If you work from home as I do, how do you keep your life separate from your work – or do you need to?
Without firm boundaries (working hours, privacy, accessibility) we can too easily become overwhelmed and overworked. It's important to me, and perhaps to you as well, that my spirituality surround and fill everything I do in my work and my home life. However when you work from your home it's important that you not allow your working life to overtake your home life.
For example, your work may rely heavily on phone calls. Do you have set working hours after which you will not accept calls? You should! Do you check your work email 7 days a week? Probably not a good idea.
Give yourself (and your family) the courtesy to honor your everyday life. Your work may be important, but your health, family and friends are your very life.
Because I offer both proofreading and editing, I’m often asked what the difference is. This may not be the textbook answer, but it’s my process and it might help you in your next writing project.
Proofreading is the act of reading through written material for errors – spelling, grammar, punctuation. All word processing programs have a spell checker, and I always recommend you start with that, but ONLY start with it, as these are far from infallible. If you’re the author of a piece and you know you aren’t great at grammar and punctuation, ask a friend for help (one, obviously, who IS good at it). It is important, however, to honor an author’s writing style in this process. If he or she capitalizes words for humorous or emphatic purposes, unless it’s a downright screaming error it should be left as is.
There are countless resources online and in the library to help with this important process. These kinds of mistakes can drastically change the meaning of the writing so it’s important to get it correct. We’ve all seen memes online like these – don’t be one of those people!
Now, I also do line editing, the task of looking at meaning rather than structure. Line editing is the act of reviewing the flow of the meaning. Are you using the correct word in context? (The old their – they’re – there dilemma.) Do the words and structure convey the meaning behind the words? Is a sentence out of place and better in context elsewhere? Did you repeat a phrase used earlier?
If you do or intend to write often, whether articles, blog posts or books, take the time to refresh your high school writing skills so you come across as the knowledgeable pro you are!
In my last post I gave you some quick Word tips – now let’s tackle Excel. Many people won’t even try using this easy software as they mistakenly assume it’s math-based and complex. But Excel is one of my favorite organizational tools – let me show you!
Excel is a great tracking tool – create a simple contact list, or balance sheet, or anything else you want to keep track of. Yes there are more complex programs out there for recordkeeping, like Access and other database systems, however those are not as accessible (ironically) or as easy to use as Excel.
I’ve created several done-for-you templates you can download for free! But if you want something customized, here are some easy tips.
In case you have never seen Excel before, you should know first that the columns with letters and the rows with numbers combine to create a “cell” – the small box at the intersection. So the example here shows cell F5 highlighted. This is important to know as you learn more.
You may want to create a simple address book for yourself. You would start by creating column headings so you can keep track of what goes where. In cell A1 (see why I said this is important?) you’ll type “First Name.” In cell A2 you’ll type “Last Name,” in cell A3 “Email,” and so on – include all the fields that are useful to you. Then under these headings, in row B, you’ll type your first contact. Keep going and I’ll show you a neat trick!
After you have a list of contact information, take a look at the menu at the top and you’ll see Sort & Filter. Click that. This offers you an easy way to sort your entries. Let’s say you want to see at a glance what cities your contacts are in. Click anywhere in your City column, then click Sort & Filter, then click Sort A-Z. Voila!
So, you can see that Excel will provide you easy recordkeeping, based on whatever column headings you choose. Take a look at the tools I've done for you, and play around with Excel to learn more. You can excel at Excel!
Does anyone remember the old Wang word processors, the “next generation” of typewriting? Then came along Wordpress. Now we have Word (for the PC) or Pages (for Mac). Super simple to use, yet do you understand the basics of document creation, whatever the platform is?
If you’re not a Word expert but would like to be proficient, take the time to play around with the many options that appear in your toolbars and learn what they do. There are also countless resources on YouTube and elsewhere online. The more you know, the easier it is!
I recently had a great conversation with my client Lisa Crilley Mallis of SystemSavvy Consulting. Well, they are usually great, but this one was was especially so because Lisa used a phrase that really struck me. As she discussed how important it is to use our time on tasks that really serve our vision and goals, Lisa asked, "What is the resentment factor involved in this task?"
Think about it from another viewpoint: what energy is behind a task you feel less than happy about performing? If you resent having to spend time on it, you put that energy into the task - how can it be successful? When we're faced with tasks that rate high on the resentment factor, it's time to re-evaluate.
Let's spend the majority of time on the tasks that don't even register on the resentment scale, and either eliminate or delegate those that do.
Have you ever attempted to come up with fresh ideas on your own, whether for a personal project or your business? Unless you are truly creative, it can be a challenge!
Many of us, myself included, do better when we brainstorm with others. The shared energy and shared ideas all feed off each other to create something new. Let's create an imaginary scenario here of the creation of a business logo.
Most of us have a community of some sort, whether business associates, employees, friends who understand our work, or like-minded network members. Gather everyone together, in person or by phone.
Present the topic of discussion ("I'd like your input on a new company logo. I want it to ________. I do not want it to _______. Let's discuss!") You may want to make it clear that all opinions are welcome without judgment.
You'll get a variety of opinions, some voiced more assertively than others - make note of all the ideas. One person's comment may seem off base, but an idea generated from it by someone else in the room works well for you. That's the value of brainstorming!
When the topic seems to have been sufficiently gone over, I always recommend stepping away from the project for a day or two. With fresh eyes, go back over your notes, and see what ideas jump out at you. Sometimes the right answer seems obvious after this exercise, and sometimes more discussion will help.
Don't go it alone - brainstorm the answers!
Anyone who knows me or has read my material knows that I am the "Grammar Nazi" - I have periodic rants about the level of error I see in professionally created content, and how UNprofessional it makes the writer appear. So, what needs to happen to appear professional if you don't know squat about proofreading?
It all goes back to what we learned in school: check your work! As I often say, anything you're typing in has some form of spell check - use it! However because spell checkers are far from infallible, your need to review the writing as well. Here's how I do it.
I'll begin reading a paragraph out loud because it triggers the brain to notice an error more easily than reading silently. I watch for words that are spelled correctly but are incorrect in context - the usual culprits of there/they're/their, your/you're, and so on, as well as other homonyms like threw/through, here/hear, etc. I watch for verb tenses, plural vs. possessive, grammar errors, and overall style.
But just as important is what editors call "line editing." I look at whether the writer's style is easy to understand. I look at the structure of the writing: Should that sentence be two pages further on with the rest of the discussion of that topic? Should this paragraph be broken apart? Should this be a new section or chapter?
Test yourself when you next have a writing assignment. See how well you can proofread yourself - have a dictionary nearby as backup! Taking the time to do it correctly means you can make a great impression on your readers.
And when you need a pro, you know who to call - Holly@LightseedsOffice.com!
Lately I've had a series of conversations about the difference between having a practice and having a business. Yes, there's a great deal of overlap. However one can have a practice, doing their "work", without making a business of it. It's all about mindset.
Think of a massage therapist who has studied a variety of healing techniques to expand her services. She practices out of her home as well as a healing center, and has a good client base. Is this a business? No, not necessarily.
If this practitioner has a marketing plan, client management and retention systems, a budget, plans and visions for where the work is going, then yes, she has a business. She is in "business mindset," working both ON and IN her practice.
Moderate success can be obtained if she chooses to simply "do her work." However true satisfaction for the entrepreneur comes with a business mindset, with measurable goals and visions.
Is the "just want to be a practitioner" wrong? Absolutely not! But she needs to be aware that without the business mindset, she may not be not in control of the practice - she's merely drifting. The focus on the work as a business provides a firm foundation for growth, and that growth allows her to be of better service to more people. And that's what we're all about, isn't it!
At LONG last it's spring here in Northeast Ohio, the time when many of us automatically think of spring cleaning: a thorough "turning out" and cleaning of our homes. But there's more to tidy up than that! Don't panic, it's easy! I'll help you!
When you're an entrepreneur, especially one working from home as I do, we often find that organization or messes slip from our work area into our home, and vice versa. We can take some easy steps to get organized now, in the traditional spring cleaning, to save us time later!
Work area: If you do not have a dedicated office, do you at least have a dedicated work area or do you spread all over the house? It's important not just psychologically, but also for efficiency, to set one spot as your work area. It could be the kitchen table, a small table in the living room or a guest room, or even in the basement - just be sure it contains what you need to do your work. Discipline yourself to work there, and ONLY there!
Storage: Get the storage and filing equipment you need so that your work areas remain orderly - and USE them! It's a very simple matter to take 5 minutes to put away what you are not working on. At the end of each work day, take a moment to put everything away so that you start your work day fresh every morning. Think of your work area as if you were in a restaurant: every evening, their work areas are clean and ready for the next day!
Email: I've spoken and written about this before. It's critical to periodically purge your deleted emails, and those sent long ago. Create an entry into your daily calendar that reminds you to attend to your emails at least once a day for a period of time. If you know that every afternoon at 4:00 you must spend half an hour reading, responding to, and cleaning up email, it won't seem like such a chore.
Schedule: Do you have a daily plan or do you wing it? I used to wing it ... stressed me out until I changed! I know some people who do well with scheduling each activity each day. Some schedule part of their day but allow some time for the usual surprise activities that arise. Either extreme is inefficient.
And related to this .... Calendar: Do you know what appointments you have or are you always running late or forgetting? Not only is this rude, it's a great way to lose business! Use either an online calendar like Google's or a paper one. (I like both - Google's calendar sends me daily email reminders, and paper on the wall means I can see appointments at a glance.)
Take a close look at your daily life (work or home) and see what else needs spring cleaning!
Working on a major book launch recently, I was reminded how important it is to share resources with like-minded folks. Every time you have an event of major impact to your business, it's important to recruit as many partners as you can to share the load!
Think about emails or social media posts you've seen, where a group of people come together to share their gifts if you take some sort of action: buy a book, join a workshop or teleseminar. Not only is this incredibly valuable to you as a reader or guest to the event, it's incredibly valuable to the joint venture partners as well!
Let's say you have an important new product launch...for example, a series of online workshops. Whether you have a large or a small mailing list, you know you want to attract more people to the series than you can reach alone. This is prime real estate for joint partners!
In exchange for the opportunity to market their "bonus gifts" on your workshop website and to share the workshop announcements with their followers (and thus increase their marketing reach), you will be including their gifts in your own marketing for the series, and the gifts add greatly to the perceived value of your workshop series (simultaneously increasing your marketing reach). There are many ways to structure such a joint venture - read more about it online. But remember, you don't have to do it alone! Reach out to appropriate partners and share the rewards!
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.