Mary Wu, Virtual Assistant

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Work/Work Balance

IMG_5364There are a myriad of articles about work/life balance. Evie Burke, my productivity coach at One Insight Closer, wrote one; six months ago I wrote one, and if you do a Google search for “work life balance,” you’ll find over 300 million results. Obviously this is a fairly popular topic.

But sometime entrepreneurs may run across an issue with work/work balance. You might be doing work for 2 or 3 clients and working on your own business. It’s wonderful to be busy and doing work for multiple people, but you can’t bring home the bacon without finding time to do invoicing, and the IRS wants you to do your taxes in a timely manner. So how does an entrepreneur achieve a work/work balance?

Have Strong Boundaries. (internal) Scheduling is key. I find that having times in my calendar for certain tasks is key. When I was first building my business, I had times set aside for social media and networking and followup and business reading. Keeping a handle on which tasks you’re working on, and which tasks you’re not working on, is essential to preventing distracti … (excuse me I just got a notice for a new email). 

Have Strong Boundaries. (external) I worked at the University of Illinois as a secretary for a number of different research groups. At the time I had a sign in my office that stated, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” While it is very important to meet client needs, you can fall into a trap if you start meeting client’s overwhelming demands.

Know your limits. I’ve learned that being a friendly, agreeable person that is active in the community is wonderful and enriching and fulfilling — AND it does put you on some elusive list of “people to call when we need something.” I’ve also learned that I have to have a very deliberate list of the “things I say ‘yes’ to” and the “things I don’t say ‘yes’ to.” If not, I would be completely overwhelmed and my energy levels would be entirely depleted. The same limitations run in your business. Deciding which clients to accept and selecting which jobs to accept is essential to avoiding burn out. This might be even more true as a virtual assistant. Having a wide array of abilities does not mean that you are required to do everything you’re capable of, just the things that you’re best at.

Be Flexible. I’ve just told you to set boundaries and to know your limits. There may be will be times when schedules need to be adjusted or the needs of one client having an emergency takes precedence over another client that has a more relaxed schedule. Having a well established schedule helps to allow for some flexibility. If Wednesday afternoon is your bookkeeping time and a client has an emergency and you know that you have “flex” time scheduled in for Thursday morning, and you can move your own work into that slot.

Be Honest. If your clients expect that your typical turn around time is 2 days (or 2 hours or 2 weeks or whatever fits in your industry) and for some reason you can’t meet their planned schedule, be honest up front. “I can’t have that for you by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, but I can have that ready by 1:00 p.m. Wednesday, would that be acceptable?”

Keep a Positive Attitude. We’ve all heard this before, but it does bear repeating. Just like the flight attendant on the airplane reminds parents to put the oxygen mask on before helping their child, entrepreneurs need to make sure that they meet their own needs. Some of us are not as efficient without our morning coffee, we all need to make sure we have a timely lunch, and once in a while taking a walk in the spring sunshine is refreshing. During times that I’m overwhelmed and completely forgetting everything I’ve outlined above, I find that walking into the kitchen, taking my favorite mug, and making a cup of tea takes me away from the overwhelm just enough to be able to say, “OH, maybe I need to reset my boundaries and pay attention to my limits. I’ll do that after I finish brewing this cup of tea.”

(Yes, that is a picture of my tea collection, I have over 20 different types of tea, one for every mood).


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