I started up as a virtual assistant a couple of years ago, when we decided to pack up and move to France. I have a BA (hons) in business information systems a Masters in business administration and 25 years’ experience mostly working in planning and continuous improvement, so have plenty of experience to draw from. I knew that without a plan and goals to work towards then I would get nowhere fast.
So, I threw together a long list of things To-Do, then started working through them and from that, created a plan of what I needed to do over the next 12 months, thinking that if I achieved everything on the plan, I would have loads of clients and life would be good. Well, I did get some clients but my plan wasn’t as perfect as I had thought. On numerous occasions something came up to knock me off track, life got in the way, things took longer than I had expected. Even clients’ work got in the way of my plan…. Because I hadn’t actually added that in.
After a few times of having to replan my list, I decided to take a step back, to understand what I had learned about planning to see what was working and what wasn’t so I could see what I could do to make my life simpler and more efficient! These are my Top Ten Tips:
1. Without a plan, life doesn’t work
If you don’t have a plan, then you can quite easily get bogged down with work, spending time catching up with your notifications on Facebook or checking out your groups on LinkedIn and before you know it, you have been busy for the last 3 hours, with nothing to show for it. Even with a plan, you might do this, but at least you have something that keeps trying to bring you back to the money-making part of your business
2. Planning isn’t just for projects
Most people are aware that they need a plan for their new program, launching a course, or creating a new product, but a lot of them don’t realise that they should be planning their daily lives. Creating time for relaxation, for marketing, for building relationships and working on their sales pages. Without a plan, you drift through the day, doing a bit of work on something, moving on to something else, without a clear goal for the day.
3. Use your plan, don’t just write it and put it on the shelf
There’s absolutely no point in having a plan, if you write it, and then forget it. A plan is a living thing, you must look at it daily, review where you are against the plan and understand your progress. You may need to tweak the plan on occasion, and update it regularly, but as long as you still have the same goals as you did when you created it you should always follow it
4. Without a plan you can spend too much time on chasing shiny objects
There are lots of new tools and programs out there, and without a plan, you can get lost in lots of new stuff, that may or may not be useful to you at some point in the future. Of course, you can’t just ignore new programs and applications, but what you can do, is allocate some time in your plan, so that you can concentrate on the money-making elements and keep up with new trends
5. There’s a lot of tools to help, but only 1 tool for you
Ask anyone, they will have different views on different planning tools. Be it Asana, Trello, Zenkit…. Or even a simple spreadsheet, written in your notebook…. Whatever…. You will know what works for you and what doesn’t. I love the simplicity of Trello, but adore the different views you can have of your data on Zenkit, so I tend to use that for more complex planning.
6. Sometimes life means you need to change your plans
You may have planned to do something, but your dog wants to go out for a walk, a friend turns up unexpected, then you may decide to put the plan to one side for an hour or so and then get back to it. You may have to put it aside for longer, if there is an emergency, or your partner takes you on a surprise weekend away to Vegas…. And that’s fine. Having a plan means that you can get back to what you were doing much quicker. You can see where you left off and what you need to do next. Without a plan, it takes a lot longer to get back into the flow.
7. Without a plan your goals get lost
So, at the beginning of last year you said you wanted to earn enough money to buy a yacht, go to the Maldives, buy a Winnebago and travel the country… but you didn’t set out a plan of how you were going to achieve this. Well, that’s fine, if you already have so much money you don’t know what to do with it, but if you need to earn a certain amount to continue your business in its present state or to grow it even bigger? You need to set some actions to achieve those goals. How are you going to achieve them, what are you going to need to do and by when?
8. You need to be accountable to your plan
So, in number 6, I said that sometime you need to change your plans and yes you do. But you also need to take responsibility for completing the tasks on your plan, if you are to achieve the goals you set out. The easiest way of doing this, is to use it daily, review it regularly, and take remedial action if you need to. You need to feel aligned to the plan, that it is achievable and that you want to achieve the level of success you dreamt about when setting those goals.
9. You can’t plan to 100%
And here’s, the thing. Most tasks take longer than you think. That Canva image you were going to design in 10 minutes, actually took 30 because you couldn’t quite get the colour you were looking for. Creating that article should have taken an hour, but it took 2…. You just couldn’t find that word you were searching for…. So instead of beating yourself up because you didn’t achieve you plan, why not set up 60% of your day, but then have some additional tasks in the bank, should you actually get time to achieve them…. Or better yet…. Take some time out, pat yourself on the back for a job well done and grab a coffee or glass of wine… I know which one I’d choose… well actually I’d probably choose both!
10. You need to share your plans
When I first started working from home, I would set out my 90-day plan, I would review it and agree (with myself) what I needed to do that day and then start. Then the boyfriend would come in, ask me a question, could I just do this… etc… and that’s because I hadn’t told him my plans. I hadn’t said that I need to get a certain task done, and that I needed peace and quiet, cos I had to concentrate…. So, I would get frustrated and snappy, he wouldn’t know why and it would take me an age to get back into the flow. Now, I just tell him that I’m not disturbable for the next couple of hours and that if he has something, it will need to wait!
If you’d like to read more on setting up my business, then you might like this article
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