Productivity requires efficiency of time.
The more you can do in hour, the more you can get done in a day. The more you can get done in a day, the more you can achieve each week.
Part of your role as a VA, EA or PA might to be help leaders and managers keep to their schedule. You may have responsibility for the diaries and calendars of others.
No doubt you give that a lot of care and attention.
But how much focus do you give to your own schedule? How much thought and action do you invest in improving your own productivity?
Every assistant has a way of doing things.
That applies to how they manage their diary, calendar and working week.
What’s your system?
There is plenty of information, advice and availability of tools to help you with time management, project management and productivity performance.
What works for one person may not work for another. You have to find what works for you (in a way that helps you best serve your clients).
At the simplest level, you might start by asking yourself questions like these.
How many days or hours a week are you going to set aside for your work or business?
Are you a morning person (a lark) or an evening person (a night owl)?
If you have a choice, do you prefer to work from home or in an office space?
Do you like it quiet or do you like music on in the background? (Some music is said to be better for concentration than others but what works for you?).
Build your schedule around your preferences. It’s more likely to suit you and help get the work done.
Productivity is Key
Even when everyone has the same number of hours in the week, some people seem more productive than others.
Why is that?
Are they better at planning their work? Are they better at avoiding distractions? Are they more confident in how to complete tasks? Is it down to more experience? Is it down to skills set?
It may, of course, be a combination of some or all these things.
Many assistants choose to schedule their working week in blocks of time. This allows them to work around family or other commitments.
That system may work in a number of ways.
Let’s take a look at some examples
It could be that the assistant allocates 30 hours a week for their business. They then set out blocks of time, from 60 minutes to a full day, in a flexible way.
One week it might be ten blocks of three hours. Another week it might be two full days (total 14 hours), two days each with three sessions of two hours (total 12 hours) and four single-hour sessions sprinkled through the rest (total 4 hours).
That’s 30 hours for the week, right there.
More common is probably a schedule which has a bit more routine to it.
This is where the assistant sets a timetable for the week. They block out specific time each day and that stays the same week after week.
Returning to that 30 hours per week example, that might look like this.
- Monday – 9am to 12pm and 1-3.30pm (5.5 hours)
- Tuesday – 9am to 12pm and 1-3.30pm (5.5 hours)
- Wednesday – 9.30am to 12.30pm; 1.30pm to 4.30pm (6 hours)
- Thursday – 8.30am to 12.30pm; 1.30pm to 4.30pm (7 hours)
- Friday – 9am to 1pm; 2pm to 3pm (5 hours)
- Saturday – 10am to 12pm (1 hour)
The assistant blocks out these hours for work and business. That means they know they have time for the other things in their life outside these hours.
How are you arranging your working hours?
Streamline with Themes
Another approach that appears to have many advocates is to set theme days.
This is where you arrange the week based on specific activities each day.
This kind of schedule can require a mindset shift and a change in the way you operate, especially if you are someone who has been used to the Monday to Friday ‘9 to 5’ or setting up in business for the first time.
When you work for yourself, you get to decide how, where and when you work.
But it can also mean expecting to schedule every day of the week for something – even if that is for rest and reward.
The theme for the day concept is clear enough. You pick a theme for each day and, on that day, you only do work related to that theme, nothing else.
You choose what day is marked for each theme, so it works around how your life is.
Select Your Day to Day Work Guide
Here’s how that might look.
Monday – Marketing and Business Development Day
Tuesday – Client Contact Day
Wednesday – Service Delivery Day
Thursday – Content Creation Day
Friday – Lifestyle Day
Saturday – Family Day
Sunday – Rest and Relax Day
On the Monday, you are in promotion and marketing mode. This is a day for activity to get you noticed and attract new clients.
Tuesday is for managing your clients, checking in with them, sending surveys, interviews, research and making upsell offers.
The focus on Wednesday is to deliver for your clients.
Thursday is set aside for creating and promoting content for your VA business. This could be social media posts, an eBook or planning a podcast, for example.
As Friday is towards the end of the week, you may want to use it to reward yourself. This is not a ‘day off’ but a day to focus on anything that will help you to achieve the lifestyle you want. A day to consider and do things that will make your life better and more fun.
It might even be the day you choose to upgrade your Microsoft Office and 365 skills or do some other online learning or personal development work.
In this theme day scenario, the Saturday has time set aside for being with family (or it could be friends). It may also be that you use part of this day for work but the focus is on family stuff.
Sunday is your day off. You don’t do any work on this day.
That’s how you schedule your week and focus your attention. The important thing is to stick to it. Yes, there may be the occasional circumstance which requires you to adjust but otherwise it’s a case of theme, theme, theme.
As an assistant, you may want to build ‘client delivery’ time into other parts of the week but set aside one day to focus on it. Every other day, your focus is on you and building your business. It’s the way to create the life you want for yourself.
Work It Your Way
The example above is just one way you could organise your week using themes. You can arrange your theme days as you wish.
Everyone is different. If you’re unsure if it would work for you, give it a go for six weeks.
What the theme days approach does highlight is the need to regard your assistant work as a business, not as a hobby or just ‘self-employment’. Running a business, you cannot spend your whole week doing client delivery. That would be no different to being in a job or being an employee.
If you’re an employee, you don’t have to worry about leading, management, creating marketing, generating sales or accounting (unless your role involves one or more of these, of course).
When self-employed, it’s different.
If you want to create more freedom and a lifestyle for yourself, you have to treat what you are doing as a business.
The theme days are focus days. If you complete all your tasks for the day by, for example, 2pm then you finish for the day. You don’t launch into ‘overtime’ and start doing some delivery work or activity that is earmarked for a different day of the week.
This way, you take control of your working week and month. When you are in control you will find you value yourself and your time more. It helps to position you as a professional.
That’s a path to more clients and better clients. That’s a path to building a business that serves you, rather than the other way around.