Asana – a great online organization tool

I love trying new applications to improve productivity, and was pleasantly surprised when I discovered

Asana was developed to address the frustration of spending too much time doing “work about work.”

The founders, Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein, developed this web application to “empower humanity to do great things.”

It works wonderfully for both individual entrepreneurs as well as teams to improve their productivity.

How Asana benefits a small business owner

A small business owner can easily create a project, break it down into tasks and subtasks to be accomplished, and assign these tasks and subtasks to his/her staff. It is a great way to make sure that all staff members are optimally engaged in reaching the goals of the organisation, because you can see at a glance who is working on what, who has too much on their plate, and who can be given more responsibilities.

It is also a great tracking tool of what has been accomplished during a set time period.

An example of how a virtual assistant could use Asana

A virtual assistant can open a Project for every client, and list the tasks, subtasks, and due dates of all that should be accomplished for each client. Every time a new task is received via email or other means, it can be added to the task list for that client. It is easy to see at a glance what needs to be done on a daily basis, as well as for making sure that none of the balls the virtual assistant is juggling fall on the ground. It is also simple to report on what has been accomplished, as the lists and the dates tasks were accomplished are already in an easy-to-use format.

I also like the ability to create repeat tasks for things that have to be done monthly, weekly, or at other preset intervals. Never again do you have to try to remember what needs to be done – it is all there at your fingertips.

If you have people that you outsource work to, you can invite them to specific projects and assign tasks to them as well as track their progress.

Asana can be used for personal projects too

It is not necessary to separate your work life and personal life. You can put all your projects and tasks into one place, so that remembering where you put certain information is never a problem again.

Asana is really a simple, intuitive online productivity tool. I can really recommend it.

The top 8 ways small business owners can benefit by outsourcing

Imagine having the access to experts for every aspect of your business.

Imagine that this access is reasonably priced.

Imagine that these experts can help you from anywhere in the world and that your business can go on even when you are sleeping.

Outsourcing gives you all the above.  It can be used as a strategic tool for making any business more productive and profitable.  Outsourcing means that you entrust the processes of your business functions to external vendors.

The main advantages for small business owners are:

  1. You only need to do the tasks you are competent at and love doing. Imagine not having to dread coming to work because you hate doing all the peripheral duties that are essential to your business success.  You will be happier and more productive if you outsource these.  You can, for instance, rather focus on building your brand, developing new ideas, or developing wonderful customer service.
  2. You save money and boost your profits.  You save money by paying for productive time only, and you don’t need to worry about employee taxes, office space, equipment, vacation time, etc.   Outsourcing helps you to improve your continuity and customer service, while freeing you to pursue profitable activities in your business.
  3. You can achieve a better work-life balance. A person loses a lot of their creativity when they are stressed and overworked.  Outsourcing frees you to take time off from work, knowing that the work or customer service does not end just because you are not there.  You and your business will benefit.
  4. You have access to world-class capabilities. You have access to new skills and highly trained professionals at a lower cost, without having to manage them directly.  You can supplement resources that are not available internally.  You therefore have the same advantages as a large company who has these resources in-house.
  5. Focus on core activities. Often small business owners are consumed by the non-core activities at the expense of core activities.  Back-office operations and administrative functions take time and energy.  Outsourcing helps you to have more time and opportunity to grow your business.
  6. Staffing flexibility. There are some times during the year that you may need more support than others.  Outsourcing allows you to increase and decrease support for your business according to demand.
  7. Time zone advantages. You can get your work done while your business is closed at night.  This allows you to provide customer support even when you are not working.  Through outsourcing you can service your customers faster, provide better quality and decrease turnaround time.
  8. Boost your productivity and efficiency. If your business goals are properly aligned with the deliverables in outsourcing, you will increase productivity.  Outsourcing providers with the right expertise and experience can actually help streamline business processes and contribute to the bottom line.

What can I outsource?

You are basically only limited by your imagination as to what you can outsource.  To get your creative juices flowing, consider the following ideas:

  1. Website creation/maintenance.  Instead of spending hours figuring out how to do things or fix mistakes, you can pay someone to maintain your WordPress blogs (setup, periodic backup, etc)
  2. Content creation.  This is a process that takes a lot of time, and can be outsourced.
  3. Video creation.  There are people who can create a high quality video at very reasonable costs
  4. Graphics are great to outsource if you are not good at it, or it takes too much time.
  5. Customization and management of key business systems, for instance having Standard Operating Procedures compiled and revised regularly, database setup and maintenance, etc.
  6. Project management support.
  7. Human resource management support.

Your success and freedom as a small business owner depends on your ability to focus on what you love and what you do well, and eliminating or outsourcing everything else.

Ask yourself:  what is the first step I need to take to become a prosperous small business owner?

Make 2012 the year that you allow your business to grow more rapidly through outsourcing.  E-mail Virtual Productivity Solutions to start enjoying the benefits of outsourcing.  Not only can we do work you’d like to outsource, but we can help you determine your priorities and what you should outsource for optimum productivity. Your business will thank you.

6 Steps to Find the Best Freelancers Online

As a small business owner you can outsource the tasks that you are not good at, so that you can focus on growing your business.  You don’t need a huge budget in order to outsource.  In fact, you can hire freelancers for small things, and then work your way up as your business grows.

But you could, however, feel that there is too much risk involved.  How do you ensure that a person you have never met face-to-face is the perfect person to do the job?  There are a few things to keep in mind.

1.  Be very clear with your instructions

Whenever you give instructions to people, be as clear as possible.  Many people overlook this.  But if you are paying by the hour, you want to save money by avoiding any confusion or uncertainty.

When you advertise your requirements, do it in a clear Step by Step format.  Beside avoiding confusion, you will be able to identify any potential bottleneck in the system.

You should also be clear on important items like deadlines, payment terms and any other expectations.

2. Check the credibility of your potential candidate

You want to work with a professional who provides quality work.  Some ways to check the candidate are what they say they are:

  • Have a look at the candidate’s portfolio.  Ask for examples of similar work done before.  Make sure that the candidate has worked on something similar before.
  • Contact the references given, or check for online references.
  • Google the person’s name, website name, and e-mail addresses.  You want someone with an established history.

3. Work according to milestones

If you need to outsource a big project, pay according to specific deliverables.  This protects you.  The worker is also protected if you provide an upfront deposit.

4. Expect short daily updates

Have the freelancer give you a short summary on:

  • What they did and the results they got
  • Any problems or challenges they faced
  • Any questions they might have

This way you keep on top of things.  Someone may forget to send you the summary.  It reflects on their calibre.  But for those that do remember, you can see how they are doing and fix any issues before they escalate.

5. Give regular feedback

Whether the work is done well or is subpar, give feedback.  Let people know exactly what they are doing right or wrong.  Focus on the positive, and build a strong relationship with your worker.

6.    Never hire someone full time immediately

Start by hiring a candidate for a small project.  You can then ask for more complicated work if you are satisfied.  Be sure that the candidate communicates well with you and that you feel comfortable with him/her.

It is actually very easy to ease the burden of your day-to-day tasks with a little planning and foresight.  You also have the opportunity to finish essential projects you simply don’t have time for.  If you would like to find out how Virtual Productivity Solutions can help you in this regard, visit our website.