One of the perks of achieving a high level of success in the corporate world (or of being a celebrity, I suppose) is being paired with a capable assistant who helps manage the most pressing, complicated, and time-consuming parts of your life, allowing you to be more productive and efficient with your time and energy.
For most entrepreneurs -- especially new entrepreneurs -- a full-time assistant just isn't in the budget yet. For some, a part-time virtual assistant may be a more viable solution to getting some help managing calendars and tasks, from time to time.
But even if that's still out of reach and you've got to tackle it all without the help of a second set of eyes and hands, you can use a combination of free and paid tools and apps to get some of the same conveniences of having a full time partner in organizational crime in the mean time.
1. Coordinating calls and meetings
Scheduling a meeting or call with a large group can be a serious pain when you're juggling other tasks. But an artificial intelligence tool, like X.ai, can automatically chime in (when you copy the designated email) to manage all that scheduling negotiation and even send a calendar invite for you.
If you're on the wait list or don't trust the bots, then scheduling tools like Doodle can offer a quick and easy way to quickly gather availabilities from your desired guests and otherwise make your booking and inviting process more seamless.
2. Prep before calls and meetings
One of the great gifts that an assistant gives you is peace of mind that you know who you're meeting with, when, and what you need to discuss. Crystal is an email and calendar plug-in automatically provides communication tips and personality insights about individuals you interact with based on their aggregate behavior on the web, their language patterns on social platforms like LinkedIn, and more.
Knowing someone's communication style, the way they like to be engaged, the way they react to certain phrases and even their attitude toward emojis will help you feel like you've gotten a full debrief by a personal researcher before every email, call or meeting, making first meetings more meaningful and nurturing the connections you've already made.
3. Managing your travel arrangements
There are plenty of apps that can make your travel experience easier, faster and less stressful, but my personal favorite is TripIt. Simply forward any travel emails to a specified email address, and TripIt automatically detects which trip it belongs to and creates an interactive mobile itinerary for you with maps, phone numbers, confirmation numbers and more. It even suggests local sights and ground travel options.
No more searching your email to find a boarding pass at the airport, or Googling a hotel address you booked weeks ago when you get in the taxi. TripIt tracks and organizes all your travel details so you can just pack your bags and then spend your time on more pressing things.
4. Tracking expenses and sending invoices
Manually creating and tracking invoices is a huge time suck with lots of room for error. With a small investment in yourself, you can use FreshBooks or a similar program to track all your hours, billing and expenses, and then send invoices (with automated reminders) for fast and easy online payment.
My favorite feature is the mobile app, which is incredibly intuitive and lets you update your hours, track and label expenses, upload receipts, and send invoices while you're on the go. (I've uploaded expense receipts from a taxi after leaving a client, emailed the invoice from the airport, and had client reimbursement in my account before I land back home!)
5. Running errands
When it comes to a physical task, like picking up dry cleaning or helping organize your office, only a person will do. But that doesn't mean you don't have options, even without an assistant. TaskRabbit is an easy way to offload some of the errands you don't have time to complete.
Things like picking up dry cleaning, hanging shelves, putting furniture together, and more can be quickly outsourced to a local "rabbit" who will happily assist you in chipping away at your to-do list while you're in meetings, working late, with family or otherwise busy.
6. Managing digital assets
An assistant can also be a great help in keeping all your digital files organized, consistent and professional. They can coordinate the fine-tuning of the documents and digital destinations that help your business run smoothly, and save you from having to spend valuable time fiddling with pixels widths, punctuation and display settings.
With a service like Fivver, you can easily hire virtual help for one-off digital projects, like logo design, website updates, deck re-design, text editing, research, file conversions and more. Outsourcing those projects, at a small fee, to someone who can get it done much more quickly and efficiently is a great way to free up your time.
7. Ensuring you're fed and caffeinated
While it's not technically in their job description, assistants get to know you and all your preferences; as strange as it might be to admit that someone knows your favorite salad dressings in order, or that you only like your lattes extra-hot and half-caf with almond milk, it can certainly be helpful having someone pitch in when it comes to making sure you're energized--just the way you like--for your busiest days.
Download Starbucks' mobile app to place your order and pay on the way, so the barista has your order ready when you arrive. Use the Seamless app to have ready-made meals from local restaurants delivered or services like BlueApron and Plated to have ingredients shipped to your home, ready to cook when you are.
By employing some free apps and making a small investment in some tools, you can get the convenience and added efficiency of having a personal assistant without the full-time hire.