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Best Time Management Tips, Tools & Apps For Virtual Assistants

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Busy happens. Even to the best of us – especially for virtual assistants.

There are vendors to meet, records to keep, inventory to order, emails to send, calendars to manage, and phone calls to return. And that’s on a light day.

It’s said that time is money, but we’d argue that such a philosophy is not only patently false but also incredibly misleading. Money is fluid – it comes, it goes – but time, well, time comes, goes and then – POOF!

It’s gone.

So if you constantly find yourself at the end of each day asking, ‘Where did the day go?’ it may be time to implement some time management skills, tools and apps. Here are 10 ways to make sure you’re thriving – and not just surviving – every day.

Step 1: Improve Your Time Management Skills

1. Track Your Time. First things first: Complete at least one day of time logging. From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed at night, list every task and the total amount of time spent on it. This way, you’ll have a solid baseline for what occupies your time – and can move on to the next time management skill.

2. ID & Eliminate Time-Wasters. Identify what your time-sucks are – social media, anyone? – according to your time log, and find ways to avoid them. For example, if you waste too much time on social media, set up a blocker for those sites. If you spend too much time on emails, set a time limit on emails each day.

PRO TIP 1: Consider leveraging some programs like SelfControl, Freedom, StayFocusd, and Anti-Social, which block access to the sticky, slippery wormhole parts of the internet for specified periods.

PRO TIP 2: Work on just one screen at a time. If you’re on your computer, keep tablets, phones, smartwatches, carrier pigeons and all other tempting distractions out of reach.

3. Try The Pomodoro Technique. This technique involves setting a timer for 25 minutes while you focus on one task, then taking a five-minute break before starting the next. This technique is especially effective if you have trouble focusing, structuring your time, or if you want to make sure you devote enough time to a particular task.

4. Apply the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule says that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts, so effective time management suggests that you spend 20 percent on the task(s) that will yield the greatest results.

5. Avoid Shiny Objects. This phenomenon is also known as ‘SQUIRREL!’ Much like a barracuda, we are often – and easily – distracted by ‘shiny objects.’ Shiny objects are adept at distracting us and pulling our time and attention away from tasks that matter. See a shiny object, admire it, if you must … then keep it moving.

6. Set A Schedule – And Stick To It. Pick a day – preferably at the beginning of each workweek – to list the week’s priorities. Then, organize your time based on your set priorities, either by making an hour-by-hour breakdown or a bulleted list of tasks for each day.

7. Don’t Multitask. Seriously. Somewhere along the way, ‘multitasking’ was exalted on high, right smack dab next to ‘busyness.’ And while we’ve been led to believe that multitasking is the holy grail for effective time management, it’s decidedly not. Pick one task, and stick with it – and nothing else – to completion.

8. Designate Your Space. Make sure you’ve designated a space in your home that will serve as your ‘office,’ and ideally, it’s a space that doesn’t also double as an area where you also sleep or spend time with your family. It’s best to keep those areas separate so when it’s time to ‘clock out,’ you can – physically, mentally and emotionally.

9. Automate. ‘There’s an app for that.’ Literally. For every difficult, time-consuming, or tedious task, there is a seemingly endless number of automation apps, programs, and online services available so let the 21st century help shoulder some of the burden. More on that in a second ...

10. Remember To Rest. Even God took a breather when creating, oh, you know, the entire world so there should be no shame in your rest game. Sometimes, it’s in our quietest and stillest moments that our minds breathe and expand – often yielding our most intellectually productive moments. Think of it like this: If you’ve ever tried in vain to remember someone’s name or the words to a song, you know that it often comes to you when you stop forcing yourself to remember.

Step 2: Leverage Tools & Apps

1. Slack. Slack is a collaboration hub that connects your organization – all the pieces and the people – so you can get things done. And we’re here to corroborate those claims. With Slack, you can collaborate online – just as you would in person – by bringing the right people and information together in a one-stop-shop where you can communicate efficiently, stay connected, and get things done – faster. Fast, efficient and communicative? That’s (productivity) music to our ears.

2. Basecamp. Basecamp is a project management app that combines all the tools teams need in a single, straightforward platform. It combines communication and collaboration by providing the tools you need to set up to-dos, discuss ideas, plan marketing campaigns, create a schedule, create and upload documents and files, message and chat with your colleagues, and check in regularly with your group – all from one productivity-boosting app.

3. Asana. Asana is a cloud-based software that facilitates colleagues within an organization to track and manage the progress of projects. Simply put, tasks are created to monitor individual contributions to a larger, collaborative project. Teams can add tasks, assign them to colleagues, set due dates, comment, and share relevant documents while notifications on the status of each task – and their approaching deadlines – are sent to your inbox. Best of all? It’s customizable to the way you want to work. Want to work in a way that is driven by conversations? Asana can do that. Prefer to work in a way that’s driven by tasks? Asana’s got you covered, too, so every team has the opportunity to work in a way that is comfortable for them.

4. Trello. Trello is a collaborative app that organizes your projects so you know what's being worked on, who's working on it and its status. Trello is the digital app equivalent of a whiteboard covered in sticky notes, photos, data and attachments from third-party sources for you and your team to collaborate and complete – together.

5. Todoist. Todoist is a top-ranked productivity app for organizing life. It keeps track of all your tasks, projects, and goals in one clean, user-friendly, simple place. It syncs across all your devices and integrates with all your favorite apps to quiet the chaos and empower you to take control of your, well, basically everything.

6. Toggl. Toggl is a time-tracking app that allows you to track your daily activities across different platforms while providing detailed insights, reporting, automated tracking and an opportunity to optimize your workflow by identifying areas where you can improve.

7. Zapier. Zapier is an online automation tool that connects over 1,000 of your favorite apps. Connect two or more apps to automate repetitive tasks without coding or relying on developer integration, move information between web apps automatically, and develop your very own workflow with just a few clicks.

8. 1Password. 1Password syncs your data between devices so you always have your passwords at your fingertips with only one master password. Every other login and private document is securely stored in your password vault to keep your information safe and secure – easily.

9. CamScanner. Drowning in papers, notes, business cards and documents? With CamScanner, any document can be digitized and saved to your device. Take a photo, and CamScanner will allow you to access, edit and manage documents anytime from anywhere.

10. Voxer. Voxer is a free app that combines the best of voice, text, photo and video messages for a powerful and personal messaging tool. Easily and instantly communicate with friends, family or teams at work – live or later. Voxer works over any 3G, 4G, or WIFI network in the world. And as the only service that delivers live, it can be listened to immediately while it simultaneously records the message so it can be listened to later.

What's The End Result of Managing Your Time?

If you can master these time management skills – even just a few of them – you will be humming in no time. And who knows? You may even find yourself with some much-needed free time.*

*free time /ˌfriː ˈtaɪm/ time when you do not have to work, study, etc. and can do what you want

Now, if you’re really ready to take your VA game to the next level, check out our Ultimate Virtual Assistant Master Class, where you’ll learn all things essential to becoming a rock star virtual assistant. We’re talking nuts-and-bolts, nitty-gritty, everything-you-need-to-know kind of information to equip you to become a virtual assistant with the confidence to pursue your dreams.

Then, when you’re really really ready, apply to be a virtual assistant with BELAY!