Are you struggling with productivity? Have you ever felt that you are not being heard by your client? Have you asked yourself “What else can I do to reach my goal of being an effective Virtual Assistant? Are you finding it hard to have work-life balance?
If yes, then, it is high time to change your habits.
American author, educator and businessman Stephen Covey identified “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” he has studied, met and worked with in his life. These seven habits are so timeless and universal that it can help you achieve your goals as an effective Virtual Assistant.
First of all, you need to understand that forming a new habit is not automatic, you have to work for it, and it may take more than a month to form a new habit. But as long as your goal for success is clear, then your path to forming these seven new habits should be enjoyable.
Let’s go through these 7 habits. The first three habits you need to acquire also helps you achieve independence and self-mastery.
1. Be Proactive.
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”
Does it seem like your VA career in general keeps serving you lemons? Do you keep on “ending up” working with “toxic” clients? Maybe it’s about time to start taking control of the situation and make them favorable for you.
First, you need to have a positive outlook and a can do attitude. Focus your energies on those things that you can control. This way, success is much easier to achieve, and you provide yourself with positive energy that helps you grow further.
Stay away from being reactive. Take responsibility for your actions, and enhance your ability to respond properly to situations on hand.
Exercise: Convert reactive language to proactive language
Instead of saying: “My client is driving me bonkers! But I have no choice but to give in to all her requests even if it’s a weekend.”
Say: “I have to tell my client that this is not working out. We have to find a solution for this. I need work-life balance.”
2. Begin With The End In Mind.
“…It is possible to be busy – very busy – without being very effective.”
Do you feel like your VA career is the rat race you left behind? Maybe you’re too preoccupied with the busyness of being busy rather than focusing on your goals.
You don’t get in a car and ask yourself, “Where am I going?” You get in that car with a clear destination in mind, and possibly a route all mapped out. Ask yourself what matters to you most. Imagine yourself living that life, and align whatever you do to this vision. Let go of opportunities that diverts you from your vision.
However, all goals are fleeting if you are not principle-centered. Identify the timeless and unchanging principles by which to live your life. You can only live the life you have imagined, and get out of the rat race, by working on opportunities that aligns to your core values.
Exercise: Imagine your retirement in detail. How does it look like? Play with your imagination. Visualize and go all out. It all starts here – with the end.
3. Put First Things First.
“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.”
Now that you know your goals based on your core values, how do you manage your life as a Virtual Assistant to ensure that you stay on track of your destination?
The third habit teaches you how to manage your life by categorizing your activities according to what is urgent and important based on your core values. Study the time matrix below:
- Pressing Problems
- Building Relationships
- Identifying New Opportunities
|NOT IMPORTANT||QUADRANT 3|
- Some calls, meetings
- Popular events, activities
- Trivial work
- Time wasters
- Pleasant activities
Focusing on Quadrant 1 would exhaust all your time and energy solving symptoms but not the root of problems. In the end you find yourself stressed out. Learn to delegate these tasks. Share the load with others who can help you manage such situations.
Focusing on Quadrant 3 diverts you from your goal and steers you to servicing what is important and urgent to others. In the end you feel powerless and disorganized. Learn to say no to others demands. They will understand if they see that you are focused.
Focusing on Quadrant 4 doesn’t get you anywhere. It is immature for adults to spend most of their time on pleasures and trivialities, and they end up reliant on others for their needs.
Focusing on Quadrant 2 directs you to activities that you know are important in improving yourself and furthering your relationships. Don’t put it in the backburner until it’s urgent. Learn to schedule your priorities, make these a part of your everyday life.
Exercise: Start scheduling your priorities. Make your own time matrix.
Once you’ve learned to master yourself, the next three habits teach you interdependence and working with others harmoniously.
4. Think Win-Win.
“… It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.”
While the first three habits teach you to believe that you can achieve your goal, getting what you want need not be at the expense of others losing out on what they want as well.
Habit 3 taught you to prioritize building relationships. The best relationships are those that are mutually dependent. Achieving interdependent relationships entails commitment to situations that are mutually beneficial and satisfying to all parties concerned.
In achieving your Win-Win situation, you must take into account courage and consideration. You must be nice to accommodate others’ needs, and courageous to present your wants.
|HIGH COURAGE||LOW COURAGE|
“I Win, you Lose” people tend to use their influence and power to get their way.
“I Lose, you Win” people are too ready to please others to gain acceptance.
Lose-Lose situations occur when two Win-Lose people are too stubborn to accommodate to anything from the other.
“I Win, you Win” people have the courage and consideration to accommodate each other.
“No Deal” is also an option “Win-Win” people need to consider. “No Deal” liberates us from the need to manipulate people to get what we want.
An abundant mindset is also important in achieving a Win-Win situation. The spirit of Win-Win cannot prosper in an atmosphere of competition and scarcity. People with a scarcity mentality think there isn’t enough to go around and that they must compete all the time. An abundant mindset opens up a world of plenty where opportunities abound, recognition is given to all, and you become genuinely happy for the success of others.
Exercise: Think about your relationship with your client? Do you give more or take more? Write down five ways to have a win-win relationship with this client.
5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.
“The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.”
If you’re having problems making your clients listen to you, take a step back and learn to listen to them first.
Listen with the intent to understand others. This will help open communication lines both ways. People who genuinely seek to understand others have a better chance than anyone else to arrive at a win-win situation. To do this, you have to listen in their perspective, not yours.
When you listen with your own perspective you will find yourself: agreeing or disagreeing with what they say, asking questions from your point of view, giving advice from your experience, and even looking for hidden motives in what they say.
Put yourself in their shoes when listening. Although building the skills for emphatic listening to understand others may take some time, it can be achieved. The paradigm shift entails listening first to understand intellectually and emotionally, before asking to be understood.
Just as Habit 4 needs courage and consideration, so too does Habit 5. It takes consideration to understand, and courage to be understood. Present your ideas openly in the perspective of the other party and achieving credibility and a Win-Win situation would be less complicated.
Exercise: Next time you have a prospective client, ask questions during your consultation or interview. Write down their pain points and consider this your “secret weapon” in communicating with them.
“…Survival in business requires synergy of skills.”
As your client’s business start to grow, you will most likely be working with more people – with a team. This is when you should accept the fact that no task is insurmountable when people learn to work together in synergy.
In synergy, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.
Synergy can be achieved when you have become adept with the five previous habits. The first three habits teach you self-mastery on your way to become an independent winner. Habits 4 and 5 teach you to be considerate and courageous with others in order to achieve a Win-Win understanding.
Achieving the five habits allows you to pool resources with others, the ability to understand put all of you on the same side of evaluating a task and creating an alternative that is bigger than all the individual goals combined.
The real spirit of synergy is appreciating the diversity and uniqueness of people, which allows you to bypass negative energy while looking at the merit of others. In the end, a creative alternate solution agreed upon by all will be worth more than what you originally saw.
Exercise: Choose one team mate who irritates you. How is her/his views different from yours? Put yourself in her/his shoes, and think and pretend to be her/him, for one minute. Does it help you understand that person better?
After achieving the first six habits, your next task is to seek continuous improvement in both the personal and interpersonal spheres of influence.
7. Sharpen the Saw.
“Not a day goes by that we can’t at least serve one other human being by making deposits of unconditional love.”
A saw that it is used continuously gets blunt, and it needs to be sharpened periodically to be productive.
Habit 7 teaches you to devote time for self renewal. Self-renewal encompasses all the other habits. The best thing about self-renewal is by investing in yourself organically, the other habits improve.
You have four natural dimensions that need regular exercise in a balanced way: Physical Dimension, Spiritual Dimension, Mental Dimension, and Social/Emotional Dimension.
|PHYSICAL DIMENSION||SPIRITUAL DIMENSION||MENTAL DIMENSION||SOCIO/EMOTIONAL DIMENSION|
|Physical renewal entails:|
- Eating well
- Getting sufficient rest and relaxation
- Exercise on a regular basis
|Spiritual renewal entails:|
- Daily meditation or prayer
- Communicating with nature
- Immersing in literature or music
|Mental renewal entails:|
- Reading good literature
- Keeping a record of your ideas, encounter, and insights
- Limit media and social media exposure to only those that enrich your life and mind
|Emotional renewal entails:
- Seeking to deeply understand other people
- Contributing to meaningful projects that improve the lives of others
- Keep an Abundant Mindset, and help others find success
|This helps develop the muscles of productivity in being Proactive.||As you continuously commit to your values, you Begin With The End In Mind.||This helps you manage yourself effectively, ensuring to Put First Things First.||This helps you practice Habits 4,5 and 6.|
As you focus on renewing yourself along these four dimensions, people will notice a positive change in you. Talk to them with the intent of understanding them and encourage them to be proactive in their lives.
The beauty of renewal is it moves you along an upward spiral of growth and change, a continuous improvement that encourages others to do the same.
Exercise: Write down a specific activity in each dimension every week, and commit to do these activities. Evaluate your performance and results weekly.
For more ideas from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, watch this video from Clark Danger:
Can you think of other exercises that can be used for any of the 7 Habits to become a highly effective Virtual Assistant? Please, share them in the comments section below!
If you’d want to get started working from home, read the Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Virtual Assistant.
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