One of my clients has what she calls “The Five-Second Rule”, and no, it’s not that one.
Her rule is “Spend five seconds now making the next guy’s job 10 minutes easier.”
I’ve tripped over variations of this rule in various jobs throughout my life:
- working in a restaurant, you did prep and cleaned before you left, so the next person on shift wasn’t scrambling
- working in IT, a little clearer documentation meant happier end-users
- working in a charity, taking time to quality control the database meant that when you went to create reports for the Board of Directors or the Philanthropy Manager, it was faster and easier
Notes to Future You is my homage to that rule. Spending a little time now to make Future You’s job easier.
For years I ran publicity and promotion for a set of a local theatre’s productions. I would make notes with each show, documenting what businesses would take promotional materials, what companies were willing to offer the theatre a discount on supplies, who would give me a break on printing costs in exchange for their logo included on the poster. I created a set of documents in Google Drive and with each production, it was revised and refined.
Eventually, I created a spreadsheet that had every task I knew that needed to be done along with a not-too-complicated-but-complicated-enough set of calculations. I had only to plug in the opening night and closing night dates and it would give me a schedule with every task. I could then import that into a Google Calendar I would create just for the production and could share with the cast and crew.
In a matter of minutes, thanks to the work Past Me had done, I was able to know exactly what needed doing and by when.
Take 5 minutes today and make yourself a note of what you learned or who you need to contact for the next time you’re working on a project you did today. Put it somewhere that’s intuitive to you, so, a little time now makes Future You’s job easier.
Covid has many of us working from home and a phrase I hear a lot is “I don’t even know what day it is anymore.” When you’ve had years of a routine, having to change cold turkey is hard. Don’t downplay it, it is going cold turkey.
So how can we deal with it?
I worked for 30 years in various offices. My day was very much driven by a routine – get up, get ready, eat, drive to work, do my job, have lunch, finish my job, drive home, make supper, dishes, chores, entertainment, sleep – then lather, rinse & repeat.
I started my own virtual administration business 4 years ago. Some things remained, but that portion that was my workday drastically changed. I no longer had the adjustment times of the drives to and from work. I no longer had a prescribed time that I was going to be taking as downtime to eat and recharge. My waistline got to face a regular test of my fridge being much closer if nothing else.
Being someone who has run projects before, I treated it like one.
Write It Down
On a monthly, weekly and daily basis, I started making lists. Writing down what needed to happen and when that had to happen. Once a month, I would take time to itemize my priorities, both my own and my clients, for the coming month. Weekly, generally on Friday afternoon, I’d look at the coming week and do the same thing on that shorter timetable. I would do the same every evening. What is tomorrow going to look like?
After I had that list of what needed to happen, it went on the schedule. For me, that’s an electronic schedule, but if paper works better for you, then use paper. Block out your time. Make sure you’re including breaks and personal time as well as your work. One, that stops you from overcommitting yourself and overextending yourself. Two, it can act as an incentive. You can see your time commitments easily and can focus without wondering what’s next.
Pay attention to the time you’ve allotted. Make notes for yourself. Did you over or underestimate the amount of time it would take to do a task? Is it one that you’re just learning, so it took longer but will decrease with experience? Is it something you thought should be routine, but this time, you ran into a snag that caused issues? Make notes on what worked and what didn’t.
This brings us to our last point. Part of why I review my lists on three different timetables is because the allotment I assume on a monthly basis may not apply when I get into a project. I may be slowed down because of communication with a client. I may dive into a new software tool that winds up being much simpler because of transferrable skills from another tool which wind up being a near-perfect match. Adjust and correct your time blocks. That also counts for the personal ones. If you’re feeling yourself burning out, make more of them. If you find that you’re having more productive mornings, try to figure out why the afternoon is less so and if you can, add something that helps. For me, a 20-minute break to meditate helps me clear my head, is nearly as good as a nap for refreshing me and gives me the energy to continue with a busy day. So, it is in my schedule for the day, around the time I usually hit my own wall.
What Day Is It?
Can I promise this will clear up the feeling of “Jantembuary” that we’ve been dealing with as the days and weeks and months in Covid seem to blur into a single mass? Not completely. There are still days where I’m sure it’s Friday in the middle of the day only to realize that no, no, it’s Wednesday. But overwhelmingly, it helps give me a structure that means those days are few and far between (and usually precursored by a bad insomnia night) and I can get things done and adapt to emergencies and changes as they come.
What About You?
What tools and techniques are you using to help you keep the days straight? We all work better when we support one another.
When you’re working with a virtual admin (VA), you need to have three things: clarity, goals and trust. Some of these are developed over the time you work with your admin, but some need to happen before you even start reaching out to find someone.
A virtual admin can be a way to supercharge your time because the things that aren’t your passion can be done – done well and on time – giving you more hours in a day. If you have the clarity of vision, the goals to achieve that vision, and the trust in them to do the work, you can stay focused on your business.
When you are preparing to work with a virtual admin, there are a few things to consider that will help you get the best results.
Know what your desired outcome is.
The more clearly you can define the outcome you’re looking for, the easier it is for your VA to find a solution that will achieve it. Clarity from you will provide them with a deeper understanding of what you need. Your goals are going to drive your relationship with your VA. The more you know about what you want, the more effective they can be for you.
Listen to their expertise
It’s not your job to figure out how to achieve your outcome. You are trying to get back your time and have the work done. A VA isn’t simply another pair of hands. A good VA can bring you solutions to address your challenge. Your VA is part of your team. Trust that if you give them a clear scope, you can let them figure out the details.
Pick a single channel for communicating. Find one that works for both of you and stick to it. Clarity in communication isn’t just a matter of knowing your message. It’s also about making sure the message gets through.
When you give them a specific goal, not only give them direction on what you need but when you need it. Deadlines are a critical part of any scope of work. That allows you to know when it will be completed and gives your VA the ability to effectively prioritize. “Whenever” isn’t a deadline and it will always wind up on the bottom of any to-do list.
Be prepared to provide constructive feedback if the results are not what you expected. Feedback is a natural and important thing in any team. Because you and your VA aren’t in the same physical space, it becomes even more important. Make sure your message is clear and understood. In the early days of working with your VA, expect there might be more opportunities for feedback as they get to know your style of working and make sure that their efforts are on-brand for your business. Critical feedback is also important – your VA needs to know when they’ve gone in the wrong direction. Treat them like you would an in-person team member – keep it clear, informational and use it as an opportunity. It will build trust between you and you’ll have a stronger relationship in the long run.
Ask yourself questions
Before you start looking for a virtual admin to help you, ask yourself some questions about what you’re looking for:
- What is my goal in working with a VA?
- What do I want to get out of it? (ie. more time; have someone do tasks I don’t enjoy)
- Can I clearly describe my desired outcome of any specific goal?
- How much do I want to be involved in achieving it?
If you’re ready to get back your time to do what you’re passionate about, or just want to know more, set up a call at https://calendly.com/wadmin/30-min.