothing short of magnificent. Get out of the office and go be billable."
How do you think that I have the time to blog every week?

About Secretary in Israel LLC

Secretary in Israel LLC provides college-educated, American virtual assistants to small business owners and entrepreneurs located in New York City, San Francisco, and throughout the U.S. An American virtual assistant works for business owners on a part-time basis and can literally run your entire office and handle all of your To Dos for you, virtually.

About Kirk Hylan

Kirk Hylan is the founder of InSite Networks, Inc. (415-454-6200), a premier provider of IT support to small and mid-size businesses. Kirk has been in the IT business for close to 30 years and provides computer networking, repair, and computer sales for businesses with 10–500 people.

Namaste,

Julie

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