A business can’t run without administrative efficiency, that is a universal truth. In this invaluable post, super organised MNC Member, Ashley Price, who offers virtual assistant services, shares his top time-saving tips for your business admin.
Plan your day – the night before
Before you finish for the day, plan what you are going to do tomorrow. Make a list of the most important, then the most urgent (notice which way round these are, you’ll find out why later), and other tasks you need to do.
This time-saving tip will give you a better start on the day, you will get to your desk (even if that’s just the dining table) the next morning ready to go, and knowing what needs to be done.
If you leave it until the morning to plan your day, things will almost certainly creep in that will disrupt your planning time, and you find you don’t get to plan and so not everything gets done.
Also, you may find, by planning the night before, your subconscious will work on things while you sleep. So, for example, you have a newsletter or a blog to write. If you leave it until the morning to decide you are going to write it, you’ll probably end up looking at a blank screen (or paper), struggling to get the words down, you spend ages staring out of the window, writing a sentence, playing with the positioning of the words, or changing them, and suddenly this job has taken three times longer than it should
Decide the night before that “Tomorrow I’m going to do that blog post on XYZ” then, when you come to write it the next day, you’ll find the words flow a lot easier and it takes far less time to complete because your subconscious will have been working on it overnight. Don’t believe me? Just try it for once, you may be surprised.
Block out time when you don’t want to be interrupted
If you have an important project or a complex job that needs to be done, block out an amount of time, where you will work on that task and nothing else. You don’t want to be disturbed or distracted by other things.
You sit down and say “Right, for the next x hours I am doing this”. Divert your calls to a call answering service (not voicemail – see point 4), shut down all non-essential software and programs on your computer. Turn your mobile phone to “calls only”, so you’re not disturbed by audio alerts from Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, texts, and so on.
If you work from home, if someone calls on the home phone, or knocks at the front door, ignore it. If you answer it, you could end up finding the time has slipped away, because it was a friend who only wanted a “quick chat” which then lasted an hour.
Finally, set an alarm to go off at the end of the time you’ve blocked out. This way you are not clock-watching (“How much time do I have left?”).
Do important jobs BEFORE urgent ones
No, I haven’t got those the wrong way round. There is this belief that “urgent” jobs should come first, but that is not always the case. You should weigh up which job is the most important.
Let me give an example. You are writing a proposal to submit to a prospective client, who is the head of a multinational company. If you win this contract it will take your business to the next level. It is Monday morning, and you need to submit the proposal by 5 pm on Tuesday. Now, I am sure you will agree getting the proposal completed is pretty important.
But then someone says to you, “Look, I need this data entry job done by 3:30 pm today, it’s urgent!” If you drop working on the proposal to get the “urgent” job completed, you end up rushing the proposal to get it submitted by the deadline, or you miss the deadline and lose the new contract.
So do important BEFORE urgent.
Use a call answering service
If it is during your regular business hours, the only time a call to your business phone should go to voicemail is if you’re already on a call, otherwise, never let a call go to voicemail.
If callers (especially clients) go to voicemail, they will feel unimportant. Okay, they may not be important at that moment, but don’t give them that impression.
Thanks to the Internet, it’s almost certain there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other businesses that do what you do, and if a prospective customer gets a voicemail it is more than likely they will just call the next number – meaning you have lost their custom.
And if your current clients keep getting put to voicemail then they will feel you don’t value them, and while they may not immediately go somewhere else, over time your reputation will be damaged (“Well, they’re okay, but I can never get them on the phone.”)
With a call answering service, you can divert calls, safe in the knowledge they are still being answered by a human and, if you have primed the service well, they will be able to answer many of the general questions callers may ask. This keeps your business’s reputation as one that looks after their customers and is “always there” – even if you personally are not.
I won business from a major new client, while I was on holiday! I had primed the answering service with enough general information that the caller was impressed enough, that by the time I returned the following Monday, I had a new contract which lasted five years and was worth many thousands of pounds.
Use templates wherever possible
If you find that you reply with very similar responses to emails, or you have documents which have very similar wording, then set up templates.
For example, if I get an email enquiry for transcribing an audio recording, depending on how much information the client gives me initially, I will have a number of questions, including:
- How many participants involved in the recording
- The length of the recording
- Whether there is jargon or technical/medical terms included
- Was it recorded in a quiet room or a noisy atmosphere (e.g. café)
- The quality of the recording and the clarity of the participants
- What is the deadline for the job
I need the answers to these so I can give an accurate quotation. Therefore, I have a template email that I can copy and paste into my reply, and delete the non-relevant questions. This saves me ten to fifteen minutes of typing the same questions every time.
I have a range of template emails and documents that I use, which can be personalised, but which save me a lot of time.
When you start to think about it, there are lots of ways you can save time and become more efficient in your business. We so often get so tied up with the day-to-day work that we don’t take a step back and think “Could I actually do something to make this task more efficient?” which, while it may take a bit longer to put in place, will actually save significant time in the long run.
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