When we work for a company on-site, we usually have a set schedule of hours during the week. We report to work and leave work at regular times, with the exception of those professionals who conduct some of their work from home or on the road. Even then, there is a clear definition of when we are working and when we aren’t.
For the virtual assistant, the lines can become blurred. We may be managing multiple clients in various disciplines, and our hours can vary client to client and day to day. Working from home, there are many distractions that can arise from friends who call in the middle of our shift, a child who simply must have you see their latest kitchen creation, to household work, to family time, and so on.
Exceptional VAs must master the delicate art of work-life balance. So how can we manage to compartmentalize all of those shifting priorities and remain effective?
Be very honest with yourself and with your clients about how much time, and when, you can dedicate yourself to their needs. Granted, you may have more than one client scheduled during a particular block, but be realistic about how well you can serve them in the same time frame.
Just like you would set up your calendar working on-site, at least loosely plan for the day or even the week. Ascertain client needs and plug your running task list into a formal or informal list or calendar. This way, you know when you will have pockets of time to toss in the laundry, cook, run some errands, and enjoy time with your family without causing undue wait times for your clients.
You are not superhuman. Make sure you carve out times throughout the day to relax, exercise, stretch, sing, nap, make personal calls, and so forth. In a regular office environment, people often have a lot of down time and use this time to attend to personal business. Your home office should offer the same opportunity.
An excellent VA is always learning on the job. Make sure you dedicate an hour a week to some kind of professional development; learning new applications or software, reading blogs and articles, and staying abreast of best practices and trends in the fields you are serving through your clients. This helps you to gain skills that make you more efficient and help you achieve more time balance.
Whether you are single or married, have children or not, make sure you have a maximum daily cap of when you will close out for the day (or night) or periods of time that you need to attend to matters in your life. Stick to this. Sure, just like you might have to stay late at the office here and there when there is a screaming deadline, try to enforce the rules that you have personal commitments that are valid and deserve undivided attention.
If you are eating a meal or a snack, disengage from your computer. Enjoy your meal. Digest well. Eating while working will cause you to tend to rush through your meal. Plus, if work is stressful or demanding, you will digest poorly.
Just like your boss would walk by your desk and give you the eye of disapproval if you were painting your nails or playing games on your computer on company time, try not to attend to personal things during the time you have dedicated to your clients. Your clients expect your focus and if you are distracted by the latest YouTube episode of your favorite show, you may not have a clean jump of focus if a pressing email comes in and you need to suddenly shift gears.
If you set your hours to be able to attend to personal and family needs at given times, try hard not to divert. Your clients have goals they need to accomplish, but they must also realize there is a reason you chose to work from home. Your family and personal needs are important and should be firmly respected.
Sick time aside, working from home may make you feel less inclined to take a personal day or vacation time. Stop it. Stop it now. Working from home bears the same demand as working in an office and often, you are managing personalities, work styles, and voluminous communication just as you would be in any other role. Take vacation time. It helps you to refresh and re-engage. Even a long weekend here and there is a good idea. Naturally, it’s most appropriate to clear this time off to make sure it’s not going to be terribly disruptive to your clients.
The same concepts that apply to a traditional workplace apply to you as a VA. If you are feeling unwell and your concentration is shot from illness, take the day off. Forego on-the-run meals and fast food in favor of nutritious choices. Stay hydrated. Stretch. Do chair exercises. Stand a couple of times an hour. Get some fresh air every hour. Just as these are norms for employees in any office environment, they should stand true for you as a VA as well.
Submitted by Darcie