Have you ever noticed two people having a conversation but neither is hearing the other? I have experienced that myself - haven't we all? Did you realize there are levels of comprehension involved?
Hearing is, of course, the mechanical, physical act of perceiving sound. You hear words and comprehend them. Listening is active...you pay attention to what you are hearing. You focus, sit in silence, and take in the words and their meaning, while observing subtle cues like facial expressions and body language.
Understanding is another level entirely. What you take in is not always what is expressed. You each come from your own unique viewpoint, history, communication styles, and word usage.
To communicate effectively in a conversation, you can check in with the other person to validate what you're understanding. "What I hear you saying is...." "So, you think that...." You may find that you either missed a point, or misunderstood entirely, and this gives the other person a chance to reword their message.
Too often in our culture we listen with the intent to respond. Of course conversation is a give-and-take exchange, but true listening has the intent to understand, not always respond. Worst of all is when someone responds with, "Well, I...." Immediately turning the focus on yourself completely negates the message of the other person.
A form of listening also occurs in written exchanges like text or email. Using the correct words in the correct context, tailoring your message for your audience, and asking for feedback can help smooth the path to clear understanding. As a "listener" to a written conversation, be sure to read carefully and take the time for full comprehension before responding.
Becoming more mindful in conversation, both written and verbal, can lead to clearer understanding and better relationships!
I have had two conversations lately with women who were passionate about something that they wanted to turn into a business. Although this step takes courage, the rewards are immeasurable. It is immensely fulfilling to "work" daily in a field you are passionate about, and for/with like-minded individuals who value you and your skills.
If you have seen my story, you know that I fell into this work after a layoff many years ago forced me to re-evaluate what I was doing. I knew for a fact I couldn't face another job that didn't matter to me, and working for people with whom I didn't share a passion. I was tossed off that cliff and told to fly in a time when I didn't even know I had wings, let alone how to use them!
But I realized that I not only had valuable skills, but there was a whole community of people who needed and wanted support in their work. Lightseeds was a perfect match!
Now, if you are working in a job you love, good for you...stick with it as long as you feel that heart-drive. But if you want to explore creating your own business, do so with heart, with information, and with courage.
Last: DO it! Intend to do it, and take action...DO it!
Right after Christmas, here in Ohio we had two days of snowfall. I was lucky and "only" got 15 inches! I was grateful I didn't need to leave the house for a couple of days!
The snowstorm gave me time to play with a new toy! I've been seeking out tools to increase my service to clients, but also for clients to use in their own practices. One such tool is Lumen5, a video production tool that uses existing copy as the storyboard, and after you add images and music, the result is a professional, effective, and fun video!
Click here for an example!
Here are some suggestions for other tools to help grow your business.
For time management, RescueTime is an app which automatically tracks time you’ve spent on applications and websites and sends you detailed reports and data based on your activity, giving you an accurate picture of how you spent your day. If you think you're not easily distracted, this app will give you truth!
For online payment, PayPal still leads the pack, with Square running a close second. Both apps offer a card reader as well as easy online money management.
Do you want an easy way to recognize your network's accomplishments and special days? Look no further than Punchbowl, with its beautiful digital greeting cards and invitations in dozens of professional designs for personal and business use. The software saves your address book and sends reminders as well.
Dropbox is still the most popular (and easiest to use) of the file sharing programs. With free and paid versions, you can securely share files in any format via the web...so much easier and safer than emailing documents back and forth! I could not do my job without it.
For video conferencing, both Zoom and Skype do a great job...easy to set up and use, high quality recording, and available on any device.
I hope these suggestions will help you improve your productivity this year. Whether you're delegating to a person or to an app, the key is to increase your efficiency and to create new processes.
I recently realized that I omitted to do something I know is very important...update my image! I hadn't refreshed a couple of website pages, social media messages, images, etc., and so my public profile was not as current or accurate as it could (and should) be.
And so, I scheduled some block of time to attend to all this! I got new headshots, updated my marketing message, focused on some new branches of Lightseeds (speaking and leading workshops), and generally gave my work an overhaul. Very refreshing indeed!
I've written often about making sure that everything in your business still fits you - environment, message, client base, services, etc. You might find it easiest to break these tasks into "chunks" and schedule them on your calendar. For instance...
Image: check your headshot, logo, message
Online: social media profiles, website, public listings
Clients: your services, who you target, how those match
Expansion: Explore new ventures, look into expanding the business, offering new services
Connections: review your network and connect with those you have not spoken with in a while (or ever)
When you plan for these evaluations, knowing that they are scheduled in your calendar, you will take action regularly to ensure that your business image stays current, authentic and visible.
I have written in this forum often about organization and neatness in the work environment. Whether you work from home or not, when you work in a messy area, your thoughts and energy will also be messy. When you are organized and your work setting is enjoyable, then your thoughts are more creative and organized as well.
There's more to it, though. You may be neat and organized but your work space is a basement corner, with cement block and no windows. Energetically, what does that do to you? Without natural light, your body and mind tire easily. Hard, dull concrete stifles your senses. You may feel enclosed, restricted. So, what can you do to change this energy?
If the basement corner is your best option in your home, you can still make your workspace pleasant. Use natural lightbulbs placed overhead, mimicking sun coming through a window. Keep fresh plants or flowers in the area. Place pleasing pictures around with lovely landscapes, to offer a "window" view. Get up and move around often to avoid feeling restricted.
The best option, or course, is to work in a more pleasant surrounding. If you can, move your workspace near a window for natural lighting, avoiding direct sunlight creating glare in your eyes or on your computer. Frequently look away from your computer out the window to give your eyes a break. Stand and stretch, and admire the view, even if it's just the street outside.
When you keep in mind that your environment affects your mood and your thoughts, you can ensure that you feel your best every time you're working.
"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!
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!
I am often asked why I call myself a Spiritual Virtual Assistant. In fact, a couple of coaches over the years have recommended I drop the "Spiritual" in order to attract a more mainstream audience.
They missed the point - I don't WANT a more mainstream audience! My "peeps," my ideal clients, are those who are heart-based, who offer services that benefit their clients, mind, body and/or soul. I have worked with coaches, authors, intuitives, holistic health workers and the like. We all address all aspect of the person we’re working with.
For instance, I work with two talented business coach clients. On the surface they may not appear “holistic,” however these two women work from the heart, teaching their clients and their audiences to have happy, healthy lives, whether at work or at play. They know how important “me time” is to a busy entrepreneur, and how much of an energetic impact cooperative teamwork can have.
In my own practice, I have a holistic process in working with clients. I allow my intuition and my gut to guide me, I rely on my left brain to provide a framework, and I listen on a deep level to the words and feelings in our conversations.
So ask yourself the question, “What does it mean to ME to be holistic?” How do you do what you do in a holistic way, or do you? How do you incorporate the whole person, and sometimes the whole organization, into your teaching or your practice?
If you can’t answer the question at this point, it might be helpful to look at your practice as a whole. What processes could change to better benefit you and your client? How can your marketing more holistically reach your ideal audience? How can you redefine your work when asked, “So what do you do?”
When you feel satisfied with the answers to these questions, then you’ll know you’re truly operating from a holistic standpoint.
Are you contemplating starting or finishing that long-awaited book? Yes, long-awaited – your clients and prospects need to hear what you have to say! Think of all the experience you have in your field, all the expertise, tips, ideas, and enthusiasm. If you ever say to yourself, “Sure, but others have already said it better than I could!” then think again – nobody else has your unique filter, your individual experience, and that specific experience could be exactly what others need to connect with.
Also think about your own mentors, those from whom you have gained knowledge, a creative spark, or a push toward a goal. Imagine what it would feel like to be those things for others. It is thrilling to see the excitement generated by the transfer of ideas between like-minded people.
If you’re a “framework first” kind of person, then start with an outline. What general topics do you want to cover? Within each of those main points, jot down what you specifically want to talk about.
If you’re a “let it flow” kind of person, then do just that. Let the words flow, as if you were talking to a friend. Add the structure when you’re done – look at each idea you’ve written, and rearrange like a jigsaw puzzle into a logical order and structure for your readers.
Think too of what final format would be right – a brief e-book? A lengthier published work? A series of articles online?
There are many online resources to help you get going, and to help with final structure. First, GET IT DONE. Get the book out of your mind and onto paper, then decide how to best share with your public.
One of my talents that serves me and my clients well is an ability to devise a framework, a structure for ideas to build on. I was once described as a mason, repairing and building the pillars that hold up the roof. Structure creates order, sequence and a foundation for ideas to take off.
I have known and worked with people who only understand framework and structure. They’re adept at outlines, at plans and calendar systems. They are intent on planning and order for the sake of order alone. But what good is a structure if nothing is built with it? It becomes a bare skeleton, never fleshed out.
Neither extreme will get you very far. It’s the partnership between those two that creates worlds! And what a partnership it can be! The idea person explains the creative idea, what it means, who it is intended for, what the results would be. The mason can take that concept and develop the structure that would provide the support and plan to actually make something of it that can have real-world results.
Now one challenge can be the “language barrier.” Have you ever conversed with a left-brain IT programmer? Or have you listened to a highly intuitive writer when they’re on a creative roll? Neither of those will communicate well with the other without a bridge.
The moral of this story is that you creative types will benefit from working with a more left-brain foundation-builder, and you left-brained structure folks will benefit from working with those who can flesh out your structure. Choose your team carefully to ensure that ideas don’t die on the vine – the world needs to hear from you!
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.