Our Favorite Productivity Improvement Tips: Getting the Best From Your Virtual Assistant

Our Favorite Productivity Improvement Tips: Getting the Best From Your Virtual Assistant

A common concern when hiring a virtual assistant is ensuring that you actually boost productivity, rather than creating a new job for yourself.

 

Not only that, ideally you want to be able to create a productive long-term relationship with a reliable virtual assistant, allowing both of you to set up routines that keep you running smoothly.

 

“Routines” and “systems” are two key words here when it comes to productivity techniques. Each business may look a little different, but we’ve found some effective tips which are used by many of our clients for getting the best from working with a virtual assistant.

Here are a few of our favorites:

How can you promote accountability?

Get our mini guide here:

Hiring a Virtual Assistant Secret to Startup Growth

 

The daily 20 minutes

Routines, as long as they are actually achieving something, can become a cornerstone for improving business productivity. One that a number of our Virtual Hub clients have adopted is a daily start-up of kickoff meeting with their virtual assistant, usually for no longer than 20 minutes.

 

Why is this important?

One of the greatest challenges that people tend to find with working in a virtual environment is maintaining good communication. Sometimes our written communication just doesn’t cut it, and messages such as emails can get lost in translation, or just lost altogether in crowded inboxes.

 

An Aon Consulting Report revealed that it’s possible for virtual teams to be more productive than their co-located counterparts, but one of the caveats to this is that the composition and working conditions of the team members must be just right. This includes fostering good communication.

One of the greatest challenges that people tend to find with working in a virtual environment is maintaining good communication. Sometimes our written communication just doesn’t cut it. Click To Tweet

 

In her article, “7 Deadly Disadvantages to Working From Home”, Rachel Go describes two of the top objections as being “lack of community” and “difficult or lacking communication.” For both of these, a good solution is to meet regularly, even if that is via virtual meetings. A potential advantage of virtual meetings is that, if you wanted to, you could record them for reference later on.

 

From your VA’s perspective, a start-up meeting gives them the opportunity to quickly and efficiently get any questions they may have answered. It allows them to clarify for understanding without time-consuming back and forth via email or chat.

 

 

How to make it work

First of all, no one likes the old “meeting for the sake of a meeting.” If you’re only meeting because you’re in the habit of doing so and there’s no real benefit or outcome, you’re not improving business productivity at all. In fact, you’re probably taking away from it.

 

You might find that you don’t need a meeting daily – maybe two or three times each week will suffice. Whatever the case, create a routine that suits your particular business.

Avoid having meetings just out of habit - have something of value to say! Click To Tweet

 

Secondly, one of the best ways to ensure that your start-up meeting is productive is to plan ahead. It may be tempting to just “wing it,” but this is often the short route to not being as productive as you could be. Have an agenda, even if it’s just a few quick bullet points. This will ensure that you don’t miss anything important too.

 

Documenting procedures

This is one tip which we always recommend prior to even getting started with a VA – if you want to be more productive and set up for success, then documenting your processes and procedures is a must.

 

Another thing to note here; we don’t suggest hiring a VA if it’s just for “project work.” Check out Barbara’s interview with Brian Casel in Episode #32 of The Virtual Success Show Podcast; hiring for project work, meaning that work involves chopping and changing tasks, is a good way to create a job for yourself finding tasks for them to do! Having these documented systems creates set tasks and means that you’re not constantly trying to dig up something new.

If you want to be more productive and set up for success, then documenting your processes and procedures is a must! Click To Tweet

 

Why is this important?

Talk to any business owner who has successfully built something to be scalable and you’ll find they have this in common – they document procedures so that they are easily communicated and repeatable.

 

This is a key to saving time and promoting productive practices – how much time gets wasted in businesses when people have to repeat themselves all the time? Documenting procedures means that your VA (and any other virtual staff) can easily refer back to the documentation when needed, rather than having to ask questions. It also helps if you end up hiring more team members – you simply share the procedures rather than having to use a lot of time training each new hire. (For more time saving tips, check out 4 Effective Time Management Strategies for a Better Life Balance by Tayler Gill.)

Documenting procedures means that your VA (and any other virtual staff) can easily refer back to the documentation when needed, rather than having to ask questions. Click To Tweet

 

Another key point here is that documenting procedures, by the very nature of the activity, makes you examine those procedures more closely. You’re more likely to uncover any processes that are unnecessary or not as streamlined as they could be. Here’s your chance to tweak them and increase productivity!

 

How to make it work

Two aspects are key for successfully documenting processes: using the right tools and keeping your documentation accessible.

The “right tools” might include a way to transcribe your processes and break them into steps, then any supplementary information, such as screenshots or video. For example, you might document processes on a Google Doc because that will be easily accessible by team members, and use a tool such as Jing to create screenshots or screenshare videos.

 

An important tip is to document the entire process from start to finish. Don’t leave anything to chance or assume that something is too obvious. Walk though in logical progression so that anyone can pick up the process after you.

 

Use cloud storage

Have you ever experienced the pain of working hard on something, only to lose the document or have it irreparably altered? It’s not something you forget too quickly when hours of grinding disappear down the drain…

 

Cloud storage is your best friend when it comes to safely keeping documents and the important data of your business. Don’t let a fried hard drive or employee turnover mean the loss of key information.

Don’t let a fried hard drive or employee turnover mean the loss of key information. Click To Tweet

Why is this important?

It’s quite simple – losing your important data is a huge productivity killer, so do what you can to keep it safe! Most VAs use some kind of cloud-based storage when they work, but it’s always a good idea to have it down in black and white as a policy of your business.

 

Backup on Dropbox or another cloud service means you can ensure the important things that you pay your VA to do (such as market research or writing procedures) can be kept safe.

 

Another advantage of cloud storage is that, in most cases, you can readily see any changes that have been made to documents and revert back to older versions if necessary.

 

How to make it work

One of the important things about cloud storage is ensuring that it doesn’t turn into a mess, otherwise you end up with the exact opposite of a productive system! We would devise a system of clearly labeled folders and sub-folders so that anyone in your business can easily figure out where they need to be going.

 

Another important feature of cloud storage is that it allows you to grant and revoke access as necessary. Features like this are key for keeping your business secure with minimum fuss over passwords and access.

 

Investing in the “human” relationship

Have you ever tried working with someone productively when they see you as some kind of hamster on the wheel of the organization? It’s never a nice feeling and frankly, it doesn’t tend to bring out the desire or motivation to do well.

 

Another common challenge of virtual teams is that it tends to be more difficult to develop those “human” connections. If you’re only communicating in Slack and usually to bark out task lists, then those relationships which help to create belonging and motivation are more difficult to form.

 

Our last productivity tip here is that it’s important to invest in the “human” relationship with your virtual assistant.

Human interactions are always about give and take. Click To Tweet

 

Why is this important?

Human interactions are always about give and take. If you want someone to really be invested in your success as a business, then showing interest and concern for them as a person is a must.

 

It’s very easy for a good VA to leave a job where they don’t feel valued and pick up employment elsewhere. What happens next? Well, you’ve probably lost productivity as you scramble to find a replacement.

 

 

How to make it work

There are a number of possible suggestions for investing in the human relationship. Instinctively, you probably know several ways to do this already! Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Create an online meeting space for informal chat among your team, such as a “watercooler” channel in Slack.
  • Where possible, meet in person. This is not always an option, so make sure you take the chance to video chat where you can.
  • Acknowledge the VA for a job well done or for special events. You might give them a shout-out in front of the team, send them a gift card or perhaps pay a performance bonus.
  • Consider hosting an annual retreat if that is something doable in your business. Companies like Zapier do this with their virtual teams, to help foster community and that vital human connection.

 

Play to the strengths of the VA, but give them the opportunity to learn something new where you can. Acknowledging their strengths shows you value them and their set of skills, but it is also a good way to be more productive.

 

Make accountability happen – get our mini guide here:

Hiring a Virtual Assistant Secret to Startup Growth

 

Final thoughts

The whole idea of hiring a virtual assistant is to improve your productivity, but we’ve definitely come across situations where this didn’t work for the business at all. A VA can’t just come along, wave a magic wand and make everything better – you need to have the right conditions in your business to get the best from them and promote productivity too.

 

Consider these tips and what you need to put in yourself to get the best results and drive a productive environment. Your VA will thank you and so will your business!

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