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.
I have been very busy lately, recording courses and writing blog posts. After a while thinking about the content to write about leaves me banging my head on the desk (metaphorically speaking). So I started to think about Infographics.
I realised that I like to see them and tend to click on them to see the content which got me thinking.
Why am I not using Infographics more frequently?
So, I set about answering the question.
What I realised was that in order to create an Infographic I need to use specialist software or online software like Canva or PiktoChart. That means going away from my beloved Microsoft Office programs, logging in online and then finding a template that I like and using it. What about customising the template? Well each time I do that from scratch.
I bet you can work out where this is going. Yep. I don’t enjoy doing all that extra stuff. I just want to open up a familiar program and create. Better still it will have my brand elements set up.
So, I set about working out which of the Microsoft Office programs would lend itself to creating an Infographic.
Word will do it, but the page settings mean that as soon as you get near the bottom of the page, you are forced to a new page.
I have figured out how to use all the elements that I already know in PowerPoint (well I do teach it!) combined to create a simple Infographic. To be honest I am not a really creative person, but I found to my delight that I can do this fairly easily using the tools I love.
Here are a couple of examples of the things I did.
Yes, I know, I know
The content is simple – I was focusing on the tools and look rather than the actual words. As you can see, when you create an infographic you don’t actually need many words at all!The best part is once I have this set up, I can reuse it at any time and because I know what I am doing in PowerPoint, changing the colours or shapes is easy.
Here are some articles I found to back up the reasons for using Infographics in your marketing mix
Yes, I am going to do just that. I will be creating a mini course showing you how to create Infographics that you can use again and again and change however you want whenever you want. Without having to buy or subscribe to yet another software package.
Let me know in the comment section below if you would be interested in this course once it goes live.
Time saved. More focus on high-value work. Improved performance.
All indicators of action towards a healthier bottom line.
What’s more, if you ensure that you have the IT training you need to make the most of the technology at your fingertips the savings can really add up very nicely.
Just a couple of quick examples of that, to illustrate what I mean.
Just 90 Minutes is all it takes
A 90-minute one-to-one IT training session with one VA allowed her to find a faster way to complete a repetitive task for multiple documents.
Based on hourly pay and hours saved, this training delivered a time saving worth £2,688 per year.
Not just for one year. But this year and every year. Because once a VA has grasped how to work more productively they can keep using that method time and time again.
An Excel session allowed another VA to do in 30 minutes a task which used to take her TWO HOURS
The productivity saving in this case was worth £1,080 a year.
Again, just 90 minutes of training.
Taking both cases together. Investment in three hours of 1-2-1 training delivers getting on for £4,000 a year.
Imagine what the saving could be if you learn how to use all of your Microsoft Office tools effectively?
Productivity and making it easier for people to work together are what the solution is all about.
Whichever way you look at the result; it’s going to improve your bottom line and enable you to get more done in less time.
Make sure you stand out from the crowd by learning how to make best use of your Microsoft Office software. At tomorrow’s VA we are all about empowering VAs to take control of their time, working more efficiently.
Hop over to our course pages and see what you can get better at straight away!
Everybody knows that behind every successful manager or company director, you’ll find an organised, efficient Virtual Assistant. Business owners actively lean on their VA, confident that work will be taken care of, in their absence.
Virtual Assistants’ tasks and skills can often be divided into technical expertise and personal skills.
Robert Half, named to Forbes list of ‘America’s Best Large Employers’ (2016), and to FORTUNE® magazine’s list of “World’s Most Admired Staffing Companies” (2016), mentions in a 2015 Special Report – The demand for Skilled talent that, “we’re facing what some have called, ‘the great skills gap.’ Businesses continue to struggle finding workers with job-specific skills and new skills needed to meet rapidly changing technologies. Candidates who have these abilities will get multiple offers and counteroffers – and employers will have to compete even harder to attract the best talent.”
If “the great skills gap” was already such an important issue of 2015, you can guess what the 2018 situation is.
For a VA this can be a really stressful problem.
The central question is, “Are Virtual Assistants getting the specialised IT Training they deserve?”
The answer is simple, ‘No.’
At least not within a VA’s time and business budget, particularly if they have just started the business themselves. Obviously, the Virtual Assistant’s IT training is a necessity, you perform a broad range of tasks that help the individual you work for be more productive.
It’s not the purpose of this article to highlight all the duties and skills a VA needs to perform and have. But it is our aim to highlight your need to receive a proper IT Training and support.
Why do you need IT Training?
As a virtual assistant, you must be extremely organised, must be able to multitask, know your boss’s day / week like the back of your hand, and stay calm should any problems crop up.
The right IT Training is essential for maintaining the successful Virtual Assistant’s continuous professional development.
IT Training also helps eliminate the feeling overwhelm.
“Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.” ~ Bill Gates
Just envision how good it feels to be the:
Best possible VA for the person/business you work with.
Increase your professional skills and abilities so that you can move up the career ladder.
Help your clients clearly see YOU as their secret weapon
Have the confidence to get the rate you’re worth.
Close more projects because you can prove to your clients that they’ll work with an experienced and efficient trained VA who understand the IT “rules.”
If you feel overwhelmed, wondering when and if this will be possible, let me reassure you that you’ll quickly nail the highly-valued IT skills, sooner than you think.
If you have any questions, or would like to find out more about how I can help you learn more about how to use IT to upscale your VA business, please feel free to contact me.
Eddecided to take the plunge and set up his own business as a Business Management Consultant. He knew that he would have to be prepared to don a number of different hats in his working day from now on, at a moment’s notice.
He intended to collaborate with like-minded business entrepreneurs, build a strong team and support it all with a range of empowering digital tools and resources. His corporate background had given him unprecedented experience and insight in his field and he knew that going alone would require him to work smarter, not harder, to achieve his vision of growing a global business.
He called me in to help him see exactly where he needed to concentrate his IT skills, to get the most out of his time and to set up business templates, styles and so forth so he could hit the ground running. In 2 hours we had covered the basics he needed – or so I thought.
Then he said: “What if I get stuck on how to do X, Y, Z functions with Excel or PowerPoint for example? Then what do I do? Where will I find the help without wading through manuals? Where will I find the time to sort that out? I just need to get to the bit I need!”
For Ed, the small ‘stuff’ of business ownership, was a hat he did not really want to wear, but initially he would have to get on with it. He was intent that IT issues would not own him.
For Ed, this was his pain!
(And being the forward thinker that he was, Ed wanted to know how that pain could be resolved before it even started! Nice one, Ed!)
How could Ed as an entrepreneur work smarter not harder and resolve any learning needs as they arose, quickly, easily and cost effectively?
As with every entrepreneur, his time is his money and even more so when there is no one to delegate smaller and routine tasks to. He is already thinking ahead about how the smaller things in business can often take the longest. Clearly a day out of the office on a conventional IT training workshop is out of the question for him and with his busy schedule even a 90 minute one to one training session would require planning, time and money.
He wants to work smarter not harder. He wants answers at his fingertips!
So I have designed a unique online, ondemand, subscription based IT training resource – keeping time loss on the small IT issues to a minimum and looking after the cash flow and the bottom line.
So, if an online resource helps Ed, just think what it could do for others too and YOUR bigger business picture!
Take a look at courses.tomorrowsva.com – this is where I am building an online learning library of short focussed courses which get you up to speed fast. You can get a year’s access to any course on a one-off basis and membership options will be added further down the line as I add more content.
Let me know what kind of issues you have and what you need help with and I will add that to my list of courses to create. This is YOUR learning resource, so I want to make sure it includes what you need.