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10 Top Tips for Time Management

If you’re a business owner, you will know that age-old phrase ‘time is money’ is actually true! Be honest, do you know how much time you’re wasting every week which could be spent on growing your business and making money? Probably not, because you’ve never really looked into it. I’d bet it’s a hell of a lot more than you thought…!

Being the helpful soul that I am, I thought I’d put together a list of ways to save time. I know these work, because I have used them in previous jobs or I’m using them right now. Even if you just use one of these, I’m convinced you’ll see immediate benefits.

1. Make a list – spend about 5-10 minutes at the beginning of each day listing what you need to do. Either hand write it, type it up on your computer, email it to yourself, make a spreadsheet, whatever works for you. Then prioritise it – either colour code it, number it, put asterisks next to the important things, again whatever works for you – you can even write it on post-it notes and throw them in the bin once they’re done – colour code them to your clients… Tick off things you’ve completed (or if you’re like me, add things you’ve already completed, just so you can tick them off…) You know what needs to be done today and what can wait until tomorrow, Friday or next week.

2. Before you get stuck into the large tasks of the day, get rid of a few quick and easy wins. That way you’ll not spend the day worrying that you’ve not made that doctor’s appointment, emailed the school about the school sports day, rung your mother about her arthritis…. Once you’ve done the small stuff, you’ll feel like you’ve achieved something and will make you feel more like tackling the large stuff.

3. If you are running to a tight deadline and your work environment is causing distractions, leave completely and find somewhere else to work i.e. a coffee shop, hotel lobby, internet café, specially designed office space.  It takes, on average, 8 minutes to get back into your headspace to work after someone or something has distracted you.

4. When things get really pressurised and you’re tight for time, switch off email, Facebook notifications, any other app notifications and phone completely. It’s incredible how much time we can spend browsing Facebook because someone liked or commented on our posts. Because once you’re in, you’re then scrolling through, watching videos of cats, or people doing funny things and before you know it, an hour has passed. Let’s face it, we all love to think someone is giving our posts attention, and it’s SO hard to ignore these things, we’re only human after all! But if your notifications aren’t coming up on your phone or laptop, bingo! Distractions removed. And let’s face it, it’s nice to log in now and again and get lots of notifications, rather than a drip feed of the odd one or two, isn’t it?

5. If you’re procrastinating, rather than getting frustrated or annoyed, simply ask yourself why you are procrastinating. Are you scared of the task ahead? Is it too difficult, too easy, or boring? Or do you just love to talk about how busy you are, without getting on with the job?

6. Take short breaks when you need them during the day to recharge and refocus. Research shows that workers who take regular breaks at work are healthier, happier and more focused. Doing something you enjoy during your break will give you that sensory boost you need to get down to it once you’re back at your desk. In the same way, never underestimate the value of taking an actual holiday if you can. I’m not going to suggest you leave it all behind, as small business owners we know we can’t ever do that. Take your phone with you and leave it in the hotel room. Check it twice a day, say once at lunchtime and once again in the evening and for no longer than an hour at a time. That way you’ll get to spend quality holiday time with your family, but also keep on top of your emails. You’ll also not have the nightmare of a huge inbox to return to which will make you wish you’d never gone away.

7. Only ever touch a piece of paper once. In other words, don’t pick it up, read it, get distracted halfway through, put it down, pick it up again (you get my drift). Pick it up, read it, deal with it and put it down or file it (or bin it). It’s done, time to move on to something else.

8. End your working day at a fixed time. Don’t let work creep into your entire evening. You can also have two finishing times. One for an ideal day, and one latest time that you won’t work past. If you do have to work late, make that the exception rather than the rule.

9. If you’re using social media for business, schedule some of your updates. You don’t have to be there all the time. Hootsuite is an excellent tool which will schedule your social media updates for you, and will post to Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in without you having to do anything other than schedule it. You can also use it to send out mailings so they land in inboxes overnight rather than you spending time doing it during the day. You can also use it to post while you’re having that holiday I was talking about…

10. If you’re doing a task where you’re likely to get distracted and spend longer than you want to on it (for example, on social media, email, or internet searching), try using Toggl which is a free time-management app. Once you’ve created an account, you then create ‘projects’ which you can time. You just need to remember to switch it on at the beginning and off when you’ve finished, or are taking a break. Keep an eye on it while you work to keep you focused on the task and to ensure you’re not spending too long on each one. You can also use Toggl to download a report of time spent on a project (if you invoice by the hour) to send to your clients with their invoices so they can see the breakdown of time spent. Alternatively, use Toggl to monitor the time you’re spending working on tasks that don’t earn you any money, like writing that blog, doing your expenses, writing a presentation… Add them all up at the end of the week. You might be surprised at how much time you’re spending doing tasks that aren’t making money or growing your client base.

If, at the end of that week, you’re horrified by the amount of time you’re spending on doing your administration, you might consider outsourcing to a professional. Someone who can do your admin and release that valuable time for you to get on with what needs to be done for your business. Call me on 07701 351686 for a free 1-hour consultation to see how I can help.

Posted by elaineross1603
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Tools of the Freelancer’s Trade

When I first made the decision to walk away from my well-paid, secure job that came with lots of benefits, I had absolutely NO idea just how many apps and tools there are out there to help the budding Freelancer. I had visions of me having to create my own invoices, do my own taxes, make spreadsheets to manage my clients and set stop watches to time how long I spent on each task (or just make an educated guess).
How naive was I?
Now that I’ve started, and my business is up and running, I’ve found a treasure trove of helpful and time-saving tools available online, and if you’re an individual with a fairly simple business, most of these are completely free!
Here are the main ones I use
1. Toggl. This is a very simple tool which you can use to manage the time you spend on your clients’ tasks or projects. There is no monthly subscription to pay, just create an account and off you go. Once you’re logged in you create your clients and can then split out each of the tasks or projects you’re working on so you can keep track of what you’re doing for each one. Then when you’re ready to start work, create the task under the relevant client, start the timer and off you go. Of course, you need to remember to a) start the timer first and b) stop it when you take a break or finish what you’re doing. This gives you an accurate view of how long you spend on each task which is great if you invoice by the hour. You can then download a report of time spent broken down by each task which you send to your client along with their invoice. Some clients may not feel they need this but I know mine really appreciate seeing how long it takes me to do each task. As a Virtual Assistant, this is important, because my main focus is to save my clients time by doing the things that need to be done but don’t make them any money.

2. Trello. This is an online organiser which allows you to create boards to which you add cards to manage project work for your clients. Trello has everything you need to organize projects of any size. Open a card and you can add comments, upload file attachments, create checklists, add labels and due dates. You can even manage your family holidays with Trello. If, like me, you enjoy using brightly coloured sticky notes you can do this electronically with Trello as reminders. This app is great if you have a project with a clearly defined list of tasks with deadlines like a product launch or an event. In addition, you can share the boards with everyone working on the project, so the whole team can see who’s done what and what remains to be done.

3. Invoicely. At the moment, I use this to invoice my clients. It’s a simple online invoicing system with which you create an account, set up your clients, then create invoices for them. Invoicely will send the invoice for you, or you can download it and send it yourself (along with your Toggl time report). It records the due dates of any invoices you create so if they’re overdue (you do have to manually mark them as paid) it will remind you to chase.
Invoicely is fine if you have a small business with just a few clients, but once your business starts to grow and you take on employees you will need to move to more sophisticated software. One such tool is QuickBooks Online. QuickBooks not only allows you to create and track invoices, but also allows the user to manage Corporation Tax, payroll, and VAT returns. It also allows you to send invoices from anywhere with their useful apps for tablet and mobile phone. You can also customise invoices, track real-time payments and schedule repeat payments. As a small business owner you will get paid faster and save time on your accounting.

4. I also like HelloSign. This is a great online signature tool which is invaluable to those of us who work from home and often never see our clients face to face. HelloSign means we can send a contract and have the client sign it online, saving a huge amount of time which would otherwise have been spent sending contracts in the mail, waiting ages for the client to sign and send it back, finding out they’ve lost it or the dog ate it, so having to send it again, waiting again (you get the picture).

5. My final recommendation is Hootsuite. Hootsuite is a social media management tool which enables you to monitor and schedule all your social media content from one platform. It allows you to see what people are saying about your brand, so you can reply immediately. If, like me, you’re an individual running your own business you can use Hootsuite with 1 user for free. If you wish to add users you do have to pay a monthly subscription but it is worth the money. Social media is such a massive influence nowadays you’d be crazy not to spend a bit of money perfecting your online skills.

So there you have it, my top tips for online time-saving or helpful tools. I hope you find them as useful as I do!

Posted by elaineross1603
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Networking… There’s an art to it

So Friday, 16th June I attended my very first networking event. It was a local one, run by Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce, jointly with Business Girls Network and Business Biscotti. I had NO idea what to expect, what to wear (yes it’s important to a girl), what to say or who I’d meet.
Anyway, I rocked up with a bag full of business cards and some printed papers with a synopsis of what services I offer since you meet so many people at these things you forget what they do.
I must say it was interesting. I walked into a room where everyone was already chatting to each other and immediately felt a bit shy. I didn’t know anyone there and had no idea how to get chatting. Fortunately, the head of the Chamber of Commerce saw me and introduced himself and then introduced me to the man he was talking to. After that I noticed that what seemed to work was to just walk up to a group of people chatting, stand quietly without interrupting and within seconds someone would turn and start talking to you. I gave it a go a few times with excellent results.
I came away absolutely buzzing. I’d made loads of new contacts, given out my card and my flyers and have at least two leads to follow up next week, including one woman who just said, ‘I need you’ while looking extremely stressed.
What I’d say to anyone who was feeling anxious about these types of event is, start small, this was a local event for local business groups with around 15 or so people there. Don’t be shy to just go up and stand next to a group or couple of people who are talking. Everyone is there for the same reason, to make contacts, grow their own businesses and help other local businesses. They WANT to talk to you, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. Tell them how you can help their businesses, why they should hire you but also mention you want to grow your network and be able to pass on valuable contacts to your own clients in case you can’t help.
Go, have fun, be yourself and talk!

Posted by elaineross1603
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Running out of clothes….!

You know the scenario… You have that big presentation tomorrow and it’s just gone 5.30 and the dry cleaners have closed… You really wanted to wear your new suit to impress a potential new client but it’s being held hostage and you can’t have it until they reopen tomorrow morning. Oh but tomorrow morning you have to prepare the presentation and there really isn’t time to go and get it. Can you wear the one you have on today? Nope, you spilled ketchup on it at lunchtime.
Well, worry no more, this is just part of a whole host of services I can offer. If you’re local to the Maidenhead, High Wycombe, Slough, Marlow area, while you’re concentrating on writing your kick-ass presentation I’ll pop over to the dry cleaner’s and pick up your suit along with a clean shirt and even a tie. I’ll drop it off at your place of work so you just need to nip into the bathroom to get changed and boom, you’re ready to go!

Posted by elaineross1603
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Welcome to my new site!

Having never blogged before in my entire life, I’m somewhat nervous about my first one. I’ve spent the last few weeks worrying about what to put, if anyone will read it, if I have anything interesting to say, and typically putting it off while I waited for creativity to strike.
Sadly creativity seems to be taking a break right now so I’m going to have to go it alone.

As I’m sitting here pondering my decision to set up my own business, it did occur to me to wonder just what the heck I thought I was doing…?
I’ve always opted for the safe bet, taking jobs working for good companies with a monthly salary and benefits (you know the ones) yet here I am, sitting in my home office with my brand new laptop contemplating doing it for myself.

With Brexit just around the corner I’m also wondering whether I’m doing the right thing giving up my job and going it alone when the country faces such huge commercial uncertainty. The fact is though, whether you’re for it or against it, it’s happening and it will bring changes.
Small businesses are going to need to focus on planning for these changes meaning everyone will be busier and the day to day admin tasks could be forgotten or filed under ‘do it later’.

That’s where I come in. I can take those time consuming tasks off your hands leaving you free to work on your business and planning.
I have around 17 years’ worth of experience in doing the stuff you need and even the things you didn’t realise you needed.

Why not have a look at the range of services I offer and see if I can help. If what you want isn’t on the list, call me on 07701 351686 or
email me at elaine.ross@freedom-solutions.co.uk and talk to me about what you need. Chances are I can probably do that too.

Posted by elaineross1603