Sometimes this is what my brain feels like. Sometimes each one of these people is clamoring for my attention. "Me!" "Me!" "No, me!" I feel the anxiety building in my body, my breathing gets shallow and my body tenses. All I want to do is shut down and go somewhere quiet.
But I don't need to do that, because I have tools!
When my task list is 2 pages long, and dozens of emails need to be dealt with (which, of course, bring me more tasks) then rather than explode, I get organized!
I have learned a lot of great organizational tricks in my long (long!) working history. I know how to prioritize for my Lightseeds clients.
Because I think and process best in the mornings, I tackle those tasks that take the most brainpower and attention, prioritizing by my clients' deadlines. Those which I can do quickly and/or easily come in the early afternoon.
Recently, I found I was beginning to feel overwhelmed with work. So much was coming at me at once I knew I needed to get a handle on things before I allowed the pressure to build. And so I did a "dump!" Taking a tip from my client and friend Lisa Crilley Mallis of Impactive Strategies, I wrote down every task I had to do for my business or for clients, in no order. Everything on my existing to-do list, everything in email, everything in my calendar reminders. Once it was all on paper, I felt an immediate relief - I didn't need to remember or retain any of it!
Next step was to examine the list for things that could wait and note the estimated completion date. Now, with a smaller list, I looked for tasks that needed to be done the soonest, and decided what date and time of day (based on my needs above) I could tackle them. Now, with an even smaller list, I had identified tasks that would fill in around the urgencies.
Now this may sound a bit TOO organized for some, but I tell you the truth, the relief of doing a brain dump like this is indescribable. As Lisa often says, it's best to use your brain to THINK rather than REMEMBER.
Do you have anti-stress tips like this? Do share - you may help someone else!
"What is a Spiritual Virtual Assistant?" This is a question I am often asked. I describe myself at different times as a spiritual or a holistic virtual assistant, because they are both accurate. This descriptor defines me as a virtual assistant with a spiritual focus. I am deeply spiritual, balanced with a very practical, business-minded side. Both of these are important to both my life AND my business. My work is supported by my intuition as well as my considerable business experience.
The work began with my corporate life and developed along with my spiritual journey. (Read more about that here if you're interested.) I realized that the people I was drawn to were all in heart-based, helping professions - healers, coaches, etc. We share a focus on making individuals, and thus the world, happier and healthier.
Here is my question to you: how do you define yourself? Not in your "30-second commercial," but in real life? How does your work define you? And vice versa? Are all aspects of you present in your work or do you define your work life very differently from your "real" life? Is that the way you like it or would you like to share more of yourself in your business? If you, for instance, are a CPA who is also deeply spiritual and with an interest in metaphysics, would you like to focus your business on strictly commercial enterprise, or would it make you happy to work with the metaphysical community?
No matter what your skill set, be authentic to who you are in your work. I know from my own and others' experience that when you can be authentic and present all aspects of yourself, you will feel a freedom and joy that carries through your whole life!
Carol is a really busy entrepreneur. She was always the "go-to" person at her former employer's office and has carried that energy into her own business. She loves knowing everything, having her hands in everything.
As her business grows, Carol more often finds herself working later (and earlier). Checking email as she can, often late at night. She takes client calls, posts blogs, publishes a newsletter, attends networking events, and just realized that she rushes through client appointments. By the time her day is done, so is she! Done in, tired, hungry, and very, very crabby.
What Carol forgot is that no (wo)man is an island! She forgot that there is all sorts of help available to her. And when she was reminded of that, she promptly hired help! Now she has someone to manage her blogs and newsletters, take client calls and handle other administrative matters. Carol focuses on her networking and actually doing her work with clients. Doing her work. The part that she loves ... the part only she can do.
Are you "Carol"? Look around you and explore your options for ways to delegate. When you know the part that only YOU can do, you know what others can take over for you. As your time expands with those tasks off your plate, you will not only be more productive, but more successful - and rested!
Unless you're a graphic designer, you may not think often about fonts, but if you have any online presence at all, they are important. In fact, if you've ever made a sign they're important too!
This post was inspired by the copious moving and garage sale signs I've seen this summer that are completely illegible from the road. The lettering is either too faint, or too small, or too sloppy. The lesson: what is the purpose of what you're writing? Does your copy work for that audience?
Now I'm not as addicted to fonts as Brock on "The Middle" (see what I mean here), but I do know that appearance and size of your copy is important to legibility, impact, and mood (yes, mood). If I want to evoke a playful mood and have something light to say, a sans serif font without much structure is appropriate (Comic Sans, Kristen, MV Boli). On a website like this, a serif font is important for easy legibility. Serif fonts are also used in formal business letters and documents.
Sorry, but size IS important! Bet you can't read this well. And this is WAY too big for a website unless it's a heading.
Color is also important. Be sure that there is contrast between your background and the text. I've seen badly designed websites and newsletters that have a brown background, for instance, with a lighter brown font.
In this digital age, there are hundreds of downloadable choices available to enhance your writing, whether on paper or virtual. Explore your options and consider your audience!
I wrote earlier about the "joy of lists." Here's another tip for really simple organization and time management.
Like most people you probably have recurring tasks that you do weekly or monthly - invoice a client, create a report, publish a newsletter. I hope you have these already noted on your calendar. (You do, don't you?) Do you have them in your online calendar as well?
Every online calendar (Google, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.) provides a reminder service and a task list. When you enter a task such as "Invoice Mary Smith" into your calendar service as a task, you can specify that the calendar send you an email reminder at a specific interval before the task is due. You may want notice a week prior, or a day, or sometimes an hour.
Especially when I am very busy, I rely on these emails to stay organized and on top of my priorities. Nothing gets lost in the shuffle. At a glance I can see upcoming tasks, but I don't need to rely on my memory or clutter up my to-do list, as I know I'll have a reminder pop up just when I need it to.
My name is Holly and I am a list-oholic. I love lists. Here's why.
When you create a list (whether of tasks, shopping needs, or anything else), you are releasing your mind from the need to remember details. Better to use your brainpower for thinking than remembering!
For example, make a list related to a project you want to tackle. Write down the individual steps it will take, what you will need to accomplish those steps, helpers, timing, and all the other details. Then you can really think about these items, evaluating the "how" and "when" rather than the "what."
One of my favorite list types is my work task list. I have a master list of things I need to remember to check on or do on a regular basis (write blog posts, update a client's records, check on responses to an invitation). I also have my actual task list.
I write out a new task list weekly. It contains all the individual items I need to do for my clients and my business. I evaluate the urgency, deadline, and approximate length of time to complete each, creating a sequence of how I want to tackle each. My method is to simply number each item - the one I need to do first is #1, then next #2. If my work week is lighter than normal, I might simply assign a day to complete the task - decide which I will do Monday, Tuesday, etc. Again, I take into consideration how long the task will take and the urgency.
If something pops up that changes my priorities, I'll re-number my tasks so I don't forget about anything. And of course, when a task is complete, it gets crossed off with a feeling of satisfaction!
To borrow a tip from my friend and client Lisa Crilley Mallis, if a task on your list has multiple steps to it, then it's really a project (I know, semantics) and should be outlined separately (read a post about this here). Remember the old adage "How do you eat an elephant" (with apologies to elephants)? Outlining the individual steps of a project means that you won't lose sight of something important.
Whether you're a "wing it" kind of person or already love lists, give my method a try and see if it helps you organize your day.
The answer is ... sometimes, depending. There now, isn't that helpful?
But seriously, a home-made website can be effective, depending on your needs and your business. As with many decisions in business, choosing the best resource also depends on your budget and expected returns.
If you're just starting out and have limited funds, you may want to consider starting on your own. A homemade website at the very least provides a landing page, an online presence for your contacts to learn more about you and your services. It is a passive resource - one to which your contacts would be directed to by other means (business cards, social media, etc.).
There are excellent DIY website solutions available at several price points. This site, for instance, is a home-made Weebly site, but other sources include Wix, Squarespace, Web.com. Many use the very easy-to-use "drag and drop" layout method, which is rather like building a puzzle.
If you are good at software and computer technology, you'll have an advantage over a complete newbie. (In fact, I don't recommend a complete newbie attempt this at all.) You'll discover how to add forms, surveys, message boards, advertising, or other perks to website effectiveness.
I can't tell you how many sites I immediately know are homemade because of the number of errors I see. I cringe when I see grammatical and punctuation errors that make the site owner look careless or ignorant. I have seen pages full of long paragraphs of text, which nobody wants to read on a website. That is not how to attract your ideal client! (This is why I developed my Website Review offering!)
BUT ... hiring a professional means you'll get all the other benefits of a truly effective website - SEO and visibility, increased traffic, interaction with prospects. A professionally built site is active - contacts find you through internet searches, and can interact with you using the tools available when the builder knows what he's doing.
Key to an effective site is to consider carefully all the aspects a pro will ask you:
If you are clear on these answers and feel confident in your ability to successfully execute them, then have at it! But when you're done, have a few professional friends review the site for appeal and accuracy, so your clients know they're dealing with a pro!
Are you a coach, consultant or practitioner who schedules client appointments? How do you accomplish that? Do you usually book through email or the phone? Do you manage the process yourself or have an assistant?
These are important considerations for the heart-based business owner.
If your business and services description is clear on your website, you may opt to use scheduling software to integrate with your website. A client merely clicks the date they want to schedule, and after an autoresponder email, they’re confirmed. The software integrates with your own online Google or Outlook calendar so you know who is scheduled when.
This works well for readers and other practitioners whose consultations have the same specifications – the length of time and other considerations are spelled out, which little need for questions or discussion.
There are dozens of great applications to accomplish this easily, such as TimeTrade, Accuity, or SetMore. Be sure that the software you choose offers payment options as well, so the client can schedule and pay at the same time. The client should receive some sort of confirmation email to remind them of their chosen time as well as any tips or advice you wish to offer.
If your business is more customized, you may wish to hire an appointment scheduler who you can train to answer questions and offer guidance. This assistant should be detailed oriented and focused, understanding not only your business but also the nature of a client’s needs. She or he should be able to keep track of time zones, confirmations and cancellations, and also should manage the payment process for you.
Regardless of how you choose to accomplish client scheduling, it is probably not in your best interest to manage it yourself. Think of how much time you could gain in your day if you only do your work, and not the scheduling of your work!
As we all do, I get many notifications through social media and email that I want to follow up on ... helpful business tips, a new article on copy writing, someone I want to connect with, etc. But in my scheduled times to check both email and social media, I cannot (should not, don't want to) take the time and interrupt the flow of my to-do list to read the item.
Here's what I do - I use a parking lot! (My thanks to my colleague Lisa Crilley Mallis of SystemSavvy Consulting for the parking lot concept!)
I will open the link I receive in social media or an email, and leave the tab open (parked) on my internet window while I work on the task at hand. And when I am completely done with my work for the day, THEN I can go back and review what I have open. I'm fairly disciplined so having the open tabs does not draw me into sneaking a peak, but if you are not so disciplined, here's another step to try. Open a Notepad or Word document, and paste the links into that page for later reference. Then CLOSE the internet window you find so tempting! If you have dedicated time in your schedule that day to review the links, go right ahead, but you can also save the document and get to it when you do have time scheduled, or on an off day.
Give it a try - it works for me!
I often write and speak about delegating and outsourcing whatever does not serve you and your business. But how do you know for SURE what those tasks should be?
Let me give you an example. I had a client (who for the sake of simplicity I will call Carol) who was a speaker and author and also individually coached clients. She did all those things while simultaneously scouting and scheduling her own speaking engagements, researching publishers and websites for her writing, preparing for and scheduling clients. AND attempting to create a website, a social media presence, and copy writing.
Tired? That’s not the word for it! Ineffective? Yeah, that too. Carol’s every moment was filled with work, yet little got accomplished. She was amazing with words - a superb writer and an engaging speaker. She enjoyed using her words one-on-one with clients. Because of this she was also a great copy writer and knew what she wanted to convey.
But Carol frequently missed client appointments, lost her notes on speaking engagements, and missed publication deadlines. Her online presence was not professional because she had few technical skills, and it showed.
When she finally decided she could do better, she scheduled a call with me, and together created a list of the tasks she is just awful at doing but that were important. Staying with the “important” classification, then we then tackled the tasks she did a fair job or was awesome at doing. Carol could see that she spent a great deal of time on tasks that not only she did not do well, but that she could easily outsource to those who DO do them well. After learning to delegate, she found a wealth of time she could spend on those tasks that not only served her business but that she very much enjoyed.
You can follow Carol’s example – download your own complimentary Delegation Audit here, and learn what tasks you could be delegating to an expert assistant.
Welcome! These stories, tips and tricks are intended to help you save time, and be more organized and effective in your work. New items will be added frequently so check back often.