As a VA you may often find yourself juggling a number of clients or projects at the same time.
You’ll have multiple tasks on the go and need to stay on top of it all.
If you’re using business versions of Office 365 you probably already have an application called Planner included in your subscription.
And if you are working with corporate and larger business clients, they may already be using Planner with their teams – and want you to do the same.
It’s a way of collaborating more easily – sharing files, working on them together, assigning and tracking tasks, and so on.
Planner, like all Microsoft applications, is regularly updated to improve how it works for people using it.
It’s now possible to set a task’s priority and add more detail to tasks. This can help a client to tell you what’s most important to them. And it allows you to guide the client as to what will help you get tasks done most efficiently.
The levels of priority you can assign to a task are Urgent, Important, Medium or Low.
You can now also use a ‘Group by Priority’ feature to see all the items in a group, or bucket, of tasks within a specific project.
This gives you an at-a-glance view of what needs to be done next. To shift priorities you simply drag and drop to move tasks up or down the scale.
Let’s say you are doing some research for a client. There may be information you require from different members in the team, and different data wanted over a set time.
In Planner, you can set up tasks to remind team members of what you need by when… and alter the priority settings as deadlines loom.
If you are asked to create, design or edit a newsletter, guide or brochure for a client you can use the application to manage your editorial calendar.
You set tasks around research, liaising with writers or photographers, the brief, editing, layout, proofreading and sign off.
The priority feature is available on the desktop version of Planner for now – and it’s on its way for mobile devices.
Of course, there are many stand-alone project management tools out there. The beauty of having something like Planner within Office 365 (Premium, Business and Educational users) is it’s all fully integrated with the other applications.
You don’t need to switch to other apps (and, of course, you save having to pay a separate, additional subscription for that other brand’s management tool).
Bear in mind the more corporate the client, the more likely it is they will be using some form of communications hub, such as the Teams app in Office 365.
The more you get used to this more integrated way of working, the better you will be able to market your services to the bigger businesses.
And if they’re not working that way, you can always offer that as a suggestion to them for greater clarity, productivity and performance.
Are you using Planner? Leave me a comment and let me know.
One of the advantages of using Microsoft Office 365 is that incremental improvements are being made all the time.
You don’t have to wait a year or until a new version comes out to benefit from the changes.
And it’s interesting to note where Microsoft is putting its money. Investment is going into six key areas: productivity, knowledge, workflow, security, compliance and management.
Which can only be good news if you’re a VA using, or looking to use Office 365.
What’s coming up?
Here are just a few of the developments on the way or already in place:
Microsoft Teams has private channels, multi-window chats and task integration with To-Do and Planner. Improvements are being made to how it connects with Outlook to make collaboration easier.
A new version of the Microsoft Edge browser is due for release in the New Year to boost productivity – and link nicely with an integrated Bing search engine.
Microsoft is also phasing in a new Office app for mobile devices – which will include Word, Excel and PowerPoint in one app. No need to download each application separately. It should make content creation ‘on the go’ much easier.
Expect to see developments designed to break down barriers between apps – to create more seamless collaboration – and the rise of voice-controlled activity (for example, to catch up on and respond to emails hands-free).
Intense focus on maximising the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has led to function ideas like entering data into Excel with a digital pen, the option to transcribe an audio file into a written Word document and a coaching tool for those who present in PowerPoint.
What is clear is that Microsoft wants Office 365 to be the only application you need to get work done – productively, efficiently, securely and collaboratively.
As more features and integrations emerge, the need to buy separate apps, tools or platforms will continue to diminish.
That’s good news for the money-conscious VA who wants to be able to deliver a high level of service – without having to keep shelling out on all those extra monthly or annual subscriptions.
P.S. The money-conscious VA might also be interested to know that prices for Tomorrow’s VA Hub (the complete ‘box set’ of my online Microsoft Office courses) go up on 1st January 2020.
Act now and you can get lifetime access to ‘The Full Monty’ and never pay a penny more (even when new courses are added to the set). Beat the price rise and sign up before 31st December.
Customise the Quick Access Toolbar to save time – it is a big statement. Read on to see why.
The Quick Access Toolbar is one of my all-time favourite things in Microsoft Office. You can build your own toolbar for quick access to those tools that you use all the time. No need to remember which Ribbon they live on as you can have them on the QAT and available to you no matter where you are!
The instructions here are for the Quick Access toolbar in Word. However, the Quick Access Toolbar is available in each of the programs, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook and you can customise it the same way.
The icons you add in each program are specific to that program so you will need to customise it in each.
Where is the Quick Access Toolbar?
The Quick Access Toolbar lives at the top left of the screen and is always visible. It has a drop-down arrow at the end of it which allows you to add more icons. It can also be shown below the Ribbon giving more space to add your favourite Icons.
By building up your favourites on the Quick Access Toolbar, you are free to collapse the Ribbon and just have the Quick Access Toolbar visible giving you more workspace on screen.
Quick Access Toolbar
List of popular commands
More Commands – click here to add even more choice to the Quick Access Toolbar
Show below the Ribbon – moves the Quick Access Toolbar and displays it below the Ribbon
Show below the Ribbon
When you show the Quick Access Toolbar below the Ribbon, you can collapse the Ribbon and have just the Quick Access Toolbar visible.
When you want to expand the Ribbon again simply click on one of the Ribbon tabs. You can then pin the Ribbon if you wish.
Quick Access Toolbar below the Ribbon
Collapse Ribbon button
Click one of the Tabs to re-expand the Ribbon
Click the Pin icon to keep the Ribbon pinned up.
Right Click to Add and Remove Icons on the Quick Access Toolbar
Add your favourite Icons to the Quick Access Toolbar with a Right Click
Right click to remove them too!
I know that once you start to add icons to the Quick Access Toolbar you will wonder where it had been for all your Microsoft Office life
Customise the QAT in each of the Microsoft Applications to make the most of your time when using the apps.
Hit the ALT key on the keyboard and see letters and numbers appear. Letters appear on the Ribbon and Numbers on the QAT. Simply press the number on the icon on the QAT to get a super fast keyboard shortcut. If you have the print icon at position number 2 pressing ALT +2 will launch print! Go on have a go.
I was recently interviewed for an online summit. It was a great Q & A session about Office 365. Here are some of the questions I was asked along with my answers.
What is Office 365 ?
Simply put, Office 365 is a way of getting access to Microsoft Office software via a subscription model. The old way of buying Office was to buy what is known as a perpetual license which would allow you to install Office on one Desktop and one Laptop. When new features appeared, a whole new version was released and had to be purchased. This would happen roughly every two years which meant that organisations were looking to upgrade versions very frequently and not necessarily budgeting for this.
By moving to a subscription model, you get access to the latest updates to Office as they are released along with a set of valuable online working and collaboration features. Updates to the Office applications are released on a monthly basis and depending on the way that your organisation has decided to update everyone, you will see new features in your applications.
This also helps with budgeting as you always know what your monthly outlay is (or annual if you choose an annual subscription) which means, no nasty surprises every couple of years.
Why should entrepreneurs be concerned with using or having Office 365?
Personally, I think that using Office 365 in a business is a smart move. Everyone has the same options and access to the same software and software version. You no longer have the issue of some team members being on an older version as they have not upgraded yet. Historically, when a new version was released not everyone would upgrade at the same time. This could lead to compatibly issues, as new features that are introduced are not present in older versions.
More reasons for using Office 365 – collaboration. Collaboration is built in. With our always on always connected way of life, our working software needs to keep up. Now that people and teams are not necessarily based in the same office, we need to be able to collaborate in new and different ways. With the cloud and cloud storage collaboration is so much easier. Office 365 has this at its core. Store your documents in OneDrive for Business or SharePoint and share them with others. Work together in real time or separately.
Plus Office 365 comes with the familiar desktop applications and web based versions of them as well as a slew of extra web based applications.
How much does Office 365 cost?
Well, like anything that depends. Office 365 is a subscription and is licensed per user. So if you are a VA with just you, it will cost you for one license, if you work with a team then you may well need more licenses. However, there are different licenses to be had and you can mix and match.
Office 365 Business
This license is for you if you get your email via your website or a hosting service. It comes with desktop and web versions of the regular Office Apps, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook. It also comes with OneDrive for Business so that you can store documents online and share and collaborate with others.
Office 365 Business Premium
This license is for you if you need the Office applications and you would like to have Microsoft host your email. With this version you get all the apps that are in the Business version as well as OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, Exchange and Teams – plus all the other web based applications that come with Office 365.
Office 365 Business Essentials
This license is Hosted Exchange along with OneDrive for Business, SharePoint and Teams. If you already have your own copy of Microsoft Office – and you need an email address at the client’s organisation then this is for you.
With this version, you get to be a member of the organisation without having to pay for the apps you already have. It means that you can collaborate on documents, access SharePoint sites and function as a member of a team.
Does everyone in the team need their own license?
Yes they do. However, not everyone needs to have the same licence as mentioned above. Imagine that you are a VA working with several clients. Each client will have their own domain and email and you already have a copy of Microsoft Office. The client need only subscribe you to the Business Essentials version. This will give you an email address at their organisation and access to the online collaboration features of OneDrive for Business, SharePoint and Teams.
So what is this collaboration you talk about?
With cloud storage in OneDrive for Business and SharePoint it is easier then ever to collaborate. With documents, spreadsheets and presentations stored in the cloud, links can be sent instead of attachments cutting down on email traffic and storage and back up costs. Several people can work on the same document at the same time both online and offline – it’s like magic.
Are there certain tools inside Office 365 that are best for most businesses looking for collaboration options?
The regular Microsoft Office desktop apps all come with a cloud-based version allowing you to work online or offline. Files created in any of the apps can be shared for collaboration purposes. For example, if you have a dispersed team all working on a report, each can work on the same copy of the report without affecting access for others and the report can be built up collaboratively.
Similarly, PowerPoint presentations can be collaborated on in the browser or on the desktop and can even be presented from the browser.
Office 365 works on both Windows and Mac platforms and whilst there are a few differences in the desktop versions, the web apps are identical. What are some of the key advantages Office 365 has over some of the cloud based platforms in our world today?
Firstly familiarity, most people in an office have been using Microsoft Office and Office 365 is Microsoft Office with extra bells and whistles, not as much of a learning curve when moving to a cloud system as if you were to choose one of the other options.
Microsoft is heavily invested in security and protection and is fully GDPR compliant – you can even choose which country hosts your data
Office 365 comes with 1TB of cloud storage per user license
Zoho Workplace has either 30 GB or 100GB depending on the plan
GSuite has 30 Gb on its basic and up to 1TB per user if less than 5 users
When you synchronise your OneDrive folder with your local machine, you always have your work to hand even when you don’t have an internet connection and you can choose what to synchronise. Once you do synchronise, you will find that you can work with the file explorer on your computer and the OneDrive folder just like any other folder on your machine.
What about other apps
Office 365 comes with several other applications not mentioned so far.
Sway – an online presentation software which can be used for delivering an online newsletter, a how to tutorial or a presentation.
Forms – create online forms for many purposes or quizzes which can be shared in many ways.
Bookings – Connect Bookings up with your calendar and allow people to book time with you.
Invoicing – Create pretty invoices
Stream – online storage for companywide videos
And a whole host more.
Running your VA Business with Office 365
To understand how Office 365 can help you in your business take my course – Running Your VA Business with Office 365. The course includes things you need to think about such as where you will work, what kind of tech you need and then takes you through from deciding which version or Office 365 to purchase, to buying installing and setting it up. Setting up Outlook for first use on both Windows or Mac and an introduction to saving documents to OneDrive for Business. Running Your VA Business with Office 365
Are you a busy VA or business owner who is using Office 365? You went down this route for various reasons, you love the familiar Office packages, you like that you can work both online and offline. And you really love the idea of using OneDrive for Business and having your documents stored in the cloud and on your local machine.
What is Synchronisation?
When you synchronise something, you are making sure that everything matches – remember the term Synchronise Watches? Making sure everyone has the same time showing on their watch? Well synchronising files is the same. We want to make sure that we have the exact same files stored in OneDrive for Business and on our local machine.
Setting up the Synchronisation
Start from OneDrive for Business – at the top of the screen you will see a Synchronise button – click this to start the synchronisation
Your computer will check whether you want to launch the OneDrive app – you do so say yes. This is the same on both Windows and Mac. The prompt you see is slightly different, but the concept is the same.
You are then asked to sign in to your account – this is your email address and password for your Office 365 account. If you are on Windows at this point you are shown a picture of where your files are stored. If you are on Mac, you will be asked to select which folders to synchronise.
Windows 10 Defaults
One Windows 10 the default setting is to save all your documents in the cloud. You have a local link to the files, but the storage is online. This means that you save space on your local hard drive – useful in these days of portability and small laptops! You can get to any of your files easily while you have a full internet connection. Once you have accessed a file it changes its state and becomes locally available so even when you don’t have an internet connection. You can also elect to keep all your files on your local computer.
Here is what the message you get looks like on Windows.
How do you decide?
Here is what I do. I have a large 27″ Windows 10 desktop which has a wired internet connection. On this machine I synchronise everything and store it locally. I also have a Surface Pro for when I am out and about. This only has 256GB of hard drive storage so on this machine I keep all the files online. If I am going to a client or away, and I want to make sure to have certain files locally, then I select to download fully just those folders. In any event even if I don’t download them fully, once I have opened a file, I can work on it even when offline and my changes will be synchronised when I next go online.
Change from Online to Keep on this Machine
You do this on a right click. In fact, the synchronisation wizard shows you how.
Can I move files online or keep locally easily?
Yes, simply right click on the file or folder you want to change and choose from the options- Move Online or Always keep on this device.
What if I am on a Mac?
Start from the web as above then you will be prompted to launch the OneDrive app.
You will need to sign in and then you will see the OneDrive app in the Dock. At this point you will asked for your password. Once you have done that, you are shown where the OneDrive folder will be created and given the option to change the location. Then you choose what to synchronise. This can be changed at any time so you can decide to stop synchronising a folder later on.
When you are done, you get a message saying that your OneDrive is ready for you. You will see a link to it in the Favourites in Finder and on the Menu bar of the desktop.
To change the folders, click the three dots you see like the image on the right, then choose preferences. Click on Choose Folders here under Account and then uncheck the ones you no longer want to have on your local machine.
What happens to folders I no longer Sync?
When you decide not to synchronise the folder, it will be removed from your local OneDrive folder. It is still available online and you can still save documents to it or get documents from it from within the Office applications.
If you want to find out more about how to use OneDrive for Business with the rest of Office 365, hop over and see my course – Running your VA Business with Office 365. There is lots of useful information in this course to help you get up and running We also have a range of other courses on Office 365 packages and they are being added to all the time.
Let me know in the comments if you found this useful and if you have any questions.