The foundation of peak performance is effective time management. You can adopt every hack for eliminating unnecessary work and distractions, but if your calendar is reactive, you’ll never perform as well as you would if you optimize your schedule.
However, the paradox of effective management is that it’s time-consuming. You have to figure out the optimal way to organize your schedule and decide how to meet your preferences every time you schedule a meeting.
For most business leaders, this isn’t practical. They accept having a disorganized schedule because they don’t have time to slow down and consider the best ways to organize their days.
Virtual productivity assistants are trained to solve this problem. While you’re driving your business forward, they’re using research-backed time management best practices to optimize your schedule.
Here are five ways offloading scheduling to an assistant can amplify your performance.
1) Eliminate Ping-Pong While Retaining Control Over Your Schedule
When you’re scheduling meetings with other busy contacts, the email ping pong required to find a time that works for everyone can sometimes take almost as much time as the meeting itself.
This is a huge productivity killer and, while it may be tempting just to use a calendar link, the benefit of offering times is that it gives you greater control over your schedule.
To get the best of both worlds, offload scheduling to a virtual assistant. They’ll handle the scheduling ping-pong while offering times that align with your preferences and productivity goals.
In the next couple of sections, we’ll dive into how leveraging a virtual assistant to strategically manage your calendar can help you operate at peak performance.
2) Gain More Time for Deep Work
37% of executives believe that independent work is the best use of their time yet, the average executive only spends 8% on deep work. The biggest reason for this disconnect is that executives often go the whole day with only 30-60 breaks between meetings. To focus deeply on strategic projects, you typically need 45-90 minutes of uninterrupted time.
You can gain that time by having your assistant act as a gatekeeper for your schedule.
Whenever you need time to focus on a project, let your assistant know how many hours you need. Alternatively, you can ask them to create a couple of blocks every week so you can develop a strong habit of deep work.
They’ll create time for you in two ways:
- When they’re scheduling meetings, they’ll leave gaps on your calendar.
- Whenever someone tries to set an appointment during the free time that’s reserved for project work, they’ll suggest alternatives on your behalf.
By having your assistant create and maintain gaps on your calendar, you’ll be able to deeply and consistently focus on the strategic priorities that help you succeed.
3) Improve Focus Through Task Batching
If you spend your days shifting from one unrelated task to the next, you’ll never be able to operate at peak efficiency.
According to research published in the American Psychological Association, frequently switching to new activities throughout the day can reduce your productivity by as much as 40%. This is because it takes, on average, 20-30 minutes for you to reach optimal focus.
If you’re switching tasks every 30-60 minutes, very little of your time leverages your brain’s peak performance.
The solution: task batching
While it may be unrealistic to split your time between three or four tasks a day, you can reduce significantly reduce switching costs by having your virtual assistant task batch your schedule. This involves scheduling similar meetings and activities back-to-back because they require less effort to focus on.
Here’s an example:
- 9 am - 12 pm: Meetings with direct reports and associated tasks for them
- 1 pm - 3 pm: Team strategy meeting and related work
- 3 pm - 5 pm: Meetings with business partners and related work
By scheduling similar meetings in a limited time frame and leaving you free time in those periods to work on projects related to those meetings, you’re able to focus more deeply than if you had activities from each of those categories interspersed throughout the day.
If you have preferences regarding what times of day are best for certain kinds of meetings - for example, you prefer to meet with prospective business partners in the later afternoons - they can schedule your batches accordingly.
4) Leverage Productivity Breaks Throughout the Day
Spending your days in back-to-back meetings and work sessions is a recipe for stagnant performance. Human brains aren’t capable of focusing for 8 - 10 hours straight. An abundance of research shows that top performers take breaks every 50 to 90 minutes, so their brains stay refreshed throughout the day.
As beneficial as breaks are, it can be challenging to fit them into your schedule if you’re managing your calendar. Our virtual assistants help by offering meeting times that create small gaps throughout the day.
If you tend to work through all meeting gaps, but you want to change that habit, they can also create reminders to take breaks in between task batches and other natural points throughout the day.
Over time, you’ll feel the benefits of feeling more focused and energized throughout the day.
5) Continuously Optimize Your Schedule
Having an assistant act as a gatekeeper for your calendar maximizes your productivity throughout the day. However, it doesn’t necessarily ensure that you’re focused on the right activities. If you’re like most executives we work with, you’re likely spending too much time on some types of meetings and not enough time engaging in other activities.
To optimize your schedule for peak performance, you need to have an accurate picture of how you’re spending your time.
Prialto assistants can help by creating productivity reports based on your calendar.
Your report may reveal that you should be spending more time on activities like:
- Deep work
- Collaborating with direct colleagues and reports
And less time on emails like:
- Internal group meetings
- Meeting with vendors
- Meetings before 11 am
Moving forward, your assistant will help you achieve those goals by proactively scheduling more time for the critical activities and giving you reminders if you continue to invest a lot of time in lower priority meetings.
About the author: Emily formerly led Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.