"People often complain about lack of time when the lack of direction is the real problem." ~ Zig Ziglar

One of the things that 'busy' people often lament is the lack of time. Well there is only so much time available. If you find yourself wishing you had more time, it would be a good exercise to look at exactly where you are spending yours.

Here are 6 places that you can focus on to help 'find more time' in your day.

Set office hours. Whether you are working part-time or full-time, it's important to select some office hours and set them. By setting hours, you are telling people when they will be able to reach you. Your family and your clients will be happier knowing exactly when you are working and when you are not. Some VAs I know work around their family activities. And while this is doable, and even encouraged, it's important to still figure out what that looks like on a regular basis (confusing your clients with odd hours and last minute days away is not the way to build your business). For instance if you often help at your child's school, try to figure out a regular routine for that and set your business hours around that. If you children come home from school and 'need you' starting at 3 pm every day, be sure to end your business hours by the time they get home. If you have another job and are just starting your VA business, set some time aside during the business day to return calls and emails (once is plenty). When your office is 'closed', be sure not to be working, as well. You owe it to yourself.

Set boundaries. By setting time that you will be 'in your office', you are effectively setting boundaries - for your clients, for your family, and for yourself. Boundaries are important, because there is nothing worse than having your clients expecting to hear back from you within an hour of a call or an email ... and not getting back to them during that time. Boundaries are important from the very beginning of any client relationship. Let them know your response times, and how to reach you in an emergency. Also be sure to indicate what constitutes an emergency! I have found that setting regular client production calls each week helps with boundaries, because everyone is on the same page with what work will be done over the coming week, and you can let them know any scheduling issues while on the phone. And it goes without saying that your family will be happier if you are not checking email every five minutes when you're supposed to be watching your son or daughter in the school play or on the hockey rink!

Schedule time and get organized. Getting and staying organized is sometimes a challenge when you are trying to balance work and family life. I start every morning by putting together a task list for the day. I figure out when I will do each item and then I set my day up to take care of everything. I am lucky to have a full time VA business, so my business hours for clients are 10 to 4 from Monday to Friday. I go into my office each day by 9 and leave at 5, and try to shut the door when I am finished for the day. So any household things typically get done outside of those hours. I try to disrupt my family as little as possible, so if I have extra work to do, I start earlier or work after they have gone to bed (which actually isn't that often at all!), but their routines are disrupted as little as possible. The extra hour on either side of my business hours lets me organize my own business things. It's not perfect every day, but it's a good system and it works well. Knowing what is going to get done, and when, is one of the most important parts of my business.

Manage email, the phone and meetings. Email can be the biggest drain on your time during the day. However, phone calls and meetings can be equally disruptive. I have regularly scheduled phone calls with my clients each week, which mainly take about 15 minutes. Other than that, I don't take phone calls unless they are scheduled. If my clients need me they know to email me or to leave me a voicemail and I'll get back to them when I have some free time. Of course there are exceptions ... but this is my boundary and all of my clients respect it. It helps me to keep on task with whatever I am doing for the day. Meetings are the same - if they are to be a half hour, then I leave the meeting after a half hour to go on with my day. Keeping this policy in place helps me to keep my day organized and helps me from falling behind on what I have planned to do for the day.

Get support and delegate. If you are planning to have a successful VA business that will allow you to work less and make more money, you will at some point need to get support to help you process client work. So start early! If you do a lot of one thing for your clients (ie for me it's newsletters and shopping cart work), then find someone who you can start to work with you help you with work overflow. And then be sure to send them work! You will be able to take on new clients more easily if you already have someone in place to help you when necessary. Alternately, you can get someone to work with who does things that you do not do (ie for me it's client liaison work and graphics) so you can offer your clients a full service experience. As you start to work with a client, develop procedures for the things you do for them. Get them on paper, and then when you need to delegate the work to one of your support people, you will already have your procedures in place. This creates better flow and a lot less supervision. You can work with other VAs as subcontractors or as partners, whichever makes more sense to you.

Avoid multitasking. I used to be really proud to say I could handle more than one task at a time. I don't think I worded that correctly. I can certainly juggle a lot of different things in a morning, but I only actually do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is only effective when one item has your full attention. If you try to do three different things simultaneously, you will end up spending more time on each of them because your attention is divided. I break my work up into 15 minute segments. If I am working on one client's work, I put everyone else's away for that length of time. I get it done faster, I can schedule the next task for that client, and then I move onto the next. So that's what I consider to be multitasking - doing many things during the course of the day, and juggling the time to get them all done when they need to be done. But never doing more than one thing at a time. Concentration is key, and when you are billing clients by the time you work on their task, it's important to give their work your undivided attention.

If you really look at each of these areas, and write down where you are spending your time, you will see that you can buy back a lot of wasted time. Why do I know that fixing these areas will 'find you more time'? Because I've been guilty of all of them at one time or another, and I have seen the difference it can make to get them in order. See for yourself ... try just one (like the email one or the phone calls!) and see how much more productive and organized you will be.

Author's Bio: 

Tracey D’Aviero is a successful Virtual Assistant as well as a VA coach and mentor. She helps new and aspiring Virtual Assistants build solid foundations for their businesses by teaching them how to put procedures and plans in place for success and growth. Pick up a copy of Tracey’s free ebook “3 Way To Get The Clients You Want!” at www.yourvamentor.com