Productivity and Organization: How This Virtual Assistant Gets More Work Done in Less Time

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s a kitchen timer sitting on my desk, ticking away as I write this. The 25-minute countdown has begun.

No, I’m not baking bread or making a cake (although that would be yummy). What I’m doing is using a time-management strategy called the Pomodoro Technique to focus my energy and (hopefully) get more done.

The Art of Getting Things Done

We’re all busy, but when you work for yourself, it’s far too easy to let “busy” work overtake your life, and that just doesn’t pay the bills.

So for the past several weeks I’ve been experimenting with some methods for staying organized and being more productive (i.e. billing more hours each day).


If you can’t find the information you need to complete a project, you can’t work. And if you’re wasting time searching for a file, that’s time you’re not being paid for. It’s as simple as that.

Since most of my project support material comes in via email, I used to let it pile up in my inbox, trusting the power of Gmail’s search feature to show me what I needed when I needed it. My inbox was my to-do list.

But with thousands of archived messages, and clients who don’t always make the subject line match the project, that was becoming less and less efficient.

So I started storing everything important in Evernote, where I can tag it, add notes, and file it according to project. I don’t have to search through multiple email accounts to find what I need, and the best part is, my Evernote account goes with me everywhere.


This is a new one for me, and it meshes nicely with my GTD-ish (Getting Things Done) system. At its heart, it’s just a way to manage to-do lists, but since OmniFocus lets me add start and due dates, link to my email message or Evernote file for more information, and organize tasks by project, it really helps me see exactly what needs to be done and when.

Combine my task list with my project support files, add in a countdown timer for focus (that ticking sound reminds me not to get sucked into something else) and now I’m finding that I get more work done in one day than I used to do in two.

That’s my [current] setup, but there are other tools virtual assistants use to stay on task and meet deadlines as well. Basecamp is probably the most well-known, and is a favorite with those who manage teams, since you can easily assign tasks to other people and let Basecamp handle the follow-ups.

Want more tips for controlling your time and getting more done? Enter your name and email below and I’ll send you a copy of “Time Management for VAs,” which has lots of great ideas for staying focused while still having a life. 






  1. says

    Getting more done in one day than you did in two is proof that it works. While you cannot get more time in a day, you can use time more wisely. I learned this when I took on a temporary marketing job that required me to go into an office each day. When I realized I could keep the clients I had at the time, and work Mon-Fri from 8 to 5 I realized my time-management skills were truly lacking. I could get all my projects done in two days a week on weekends and before the marketing job, I was somehow spreading out those tasks to 6 hour days four days a week. Learning to use the tools and tricks you’ve mentioned really helps stay on task, avoid “busy” work, and get stuff done. Now that the marketing job is finished I have been able to triple my client load and still maintain my four day a week work schedule. Great post and great tips!

    • Cindy says

      Funny how work expands to fill the time you have, isn’t it? Good for you for being able to triple your client load just by learning to manage your time better! That’s awesome!

  2. says

    Oooh, I’m going to have to try Evernote. No one should see my email box. It’s a disaster of things to get to later that just keep getting pushed further and further down until they are no longer relevant :(.

    • Cindy says

      “…things to get to later that just keep getting pushed further and further down until they are no longer relevant.”

      That’s a PERFECT description of what my email inbox used to look like, too. I can tell you it’s a lot less stressful when my inbox is empty – or mostly so, anyway.

    • Cindy says

      Hey Alyssa,

      You get an Evernote email address with your account, so I have that set up as a contact in my email client. When I want to save an email to Evernote, I just hit forward and email it to that address. It lands in my default notebook (mine is called – cleverly – “Inbox”). Then once a day or so I go in and tag/file everything in my inbox.

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