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5 simple tips to skyrocket your work productivity

Any professional can use these five tips to save time and boost productivity, and they’re quite simple means to improve efficiency.

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The critical nature of efficiency

Whether you sell real estate, run a home staging business or own a restaurant, there never seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. Between running your business, doing everything that you can to provide quality customer service, and marketing your business to its fullest potential, you could probably find something that needs to be done ’round the clock if you didn’t need to sleep.

Virtual assistants typically work with multiple clients at once, and they’re expected to execute all marketing efforts flawlessly for each one. Time-saving tactics are a lifesaver in our industry, and they’re a must-know skill for anyone who has to run their own business or brand. Here are a few tips that have proved helpful for me over the years:

Tip one: organization

The key to getting everything done as quickly and efficiently as possible is organization. Start with a to-do list and prioritize. What absolutely, 100%, must get finished today? Start by tackling those things and give them your full attention.

The rest can be done on-the-go, during your lunch break, or right before you go to sleep at night. Stick to this priority list unless an emergency comes up. You’ll find that you’re much more efficient, and you’ll get all important things done right away.

Tip two: technology

Sure, we can’t work all the time, but that brings me to my next point: use technology! Today’s technologies are designed for people who are on-the-go all day long.

Take for example tablets – they are productivity boosters for any professional. You can check and respond to emails, update your social media sites and prepare presentations while you’re between meetings, on your lunch break, or waiting for an appointment.

No longer is it a requirement to be sitting behind a desk to get your entire internet marketing out of the way. You have the technology available to you, so you should use it to maximize your time.

Tip three: time blocking

Another time saver is blocking out portions of each day for “paperwork time” or “email time.” If you say, “Every morning between 7:30-8 and every night between 8:30-9:15, I’m going to check and reply to emails”, you’ll find that you can avoid the distraction that comes with it throughout the rest of the day and focus on other, pressing tasks.

We’re all slaves to our inboxes, and if you see an emergency email come in, respond to it, but if you block out times each day that are dedicated to addressing emails or signing off on paperwork, you’ll be less inclined to let it distract you throughout the rest of the day.

Tip four: track ideas

Some of the biggest time-wasters that exist at the moment are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and blogging. You could spend half the day alone perusing and updating all of these sites. My suggestion? Carry a notebook or tech tablet and keep a running list of possible post ideas. Much of the time on these sites is spent trying to figure out what to post or how to word things in a witty, clever or professional way.

If you keep a running list of ideas that come to you throughout the day of things to post on social media or your blog, you’ll have a list of ideas to refer to when you sit down to do it. If you stay focused, write in your natural voice and use your handy “idea book,” you will accomplish things in half the time and focus on doing your day-to-day business tasks.

This is another marketing task that you should really “block time” for each day. Whether it’s a half hour or forty five minutes, pick a time each day, stick to it, and don’t exceed it.

Tip five: take a break

Oh, one more thing: if you need to, take a break. Nobody can work quickly or efficiently if their mind is running 500 miles per hour with thoughts about what needs to be done. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or distracted by the daunting list of to-do’s on your list.

Stand up, take a drink of water, go for a walk, stretch, call someone for a quick chat…anything that you can think of to take your mind off work for a few minutes, do it. You’ll go back to work refreshed and ready to focus, which will only allow you to work more quickly and efficiently.

You can do this

These trusty tips might sound simple, and that’s because they are! You don’t have to do anything fancy or over-the-top to save time. It’s as simple as staying organized. If you put some of these suggestions to use, you’ll probably find that you’re getting more work done each day, which might even give you some time to do the unthinkable: relax.

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Carrie Gable & the Real Estate Virtual Assistant team at RealSupport, Inc. work virtually for many top real estate agents & brokers nationwide, offering marketing campaigns, branding, website & logo design, listing marketing efforts, lead management, technical support, marketing presentations, social media setup & management, copywriting, blogging and much more.

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64 Comments

64 Comments

  1. Market Leader

    May 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Great tips!

  2. Jasonmartinezrealtor

    July 19, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Kiss

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How to conduct a proper informational interview

(CAREER) Informational interviews comprise a technique in which you ask an employer or current employee to explain the details of their job to you. Try doing this before you transition into your next occupation!

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informational interview

At some point in your career, you may ask for someone’s time to do an informational interview — a process in which a job-seeker asks questions about a field, company, or position in hopes of receiving information which will inform both their decision to go into the field and their responses to the specific job’s actual interview. Since the power dynamic in an informational interview can be confusing, here are a few tips on how to conduct one. Not how to obtain one, but how to conduct one once both parties agree to connect.

The process of an informational interview typically starts with finding a person who works in your desired field (and/or location if you have a specific company in mind) and setting up a time during which you can ask them a few questions about things like their job responsibilities, salary, prerequisites, and so on. Once you’ve set up a time to meet in person (or via Skype or phone), you can proceed with putting together a list of questions.

Naturally, you should understand the circumstances under which asking for an informational interview is appropriate before requesting one. Your goal in an informational review should be to ask questions and listen to the answers, NOT pitch yourself as a potential hire. Ever. Nobody appreciates having their time wasted, and playing on your contact’s generosity as a way into their company is a sure way for your name to end up on their blacklist.

Once you’ve set up an informational interview, you should start the conversation by asking your contact what their typical day is like. This is doubly effective: your contact will most likely welcome the opportunity to discuss their daily goings-on, and you’ll be privy to an inside glance at their perspective on things like job responsibilities, daily activities, and other positive aspects of their position.

They’ll also probably detail some drawbacks to the position — things which usually aren’t explained in job postings — so you’ll have the opportunity to make a well-informed decision vis-à-vis the rigors of the job before diving head-first into the hiring process.

After your contact finishes walking you through their day, you can begin asking specific questions. However, unless they’ve been unusually brief in their description of their duties, your best course of action is probably to ask them follow-up questions about things they’ve already mentioned rather than asking targeted questions you wrote without context. This will both indicate that you were listening and allow them to expand upon information they’ve already explained, ensuring you’ll receive well-rounded responses.

You should save the most specific questions (e.g., the most easily answered ones) for the end of the interview. For example, if you want to know what a typical salary for someone in your contact’s position is or you’re wondering about vacation time, ask after you’ve wrapped up the bulk of the interview. This will prevent you from wasting the initial moments of the interview with technical content, and it may also keep the contact from assuming a strictly material motive on your part. And be willing to ask “what does someone with your job title typically earn in [city]?” instead of their specific take-home salary which might not be reflective of the norm (plus, it’s rude, and akin to asking someone their weight).

This is also a good time to ask for general advice regarding breaking into the field, though you may want to avoid this step if you feel like your contact isn’t comfortable discussing such a topic or if you’re intending to apply as someone with experience.

Of course, you won’t always be able to meet with your preferred contact directly, especially if they work in a dynamic field (e.g., emergency services) or have a security clearance which negates their ability to answer the bulk of your questions. If this happens, you have a couple of back-up options:

1. Send an email with a list of questions to the contact, or send them your phone number with a wide-open calling schedule. This is useful if your contact has a random or on-call schedule.

2. Ask your contact if there is someone else you could connect with (it could even be their assistant).

3. Speak to the company’s HR branch to see if you can request a company-specific job requirement print-out or link. These will usually be more particular than the industry requirements. But don’t ask for something you can find yourself on the company’s Careers page online.

Nothing beats an in-person interview over a cup of coffee, but — again — wasting someone’s time isn’t a good way to receive useful information about the position in which you’re interested.

Before transitioning to your next position or career field, consider conducting an informational interview. You’ll be amazed at the amount of insider information you can glean from simply listening to someone discuss their day in detail.

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The sad truths you missed about the US Women’s Soccer Team lawsuit

(NEWS) The US Women’s Soccer team dominated headlines by suing for equal pay, but there was so much more to the lawsuit that could have a ripple effect in the business world.

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womens soccer lawsuit

Recently, on International Women’s Day, the United States Women’s Soccer Team (USWNT) filed a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation. The timing of the suit is not only a sign of the team continuing their decades long fight against the organization (only three months before they are set to defend their World Cup title in France), but a recognition of the symbol that they have become in the larger battle that women and other minorities are waging in order to be given the same resources as the men leading in their fields.

It should go without saying that the women’s soccer team is unparalleled in its athletic success: over the past twenty years they have won three World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals. These players, as ESPN acknowledges, are among the most accomplished and best known women athletes in the world.

Their counterpart, the Men’s National Soccer Team, leaves much to be desired (they failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup, for example) yet they consistently receive much more support from the US Soccer Federation.

Although the pay disparity between the USWNT and the male soccer team is certainly stark, the “gains” that the women athletes are fighting for go beyond monetary compensation.

According to Mashable, “This [suit] includes how women frequently play on a dangerous artificial surfaces when the men do not, fly commercial when the men travel by more convenient, comfortable charter flights, and the alleged allocation of fewer resources to promote women’s games compared to men’s.”

As if being the best players in your sport in the world and having to share hotel rooms after getting torn apart by the seams astroturf and receiving less-than-world-class medical care wouldn’t be infuriating enough, it’s truly this final point that highlights the glaring mistreatment of the USWNT.

Without support from the US Soccer Federation, not only in the form of payment but in promotion of their games and general good-will toward their players, the USWNT will not be able to grow their following so that they can establish a consistent revenue near what the men’s team attracts. This “lack” of revenue continues to create the chicken/egg excuse that the Federation has for not propping up the USWNT like they deserve.

It’s simply the opposite of “sportsmanship” for the US Soccer Federation to use these players’ love of playing the game (that, again, they are the best in the world at) and their country as a way to gaslight them into playing for less.

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Think about automating tasks instead of replacing workers

(BUSINESS) Automation is great, unless you obsess over it and try to cut down on payroll – there’s a smarter approach that successful businesses take.

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automating tasks not people

The concept of automating your workflow is a tempting one — especially as payroll continues to be one of the evergreen highest costs of business. However, in contemplating how to streamline your workflow, you may do better to step back from the idea of “replacing workers” and instead think about you can optimize your existing employees by strategically tweaking their workflow.

As Ravin Jesuthasan and John Boudreau write in The Harvard Business Review, if the goal of automating is to ensure that your company is operating at its most cost effective and efficient levels, then chances are you’d still need knowledgeable employees to help you scale and capitalize.

Where automation can truly help your business is by transforming the ability of your organization to focus on the tasks that truly require a human touch or deep knowledge. For example, automation will not help your employees perform complex, interactive, or creative work like collaborating with clients to come up with solutions or designs.

However, it can help the process of brainstorming or co-designing these solutions easier by replacing some of the mechanical tasks that aid this high-level workflow.

For example, it may be helpful to automate basic research tasks for your designers. If your designers must create a client profile to help them launch their projects — basic information must surely exist at some other point in the process before this point. Maybe your firm has an intake form or contracts where a basic description of the goal of the contracted service has been created. By automating the sharing of that data between departments, perhaps in a content management system, you’d be able to free up time that the designers might spend on basic data collection so that they could instead use it for their more complex, empathetic work.

Jesuthasan and Boudreau offer up other advice for thinking about which specific tasks within your company’s workflow are the best candidates for automation.

Is a task simple? Routine? Does it require collaboration?

These kinds of inquiry are not only useful when thinking about your organizational processes, but they are good refreshers for thinking about the individual value and skills that your organization and its workers offer clients.

So instead of looking at how to cut down on payroll, consider automation as an option to improve the value you’re getting from your team, and freeing them from mind-numbing tasks that have nothing to do with their expertise. Win-win!

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