According to The Alternative Board (TAB), 63 percent of entrepreneurs work more than 50 hours per week, but they only want to work 41.7 on average.
Why the discrepancy?
They are spending most of their time—68 percent TAB said—on administrative tasks. That's two-thirds of the day on admin work, with just one-third left for strategic planning and high-priority initiatives.
There has got to be a better way. And there is.
More and more executives, business owners, and entrepreneurs turn to virtual assistants—off-site productivity hackers—to take the day-to-day tasks that take up so much time. It's not that these tasks aren't important. If they weren't necessary, executives would do them. But they don't require executive-level attention.
Let's look at five practical admin tasks that are easily handed off to a virtual assistant.
Professionals spend 4.5 hours per week coordinating meetings. That's half a day! Scheduling is typically one of the first tasks a virtual assistant can take on. It's a great place to start because it helps the virtual assistant learn the executive's preferences. A good virtual assistant will help you document how and when you want your meetings scheduled, including:
- How you like to format invitations
- Type of meetings you prefer (video, phone, office, off-site)
- Where you like to hold off-site meetings (preferred restaurants, venues)
- Preferred time of day for meetings
- Blocked out times where you don't want to be disturbed
- Meeting length for different audiences (customers, employees, vendors, etc.)
- Preferred buffer time (break) between meetings
- How and when to send confirmations to invitees
- How and when to send reminders to you
- Any briefing documents you would like to have on hand for the meeting
- How to notify you about rescheduled appointments
You can see that there is a lot more to scheduling than agreeing on a meeting time. That's why scheduling sucks up so much of your time!
While travel and entertainment have declined during the pandemic, it will come back. Expense reports are one of the biggest headaches that executives face, especially sales leaders that tend to be road warriors. According to the Global Business Travel Association, expense reports are, well, expensive:
- It takes 20 minutes to complete an expense report
- The average cost to process one expense report is $58
- 19 percent of expense reports have errors
- It takes 18 minutes to correct an expense report
- The cost to fix one expense report is $52
You also have to count the cost of your time—not just the 20 minutes spent completing the report, but also the time you spend hunting for receipts and other documentation.
Expense reports are another task easily handled by a virtual assistant. The best show up trained on your tools on day one. After that, they learn:
- Your business rules for expenses (spending limits)
- Receipt requirements
- Reporting deadlines
- Required documentation (receipts, tickets)
- Recurring costs (phone, internet)
- Expenses billable to clients
- Handling lost receipts
All these small tasks add up to time-consuming tasks.
Business travel will resume as soon as it is safe. That's because 90 percent of executives believe travel is essential to company growth. But a survey of 700 frequent business travelers found that all-in, they spend 12 hours researching, booking, and changing flights, hotels, cars, and meals, and 64 percent believe travel planning is a waste of time.
Travel is another task easy offloaded to a virtual assistant. An assistant can document all your travel preferences and company policies and give you back those 12 hours per trip. Preferences and admin can accommodate include:
- Preferred airlines, hotels, and car rental companies
- Loyalty program numbers
- Seating choices
- Room choices
- Airport preferences
- Connection preferences
- Credit card information
- Flight time preference
- Travel documents (passport, known traveler ID)
Armed with this information, the assistant can book flights, hotels, and cars, as well as make restaurant reservations, schedule meetings, and of course, report your expenses after the trip.
Sales leaders spend 30 percent of their time searching for or creating CRM data. That's about 2.5 hours per day! Data entry, data cleanup, data retrieval are routine tasks that are easily outsourced. One reason you're spending so much time in your CRM is that the data isn't accurate—misspellings, blank fields, duplicate records make it hard to find information. Inaccuracies often grow because multiple people are entering data with few checks and balances.
Handing CRM data entry to a virtual assistant can help keep the database clean. Consistent data entry is the key, and having one person manage data integrity can make a huge difference. Other tasks virtual assistants can take off your plate include:
- Pulling lists for outreach campaigns
- Building lists by mining sources LinkedIn or ZoomInfo
- Following up on new leads
- Update contacts
- Build workflows
- Segment lists
- Set up tasks
An assistant can also help you keep your CRM up to date by checking that you update records after meetings and calls on your schedule. You can also record calls and video meetings, and the assistant can do the updating.
Invoicing isn't sexy but getting paid is. In the U.S., unpaid invoices totaled $825 billion a year. Billion! And 82 percent of businesses fail because of this. Even when done right, invoicing is time-consuming.
- 40 percent of entrepreneurs say bookkeeping is the worst part of their jobs
- They spend 17 hours a month doing it
- Business owners spend an average of 20-days a year pursuing overdue payments
Invoicing is another area where a virtual assistant can save the day. Everyday billing tasks virtual assistants perform include:
- Create invoices
- Review invoices for accuracy
- Send invoices
- Confirm receipt of invoices by clients
- Send reminders
- Monitor electronic payment accounts
What Will You Do with All the Time You Save?
Just kidding. You know what to do. Sell. Grow. Build. Lead. Go home. Let's summarize the time you can get back by delegating admin tasks.
- Scheduling: 4.5 hours per day
- Expense reports: 20 minutes per report
- Travel planning: 12 hours per trip
- CRM data: 2.5 hours per day
- Invoicing: 17 hours per month
Granted, these are averages and are not apple-to-apple comparisons. The point is, even if you spend less time than these figures represent on admin work, you're still paying yourself to do things that, in many cases, you'd prefer not do in the first place. To learn more about a virtual assistant can help, check out this guide.
About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.