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If you don’t have a virtual or executive assistant, you probably are one.
As the boss, you know focusing on high-impact initiatives that drive greater value is crucial. You probably use a suite of productivity tools to help complete administrative tasks. And with well-optimized tools, you can get a lot done.
But here’s the irony: Your day-to-day productivity habits can keep you from getting to the things that are the highest and best use of your time. You might feel productive without completing what counts.
When quickly moving from task to task, what matters most goes out of focus without noticing. Being busy doesn’t equate to being productive. I see entrepreneurs make this mistake all the time.
Many signs tell you you’re veering into danger, and here are some of the most common I’ve seen. If you nod yes to any of the following, you might need an executive or virtual assistant.
1. Your inbox is overflowing
You fire off emails all day but never see the bottom of your inbox. As a result, your to-do list gets longer, not shorter, every day, too. Even with organizational tools flagging the ones you want to respond to, essential emails regularly slip through the cracks. And if you’re being honest, many action items on your to-do list are overlooked or ignored.
2. You struggle with scheduling
Are you double-booking yourself? Is work spilling into your personal time? Those are some of the biggest red flags your calendar needs attention. And if you travel, you spend time booking flights, hotels, transfers, meetings and itineraries. You may not consider these tasks a big deal, but look closely, and you’ll see how if one thing changes — something always changes — you’re stuck dealing with a cascade effect of more booking adjustments.
3. Your key partners or business relationships aren’t feeling the love
You aren’t maintaining professional relationships if you’re bogged down with day-to-day tasks. And if your colleagues aren’t top of mind for you, it’s unlikely you’re top of mind for them. What is this dynamic costing you? When people hear of work your company would be an excellent fit for, they don’t think to tell you, so the opportunity goes elsewhere.
4. You’re a de facto project manager
So, the new project was your brilliant idea. You’re 100% invested in it. But when you sign on to manage it, you’re outside of your zone of genius many hours of the week. And if the project is months long, the compound effect of misplaced focus can be hard to overcome.
5. You’re becoming a marketing assistant
As the primary face and voice of the company, you care about your messaging. Creating slide decks and social media posts and maintaining a running list of website updates isn’t a big deal. Why bother delegating public-facing work when the stakes are high and communicating what to communicate is nuanced and tricky? Because you become the primary marketing assistant many hours a week to keep up with the demand.
6. Your expense management is a drain
Check out the state of your accounts receivables and payables. Are late invoices and missed bill payments becoming a repetitive problem? That’s a stressful situation turned standard operating procedure. The strain will show in all aspects of your business. I also see many executives habitually put off expense tracking. Many people never submit expense reports, which blows me away!
Executive or virtual assistants perform much more diverse functions than most people realize. Many do far more than just free up time for the CEO. Skilled assistants can significantly increase your capacity and allow anyone with a high volume of repeatable or administrative work to invest their time better.
Besides staying on top of email, calendar, travel and expense reports, assistants often manage social media calendars, source job candidates, create onboarding materials, generate financial reports, and handle invoicing, accounts receivable and bookkeeping. Their diverse functions improve not just executive output but also that of the marketing, HR and finance teams.
Now, a word of caution: Hiring an executive assistant with years of experience, the competencies you need and a work style that matches yours takes time and discipline. Once you find someone, you’ll need to onboard them properly, even if they are perfect.
If you wait until you’re desperate to bring one on, it’s easy to shortcut the attention onboarding requires because you’re simply “too busy” to do it right. Although the right assistant could dynamically change the way you work (for the good!), if there’s no way you can make time or if your work is highly technical, a virtual or executive assistant could be an expense you don’t need to accrue.
Still, if any of the six warning signs are familiar, consider leaping and hiring. And unless you can solve the capacity problem cheaply by reducing your workload or working longer hours — it’s not a sustainable solution for most people — I suggest you don’t let money be a reason not to hire. As one of my clients says, “I have an executive assistant to ensure I am invested in those things that are the highest, best use of my time.”
If you’re all in as the boss, do yourself a favor. Make sure what you do daily is near and dear to your heart. Invest in an executive assistant, and you’ll find out that the more effectively you work, the more you can concentrate on the aspects of your business — and life! — that count.