They say it’s the little things that matter in life. 

Take work, for example. 

Traditionally, the working work has been 9 to 5, Monday to Friday – with the weekend for rest. 

For many, that’s a picture they no longer see or experience – especially if they are self-employed. 

The VA looking to grow their business might well choose to work evenings or at weekends. The super busy PA or EA may feel they have to do the same, either to keep up or get ahead with tasks. 

That would certainly match the picture revealed in a Financial Times article about ‘the truth about weekend working’. 

The piece suggested up to a third of the UK labour force works beyond the Monday to Friday norm. Estimates ranged from 24 per cent to 33 per cent. 

The article reported how, by most measures, a smaller portion of the labour force worked at the weekend in 2015 than in 2000.  

However, the amount of paid work they did was larger. In other words, it represented a bigger proportion of their weekly working time (for those aged 16 and above, from 21 to 26 per cent). 

What does this mean for the savvy assistant? 

I spoke in a previous blog about the dangers of burnout for VAs, PAs and EAs. 

If you’re tearing through each day at 150 miles an hour that’s going to require a lot of mental focus and physical energy. Start adding to that with working evenings and the weekend, and that’s going to have consequences. 

Remember, it’s the little things that count. 

If you start overrunning your weekday working by just 15 minutes a day, over five days you will have worked an extra 75 minutes. You can do the maths. 

Over one month, that is a minimum extra 300 minutes – or five hours – of work. For which there’s no extra pay. 

During a year – assuming you take four weeks’ leave per annum – that’s 55 hours of unpaid toil

Now take your hourly rate. 

If it’s £20 per hour, you’re losing £1,100 a year. Every year. If you charge £25 per hour it’s £1,375. And for an hourly rate of £30 per hour, the annual amount of free work you are giving away is worth £1,650. 

Earning more? You could easily be giving away £2,000-plus every year – just by overrunning your working day by 15 minutes every day. 

This is the compound effect working in a negative way. What you really want is to have that working for you in a positive way. 

Experience the Compound Effect for Good 

You will probably know the term ‘compound interest’ and understand the concept. 

Let’s say you’re a saver. You might, for example, put away £100 a month. 

At the end of the first month, you’ll have earned interest on the 100 pounds. After month two you’ll have £200 plus the interest on your first instalment and a percentage of the second instalment. Month three, the £300 you’ve put in in total plus three months’ interest on a growing sum. And so on. 

The interest is compounded each month because you’re gaining interest on every pound you’ve put in. 

The same principle can be applied to time. 

Let’s say you’re a PA and serve five executives. Every minute matters because your bosses all want support and focus. 

If there’s a daily task you do for each executive that takes five minutes more than it really should, that’s 25 minutes lost out of your day. That’s a couple of hours of unnecessary extra work every week – simply because you didn’t know a better, quicker way.  

Now multiply that for a whole year. Do you see how much that PA is losing because of a tiny inefficiency? 

Training and experience offer you a powerful alternative. 

When you know how to carry out and complete tasks and projects using Microsoft Office 365, you will be confidently able to save time and ease the stress. 

Even small savings in time can – because of the positive compound effect – add up to something significant over the months and years. 

I remember, maybe seven or eight years ago, there was an assistant at a firm of accountants in London.  One of her jobs was to analyse a big table of data. A repetitive task she had to do for five partners. 

Naturally, I wanted to help make her life easier. That’s what I do for people as a Microsoft Office expert. I showed this assistant how to do Subtotals in Excel. 

After I had shown her how to use this feature, the assistant said it would save her half an hour for each analysis. One analysis for each partner, so that meant a time saving for her of two and a half hours every day. Over the course of a week, a total of 12.5 hours were saved. More than 50 hours a month freed through one Excel technique. 

At the time, I didn’t think it was that amazing but it obviously transformed the way she worked. 

It was a little thing with a big impact. 

There was a training ‘surgery’ I did for a medical body another time. And there was a lady who had to pull in reports from all the different medical people researching different medicines. 

One problem was that each of these reports was written in a different way. There was no consistency. It made the collation and reporting task more time-consuming than it needed to be. 

I showed the lady how to use Styles and create a template document for all the reports. It allowed her to take all the different reports and turn them into something that could be presented in a way the NHS (Britain’s national health service) wanted it. 

The lady said she was going to save THREE hours every time she did the collation. Because this was a regular task, the compound effect was big for her. 

An Investment in Quality Training Will Save You 

As the two examples above illustrate, little things can count for a lot. They certainly changed the way the two professionals worked – and gave them back time they had not realised they could have. 

That’s what I love about my training.  

It allows professional assistants to do more in less time. The more productive you are, the quicker you get through tasks and the easier it is to complete projects to deadline. 

It’s why I created online courses for The Savvy Assistant which is where you’ll find step-by-step training in the essentials of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Teams.  

And the learning never stops. 

It’s why I designed a new programme, aimed more at PAs and EAs, called Microsoft Office Mastery for the Savvy Assistant. Windows 11-ready, covers the classic apps as well as OneNote, OneDrive, SharePoint, Forms, Sway, Office on the Web and Bookings. 

The videos in my online training are usually short. That is, little. And, as I’ve illustrated in this blog, a little can go a long way. 

Little things do matter. Why not make a little change to the way you work and see the difference it makes.  

P.S. I am thrilled to share that I made it to the Grand Finals of The VA Voice Awards* – the deadline runs until 30th April so there is still time if you wish to vote for me. 

I find Shelley’s training easy to follow and the very best thing is that you can do it all at your own pace and revisit modules if it doesn’t quite sink in the first time round! I have learned so much from her training and continue to do so! She is responsive to my questions and I learn something new with each module. I find Iam hardly ever having to Google or YouTube information now, so it really is saving me time in my work day. Time that can be better used by learning more about the business I operate in!
Thanks Shelley!

Tracey Whitehouse – Executive Assistant

I have been following Shelley on Linkedin for several years, and always loved her hints and tips. In May of this year, I had the opportunity to recommend Shelley as one of our workshop speakers at the annual HMC Heads’ PA Conference in Sheffield.

On receiving the brief Shelley quickly produced content for two IT Microsoft Skills Workshops covering nuggets from Outlook, Word and Excel. Shelley then delivered (virtually) these two fantastic workshops to over 60 PAs at our conference.

From initial enquiry to delivery Shelley is the consummate professional and it was my pleasure to have had the opportunity to engage with her.

I would have no hesitation in recommending Shelley to any individual or group.

Michaela Fletcher – Heads PA

Shelley is THE guru on all things Microsoft.

I love Outlook, use it every day, and think I have a pretty good understanding of it. But every time I attend one of her sessions I learn a lot more. Her knowledge is remarkable. And she delivers her knowledge in a really clear, engaging way.

Thanks Shelley

Kathy Soulsby

I have just spent less than an hour at one of Shelley’s presentations and my mind is truly blown! I thought I was fairly proficient in Outlook, but I had no idea it could do so much more! So many time saving tips and shortcuts to help me – I can’t wait to get stuck in and implement them all! Thank you Shelley – I would highly recommend!

Hayley Rose – Executive Assistant -Dalcour Maclaren

Shelley joined us for the annual HMC Heads’ PAs conference in May 2023, where she delivered two hands-on practical IT skills workshops for over 60 PAs in attendance. Both sessions were warmly received by all participants, and from a personal perspective it was an absolute pleasure for me to work with Shelley both offline in the extensive prep phase ahead of the sessions, and online during the day itself – sharp in subject knowledge, flexible in content delivery and everything executed with a really affable manner and “can-do” approach throughout. I would recommend her services wholeheartedly.

Gareth Johnson – Leader GRE Education

Heads PA Conference

The session was well structured and the explanation was very clear. It was amazing how Shelley managed to squeeze so much info in just one hour and a half! Colin’s support and contributions were also very valuable, and so were “Virtual Veronica”‘s. Thank you for a most interesting and useful training session at the Miss Jones Virtual Summit!

Laura Carizzo- Royal Norwegian Embassy in Argentina

I haven’t used PowerPoint in 20 years, this has really boosted my confidence.

Lyn Parker

Course is packed with so much valuable information in a easy-to-understand and follow language, even for a complete beginner. I can respect the fact that sometimes it’s very hard for an expert to break the information down to basics. but Shelley has done it brilliantly. I was sure that I knew quite a bit but Shelley has proven me wrong even at the very beginning of the basics of PowerPoint. Lessons are short and precise which allowed me to easily transfer the new skill into practice without being overwhelmed and to carry on adding on more with each lesson. I had so many ‘Aha!’ moments and for most of them I couldn’t believe I used to pay graphic designer to do it for me, now, thanks to Shelley, I am looking forward to creating, designing, converting my presentations all by myself!

Iva Freeman – Vertex Human Capital

Shelley was very thorough and knew a lot of tip’s for using Teams, thank you 🙂

James O’Connor – Cavannah Homes

Very informative, constantly getting everyone in the meeting involved, loved every bit of it!

Dylan Teal Hopkins – Cavannah Homes
Fantastic and informative training and great to see all of the exciting functions with Microsoft Teams.
Laura Rigby – The Apprenticeship College
Shelley was really clear in her teaching and went at a pace that was helpful to us. We covered all we needed to know to get us started, as a small team, using MS Teams. She was also very helpful in the run up to the session, with check in calls and ensuring our platform was set up correctly. I would highly recommend Shelley to anyone wanting to learn to navigate their way around MS Teams.
Leigh Dowling – Innuous

Microsoft Teams One to One Training Session

Shelley was approachable, easy to work with, and agile with answering questions to apply the session to my specific needs

Melissa Marshall – Present Your Science

A course on Outlook had been on the top of my list when Shelley asked VA’s what they wanted to learn. It was a real case of ‘so that’s how you do it’ or ‘I never knew that’. I have to say that I learnt so many great tips it has definitely improved the way I work in Outlook and my inbox is looking colourful and organised and I can’t wait to share this knowledge with my clients.

Jacqueline Leake – JLeake VA Services – Outlook

A great course with lots of examples and step by step instructions. I can now confidently create infographics and as a bonus, I learnt a lot of new PowerPoint functionality that will enhance all my PowerPoint work and save me so much time.

Jessica Bailey – Integral Resource

I really like Shelley’s courses. She has a clear and easy to follow teaching style. In ‘How to Create Fillable Forms’ I’ve learned about the functions of the Developer ribbon which will mean I’ll be able to create a bespoke Returns Form for a client who has an online shop

Freya Henderson – Virtual Office Orkney