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Virtual Assistants: Worth It?

Virtual Assistants: Worth It?

    Everybody wants an assistant. Not only is a mark of status and rank, but it’s essential for any working professional who has any management responsibilities whatsoever. But what the economy being what it is, the number of people who can afford assistants are few and far between.

    Increasingly, professionals and entrepreneurs are turning towards virtual assistants to help them manage their workloads. Depending on the service you select, most virtual assistants are able to assist you with tasks as varied as tracking your expenses, ordering your lunch, or assisting with your PR needs…and almost all charge rates that are a mere fraction of what you would pay an on-site assistant.

    But how effective are virtual personal assistants? And how much can they really boost your productivity (or your bottom line)? Like with any business practice, there are pros and cons. So, are virtual assistants worth it? Here’s how it breaks down…

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    Pro: Low cost.

    Con: You get what you pay for.

    The great thing about virtual personal assistants is that many companies offering these services have workers based overseas, meaning that the prices they charge for a full day of work are equivalent to what you drop at Starbucks on your way to the office each morning. Obviously the prices will vary based on location and services rendered, but some workers will help you with your workload for as little as $1-$3 per hour.

    That being said, you get what you pay for. So, while you might not be shelling out big bucks to your VPA, you will have to put up with lost-in-translation issues, foreign holidays, and occasional breakdowns in communication.

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    Pro: The work gets done in your sleep.

    Con: Staying in contact can be tricky.

    It’s really hard to communicate effectively with someone who works three time zones away from you, let alone eight or twelve time zones away. If you’re working with a team of VPAs, this is less of an issue, but it can still take a bit of getting used to.

    All that being said, there’s nothing quite like writing up a to-do list at the end of the day, emailing it off, and coming in the next morning to find everything has been taken care of in your sleep.

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    Pro: Free trial periods are fairly common.

    Con: Fees and quality can vary widely by company/person.

    Services like TimeSvr will offer you a free trial period to assess the quality and fit of their services. That’s great for people who are on the fence about whether they can really benefit from a virtual personal assistant.

    That being said, you need to make sure you’ve budgeted accordingly. For example, ihabilis.com charges a base rate of $10 for five tasks, but charges up to $1,000 for 160 hours of work a month.

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    Pro: Some services offer you an entire team of assistants.

    Con: It’s hard to track who’s accountable for your needs at any given time.

    You basically have two options to consider when selecting what virtual personal assistant is best suited to your individual needs. You can put all your eggs in one basket and throw in with a single assistant, or you can work with a service that puts several people at your disposal, such as GetFriday. You generally have one person who is your “primary”, along with 2 or three other secondary assistants that are available during off-peak hours.

    But while having a team available to you 24 hours a day sounds great, it can be a little confusing knowing who has been assigned to which task in the event that you have last-minute changes to make to your instructions.

    Closing Thoughts

    So, there are a lot of things to consider when selecting a virtual personal assistant. Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide if this kind of service is worth it. If you would like to do some further reading, you might want to check out some other reviews. For example, the Wall Street Journal has a detailed chart that breaks down the price and features of four popular virtual assistant companies, including GetFriday.com and RedButler.com

    If any of you lovely readers has an opinion about virtual personal assistants, or has a past experience with one of these services that they’d like to share in the comments below, please share with the rest of us! I’m curious to hear what you all think about the perks and pains of virtual assistants.

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on May 20, 2020

    What Are Analytical Skills (And How to Strengthen Them For Success)

    What Are Analytical Skills (And How to Strengthen Them For Success)

    Everybody makes bad decisions. Some people, however, are more capable of making better decisions that inch them closer to success.

    These individuals are not ruled by emotions, desires, or hunches. Rather, they depend on their analytical skills to overcome challenges regardless of urgency or complexity.

    What Are Analytical Skills?

    According to Richards J. Heuer Jr., a former veteran of the CIA,[1]

    “Thinking analytically is a skill like carpentry or driving a car. It can be taught, it can be learned, and it can improve with practice. But unlike other skills, it is not learned by sitting in a classroom and being told how to do it. Analysts learn by doing.”

    Analytical skills can be considered as one of the critical life skills that are not taught in schools. It comprises of visualization, critical thinking, and abilities for gathering and processing information.

    Here’s a closer look at some of these abilities:

    Visualization

    Also tied to a person’s creativity, visualization is the ability to predict the possible outcomes of strategies and actions. In a professional setting, visualization involves the analysis of data – often through illustrations like charts, graphs, and detailed lists.

    Critical Thinking

    Simply put, a person’s ability to think critically can be measured by his or her consistency in creating reasonable decisions. It pertains to the ability to evaluate information, siphon what’s useful, and draw conclusions without being swayed by emotions.

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    As a critical thinker, you’ll find yourself challenging assertions and finding loopholes in proposed solutions.

    Computing

    Whether you like it or not, you need to be comfortable with numbers if you want to sharpen your analytical skills. Bear in mind that computing encompasses other skills like cost analysis, budgeting, and performing general calculations.

    In business, you need to use computations when weighing the risks and benefits of any given strategy.

    Problem-Solving

    Remember that analytical skills are used not just to understand problems, but also to develop the most suitable course or courses of action. This relates to your goal-setting skills, which involve breaking down and prioritizing between objectives.

    Resource Management

    Lastly, analytical skills involve some degree of resource management depending on the task at hand.

    For example, professionals with a tight schedule must know how to effectively manage their own time – also known as one of the most important resources in the world.

    Business leaders, on the other hand, must know how to manage company resources, including cash and manpower. Take note that the definition of analytical skills may change to match the requirements of a specific situation.

    For example, upon hiring a web developer, analytical skills may refer to the ability to determine the needs of online users, understand web analytics for optimization, and identify visual elements that can match a company’s brand.

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    The skillset above, however, should be applicable in most if not all scenarios.

    Develop Your Analytical Skills for More Growth Opportunities

    There’s no question that the right decisions lead to positive results. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a business or simply trying to climb the corporate ladder. By training your analytical skills, you position yourself for more growth opportunities while staying away from negligible actions you will regret.

    For example, you plan to launch a new startup in your local community – but struggle to decide the niche you want to enter. Since you’ve been a technophile your whole life, part of you desires to invest in a gadget store. If you’re passionate about your business, success will come – right?

    If you have sharp analytical skills, you begin to see your plans in whole new dimensions.

    What are the possible outcomes of this venture? Does the local market have a need for a new gadget store? How much do I need to get started – and how much should I sell to make a profit?

    Depending on your findings, you can determine the feasibility of your business idea without letting your emotions get in the way.

    6 Ways to Strengthen Your Analytical Skills

    There are several approaches when it comes to developing an individual’s analytical skills. For instance, psychologists agree that reading fantasy stories as a child can help sharpen critical thinking.[2]

    Research also suggests that undergoing traditional education has a positive effect on a person’s IQ and analytical skills.[3]

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    But as an adult, such opportunities to hone your analytical skills no longer apply. That’s why you need to devise a more deliberate, active approach yourself.

    Below are a few strategies to get you started:

    1. Ideate Business Ideas

    Developing a profitable business idea, whether you pursue them or not, involves numerous challenges. You need a ton of research, computations, and problem-solving to create a tangible business plan.

    You can organize your ideas with a note-taking tool like Microsoft OneNote or Evernote. Doing so will allow you to delve deeper into your analysis, organize your findings, and stay focused on roadblocks as well as how to solve them.

    2. Leverage Analytical Tools

    Aside from note-taking tools, you can also leverage other software that can help with analytical tasks. A money management app like Mint, for example, makes it easy to track your spending habits as well as manage your budget with visual tools. When it comes to prioritizing goals, you can use simple task management apps like Trello or Wunderlist.

    3. Have a Personal Learning Library

    Thanks to the internet, there’s a colossal amount of resources you can utilize to learn new skills, expand your vocabulary, and train your visualization muscles.

    Social media networks like SlideShare and YouTube, for example, offer mountains of tutorials you can access to your heart’s content.

    For a personalized learning library, you can download Instagram videos or GIFs from educational accounts like NASA Goddard and the American Mathematical Society. But if you prefer specific, technical skills, then a good place to start would be online learning platforms like Coursera, edX, and Alison.

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    4. Participate in Online Communities

    The internet is a great place to share experiences, opinions, and sometimes intellectual discussions with like-minded individuals. Reddit, for example, has a place or “subreddit” dedicated for every topic imaginable – from technology to entrepreneurship.

    For structured debates, you can head to websites like Debate.org and let other users choose the winner via votes.

    5. Seek Mental Stimulation

    To keep your mind sharp, make it a habit to engage in mentally stimulating activities, such as chess, puzzles, and brain training apps. A great resource would be Lumosity, which contains dozens of cognitive games designed by teams of scientists and game designers.

    6. Keep a Personal Journal

    Finally, keeping a personal journal allows you to take a second look at everything that happened in your day.

    Remember that writing about learning experiences lets you focus on the lesson rather than the emotion. It will help you analyze how you made your decisions, why you came to certain conclusions, and what you can do to improve in the future.

    Here’s How to Create a Habit of Writing in a Journal.

    Bottom Line

    As an adult, you are required to face a myriad of challenges on a daily basis. Work, school, business, relationships – the list goes on when it comes to the sources of life’s problems. With analytical skills, you can confront and overcome any obstacle standing between you and your goals.

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    Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] M. S. Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences: Analytical Thinking?
    [2] KD Novelties: Why You Should Read Classic Tales to Your Children
    [3] Economic Inquiry: The Effect of Education on Cognitive Ability

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