1. Real-time synchronization of your files with all your team members
When you cooperate online, you need a reliable system that synchronizes your files with everyone involved and who is working on the same files.
I have found it very useful to create one Dropbox folder with each team member I was working with. Then, I just dropped in the files they needed and they dropped in the results they worked on in the respective folders.
Because this approach is similar to working on your computer and your own folders, it is very intuitive. Because it’s intuitive, you don’t need to explain much to your virtual assistants and they can just continue working as usual.
2. Its easy to expand your storage size
Your free account comes with 2 gigabytes of free online storage space. For most private persons this is largely enough. But even if you need bigger storage space it is easy to expand it.
A nice side effect if you work with virtual assistants is that when you explain to them that you will share your files via Dropbox, you can simply send them your referral link.
Every co-worker that will sign up and install their online storage will give you free additional storage space.
Way to profit twice from the same service!
3. It is the most popular online storage service for a reason
Because this service is so simple, intuitive and easy, many people are already using it. So if you ask your virtual assistant to join your shared folders they won’t need many instructions to start working together with you right away.
You can even use it to share files with your friends and family. The Dropbox service is not limited to use for work. You can use it for everything. Even if you find someone who hasn’t heard about this service yet, share it with him and grow your free space at the same time.
4. Excellent backup to secure your files and your outsourcing results
There is nothing more horrible than a computer crash where you lose all your files. Especially if your team of outsourcing assistants has worked day and night to create this data. Even if they have some copies left, putting them together via email, sending them forth and back will be nerve wrecking.
Luckily, putting files into the Dropbox is also an excellent way for save them for backup and against crashes. Since they are shared online in a cloud, they will always be a backup copy available for you.
5. Oh no! I need an old version of my file!
A genius feature which comes with this service is that all files are saved redundantly. Each save and over-write of the same file is shared separately. You can use it as a “time machine” to protect any old version of the same document you might have made in the recent past.
Anyone who has ever worked on a big report, especially with several people working on it, knows how crucial it is to be able to look into older versions of the same document!
6. Easy sharing and organizing of all files in one simple system
You could of course use different approaches to share your files with your different providers. Some of would use Google docs, while others share them via private email with you. A third part of your work force might send their results through an attachment to you within, for example, the oDesk message system.
Why make your life complicated by trying to follow three services at once? You can simply use one service to put all files into and have everything ordered right at a glance.
Also, it’s great that you can see changes in real time with little pop-up notices that appear on your desktop when others are working on shared folders. This way you have the progress of your outsourcing projects and the work of everyone right at your fingertips on your desktop.
7. Mobile access to your files and to those of your co-workers
One last advantage of using the Dropbox for working together with your virtual assistants might be the most important one. If you are travelling and do not have access to your personal computer, how can you go into your files and send your virtual assistant this one crucial file that he needs to continue working?
If you have put it into your Dropbox beforehand, you can access it via their website anytime you want. You can get the files of all your co-workers too, if they are in the shared folders.
If you want to live a lifestyle like it is described in the “Four Hour Work Week“ and want to monitor the progress of your outsourced work while sitting at a beach and browsing with your laptop or your mobile phone, then using this service is the way to go.
If you want to have maximum efficiency when working with your virtual assistant, three tools are absolutely essential for your success.
- A headset
- Screen recording software with voice recording
- And a shared Dropbox folder with your assistant
You know the saying: “An image says more than a thousand words”?
Well, a video recorded with a screen recording software and voice instructions says more than a million pictures.
Save time and record your instructions via video
Instead of losing time and thinking long and hard about writing and formulating instructions via email, why don’t you just show your virtual assistant what you want from him?
It is much easier and much faster! Here’s how:
- Open your computer
- Go to the issue you want to show your virtual assistant. It can be a mistake in a file, a miscalculated field in an Excel-sheet or anything else where a virtual assistant might need additional instructions.
- And then record your screen and make video instructions on the fly.
Imagine your virtual assistant would not be sitting on the other end of the globe but right beside you looking over your shoulder, as you point, click and show exactly what you want.
That’s how you should talk when you record your video message.
It is most efficient to show your assistant if he has made a mistake. Point out exactly how you would like the solution to look like. This way he can efficiently work on doing things better.
Over time, your VA will anticipate your wishes more and more.
Video instructions communicate your emotions
Recording a screen video profits from many aspects of communication which are more effective than email instructions.
- The tone of your voice lets your assistant know if a task is very urgent or not
- Your VA will know if he has made a mistake and if it really makes you angry or is not such a big deal
For many freelancers working for you it is very important that they feel they haven’t upset you.
Note from Francis’ outsourcing experience
have had a provider from the Philippines stop working with me because she felt scared that I might be angry with her.
It is that extreme.
It’s that much more important to communicate right.
Example: Instruct your virtual assistant to illustrate your web pages
If you use a computer screen recording you can simply click and point on a page and explain where you want your virtual assistant to place a picture and what you want the picture to show.
You can go through the work diary together with your assistant, if you have hired him on oDesk, and discuss different screenshots of his work directly together with him.
Learn skills from video instructions made by your VA’s
A neat side effect is that you are easily able to explain technicalities to your virtual assistants. In my experience, many data entry specialists are wizards when it comes to Excel-sheets and Microsoft Office.
If you are interested in these skills, you can simply ask your virtual assistant to use the same screen recording software to teach you there skills.
Leave your virtual assistant no doubt
Do you want to make a 100% sure that your virtual assistant understands the instructions?
The bad way is to write him an email with the instructions and ask him if he has understood everything…
He will always answer “YES!”
Here is a more effective way:
- Start computer screen recording your instructions, pointing, clicking and explaining as you go.
- Then sent the video to your assistant and ask him the following:
“Do you have understood everything well?
Please make a document with instructions how you have understood it.
You can use screenshots from my video to illustrate what you have understood.”
There are several advantages of teaching your assistant instructions and skills this way:
- You are making sure your VA understands everything well.
- You now have a well formatted set of reusable instructions at your disposal that you can send others.
- Indirectly get important feedback about your leader skills. If your instructions are very poor, you will often get the feedback from your virtual assistant that he hasn’t understood everything completely.
Passively, you will adapt your explanations to your VA.
You are a more efficient employer and your assistant is more efficient worker for you.
Your instructions can be valuable for others
Sometimes, your instructions can be of further use to you. If you can re-use them more than once, convert your computer screen recording to a YouTube video – or outsource this task to your personal assistant, too!
Recording a screen video is probably the fastest way to create online videos possible, especially if you do not want to show your face to the internet.
How I give video instructions to my VA on a routine day…
How does my use of a free screen recording software look in my day to day work with your virtual assistant?
I use it, record videos, share them via Dropbox with my virtual assistant and “forget” about them.
I know that my VA will take the time to go through each and every one of them, writing me feedback emails as he does.
I use my recorded notes to
- share and discuss ideas for new concepts and new projects,
- ask and give feedback and instructions
- and to show specifically what I need.
In fact, my VA has to deal with a lot of those recordings. 🙂
I would never be able to write as many detailed emails as I am doing instructions via recordings.
What my VA thinks about watching screen recorded instructions
I asked my VA what he has to say about me using video instructions and voicemails, sharing everything via Dropbox and let him go through the mess.
Here is what he has to say:
By working together with a virtual assistant on a web business, we found that there are tools and techniques that you should not miss out on.
To be successful with an online business, your success tool number one is your ability to create written content – unless you are a professional YouTube Video producer.
The first life hack you have to know about is:
How to defeat writer’s block
Writer’s block is the dreadful enemy of online content creators, book authors and bloggers all around the world.
There are two simple ways to defeat writer’s block:
- Get a huge kick in the arse with the online tool “Write or Die”
- Don’t write. Just talk: combine the power of a voice recording with the help of an online transcription assistant.
Staying productive on the internet
I define productivity online with: not being distracted by being online (dancing cat movies, Facebook time wasters etc.)
Do you know if you are productive when working on your PC?
Stop guessing and start measuring your efficiency with a free productivity tracking software.
There just cannot be enough tips about how to work online effectively. That’s just how many distractions are waiting for you when you are going online.
The easiest “offline” life hack for staying productive with the internet around is to…
Force yourself to go offline!
There is a great tool that I like to use for that, which is called “Freedom”. You’d be surprised how literal the feeling of freedom becomes when you force yourself off the internet to get some work done.
Tools are only half of the trade – It’s all about attitude
Being productive starts in the head. The next life-hacks involve a series of techniques for productive thinking.
If you use
- Online planning tools
- Decision making software
- Mind mapping tools
- Getting-Things-Done strategies
- Time monitoring tools
- Goal setting strategies
You’ll be prepared to blast through the day by staying productive and focused.
We share only what has proved to work for us
As a part of getting the best online tips and hacks accross to you, we’ll share with you only the best productive resources that we personally are using ourselves. If you know great books, websites, tools to add, feel free to join into the discussion any time.
Did we miss something?
Are you still not focussed and need help?
- Ask a virtual assistant for help.
He’ll know you well enough to help you clean up the mess in your mind and on your virtual desk.
- Ask us directly
We’ll welcome any questions sent to us via out contact us form. Either we’ll answer you directly, or we’ll create a page with the solution to your problems containing the life hacks you personally need most.
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Personal Productivity Tips By Tim Ferriss
The biggest mentor of modern personal outsourcing shares some great personal productivity tips.
Read the whole article and be sure to watch his five minutes presentation on video to learn how less can actually be more when it comes to information.