Productivity Tips

Getting yourself motivated is one of the hardest tasks you can face as a Freelancer. You are in your own environment; you are working when YOU decide to work that is a job. You must be so strict with yourself that it is almost straining. What you can do, is increase your productivity by working smarter and not necessarily harder which will make you enjoy what you do more. When you are working, you need to make the most of the time you have available to you. You need to work at full speed, if you don’t then you will end up wasting half of your time.

Procrastination is a demon; we all need to face it whether we are in employment or freelance. I have learnt a few tips and tricks to increase productivity.

Time your actions:

What I mean by this, is time how long you spend doing one activity. As soon as you have the stopwatch on you will be surprised how aware you are of the time and you will naturally want to make the most of it. If you set a limit to how long you spend on each task you will be sure to use every minute wisely.

Make a list:

Even if you aren’t a list person you need to be for business. By writing a list, you can make sure that you empty your brain of any ideas and thoughts roaming around. You can then start to make sense of the tasks you need to complete and work through a priority list. At the end of the day you will see a fair few ticks on your list of tasks you have completed. This will not only make you feel satisfied at the work you have completed but also spur you on to continue the trend.

Eat your frog:

A famous quote from Mark Twain; “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

What we should take from this is to get the worst tasks over and done with first. If you spend your whole day working up towards your least favourite jobs (we all have them) you will find yourself working slower and slower in order to delay the inevitable. These “Frogs” need to get done, just do it and enjoy the rest of your work!

Take a break:

No this isn’t a suggestion to eat that famous chocolate biscuit.. or if that helps you then why not? What you need to do, and I mean NEED, is to remove yourself from your desk or workstation and breathe. Take a break away from the phone, the screen and just switch off for 10 minutes. Do this regularly throughout the day. Take small short breaks to make sure you are working at your best. There are so many studies that show if you work for a solid block of time you become tired, agitated and less productive than if you were to take regular breaks. Just move away from work and take a walk, make a cup of tea or coffee, move those muscles a little and stretch. Self-care is one of my biggest priorities, if you don’t look after yourself or your mind you won’t have much left.

There should be no excuse why you can’t implement any one of the tips above. The advice I have for you is simple, effective and FREE. You don’t need to buy a fancy system or have the best stationary you simply change your way of thinking and working on a few tasks. Press play on a timer, write in a note pad or take a short walk! It isn’t rocket science and if you want to make your business bloom you need to start working effectively and efficiently. Start as soon as you can, it’s easier that way.

Christina Manson, Virtual Assistant

CJM Business Support

20.05.2019 (c) Christina Manson

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How to know when you are ready to delegate

Monday morning, clocking in, coffee and open emails. They’re in the hundreds, no thousands even. Where do you start?

Meanwhile, your friend has been going on about “inbox zero hero” what does that even mean nowadays? Surely there will never be a point in business where you have zero emails to worry about at the end of the day, can there?

Business boomed, quickly. It was so good, work was coming in from all directions. Now that inbox is daunting. Haunting every call you make, flashing red whenever you open a new email. Now is the time to take action. Reducing your digital clutter is no easy task, why not ask someone else to take over?

You know you are ready to delegate your work load when you can’t keep on top of it yourself. For the most part those emails, while they are important you could probably delete half due to unqualified leads or sales pitches. Perhaps some of them are doing the same thing you do, why would it be worthwhile working with your competitors? There is a time and place for all of these people, only you have neither the time or place for them with the state of your inbox.

When looking to delegate tasks, you should be comfortable with the person you are working with. Make sure you know what is expected from you and vice versa. This is not an employee relationship, this is a business partnership. A virtual assistant to assist you with the daily tasks which you cannot cope with. Ensure you are 100% comfortable with this person as they will be rooting through your emails getting you to the point of inbox perfection.

Before you head off into the world of business partnerships, make sure you know what you are looking for.

  • Make a list of tasks you want to delegate. Find some one who is able to do what you require.
  • Figure out what you are able to afford. While it is good to keep in mind your budget, VAs have their own business and expenses. You won’t get a platinum service for the price of a take away.
  • Research the market. Look into who you will be working with, find out if there is anyone local or search for multiple VAs and get to know what they do.
  • Speak with other people who have hired a virtual assistant. If in doubt, recommendations go a long way. Speaking with people who have been in your position and have hired a VA, will know what you are going through and understand it is a tremendous task. They will be able to provide some much needed assurance for the inbox zero hero you are craving.

When you have done the above, only then can you begin a partnership, be honest and open with your VA as they need to know what tasks you require from them. They will not be happy if you hire them for a digital declutter and end up asking for content writing. This is not what you have agreed with them. Keeping the partnership honest and open is the best policy for a happy working relationship on all sides. Not only will you be happy, so will your VA and it keeps HMRC from asking questions which shouldn’t need to be asked if you stick to your agreement.

A VA should be your life jacket when business takes off and becomes too much to handle. Taking them for granted is a puncture in the making. If you aren’t ready to let go of some tasks then wait until you are. No one will resent you for waiting until the right time to start a very important business partnership. When you are ready the right Virtual Assistant will be ready and waiting for you to get you back on track.

Christina Manson, Virtual Assistant
CJM Business Support
11.03.2019 © Christina Manson

Achieving Inbox Zero

It’s January 3rd. You’ve not checked your inbox since before Christmas. Your inbox is full to the brim. Cue overwhelm! Is inbox zero achievable? Inbox zero is a phrase Merlin Mann devised 10 years ago to describe a completely clear inbox. That may not seem possible in this modern age but with a few simple steps you can do it.

1.Set designated times to read and reply.
This will depend on you and how you like to work. I tend to check first thing in the morning, after lunch and then again around 3pm. Set a sensible time limit each time, for example 15-minute slots. If you find you have distractions/interruptions then block this time out in your calendar.

2.Keep your inbox just for email.
Try not to use your inbox as a to-do-list. There are some great apps out there for this such as Trello, Asana, Wunderlist which are fully customisable.

3.Response time.
Aim to reply to business emails within 24 hours, personal ones within 72 hours.

4.Can you call?
Could you avoid lengthy email exchanges by telephoning/skyping the sender? A 5-minute telephone chat could save you both lots of time.

5.Set a target.
If you have hundreds of emails, then inbox zero is simply not achievable in one day. Set yourself a realistic target.

Set up four folders:
– Archive: completed emails that you need to keep
– Delegated: sent to another member of staff to deal with but you still need to monitor progress
– Awaiting response
– Action needed
Move your emails to one of these folders if you’re not able to delete them.

7. Deal with urgent emails first.

8.Time specific/ Deadlines.
Decline or accept invitations to meetings/ events. If your email app/ program does not automatically update your calendar, then ensure you add or delete the event as needed.

9.No longer relevant.
Have you received emails regarding lost property or car parking that occurred while you were on holiday? Delete them- they aren’t needed.

If you haven’t read a newsletter within a week, chances are you won’t find time in the future either. Send those unsubscribe emails to stop these unnecessary emails clogging up your inbox.

If an email needs forwarding do it immediately and then delete it from your inbox.

If a response will take 2 minutes or less, then respond to it immediately and clear that email!

13.Group/ Project
If you’re receiving emails regarding a group or project that you’re no longer involved with then email the sender to request that you’re taken off the list and delete those emails!

Going forward the best way of keeping your emails organised is to set up filters. This will mean the organisation is automated! Perfect! You can set up filters by sender, topic, all sorts. Once set up the emails will automatically bypass your inbox and land in the allocated folder. Set up of these filters will vary from app to app.

These are very simple tips just to get you started. If you need a helping hand with your emails/ inbox organisation, I offer monthly packages on retainer or ad-hoc First Aid for Email packages. Prices start at £20 per hour. Contact me if you’d like more details.

Christina Manson, Virtual Assistant
CJM Business Support
03.01.2019 ©Christina Manson

The First Month


This week marks my first month as a full time business owner. Wow! It’s been a whirlwind! I honestly don’t think my feet have touched the ground!

My social media and website have been very quiet while I’ve been working hard behind the scenes on client work and my own business admin. But surely being busy is enviable…right?

If anyone thinks the self employed life is the “easy life” I’ll refer them to these words from a wise man…