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Comfort Zone, Hot Tips, Solopreneur, Travel

Traveling and Working Remotely as a Virtual Assistant

girl-with-travel-bag

Tomorrow I leave my bedroom office and take my work satchel with me for 5 weeks.

This is one of my “why’s” for leaving Corporate – because I need more than two weeks per year to get out of Las Vegas. I’ve left for a weekend here and there, but this will be awhile – so here are a few of the things that I’m making sure I have to get my work done over there!

A nice big personal carry-on item

The standard measure measurement for a personal item is 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches, or 22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm.

This needs to be big enough to safely store and protect your laptop, your neatly wrapped cords (note: do NOT just throw cords in a bag. Use the little Velcro strap to safely wrap. I have had wires and connectors stop working from being squished and banged around in a personal bag), and your wireless mouse. Try and have a little pouch for your mouse to protect it and keep it free from dust and debris. Also your external hard drive and a Mophie. Don’t forget a power converter depending on where you’re traveling to.

Fossil Bag available on Amazon

I my go-to purse is a small to medium crossbody bag that will easily fit within my personal carry-on bag. That’s how I’ve always managed to get both a purse and a personal item onboard, not to mention my rollerboard.

Try not to have more than 3 files if possible in your computer bag if you can help it. The goal of being virtual is to have everything on your computer, so less paper = less weight and less bulk.

A good VPN

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network is good for a couple of reasons: One, it protects and encrypts your work. Especially if you are using internet cafes or public Wi-Fi. Second, some countries will not allow you to access certain sites. Some American sites will not allow users from certain countries to access their sites. The VPN allows you to look like you are logging in from wherever it is you want to look like you’re logging in from. No matter where I’m traveling, my VPN allows me to log in from San Francisco. This is something you need to have up and running before you travel, fo because you may be unable to access it once you are overseas depending on the laws of the country you are visiting. I use Strong VPN and have had no problems with it for over 3 years.

Lots of Skype Credit

Part of my job as a Virtual Assistant is making phone calls – I will still need to do this on the road. So far the least expensive and least hassle-free way to call Land Lines and Mobile Phones seems to be Skype. I can call North America for $6.99 per month or $0.03 per minute. There may be other avenues to try but this seems the easiest to me.

Miscellaneous

Lots of pens, your business cards, a mini-stapler, and any office supplies you use on a regular basis.

I always bring a face mask just in case I’m sitting next to Typhoid Mary. Seriously, I became very sick with the flu once. All because of a coughing, nose-blowing passenger I had to sit shoulder to shoulder with for 4 hours in coach. Now I travel with a face mask, just in case.

Moisturizer! For your face, lip balm or gloss to keep your lips silky, and hand cream or body lotion for everywhere else.  You can become a fossil on those long-haul flights without it!

Everybody is individual about their go-to items for working on the go but these are some off the top of my head. I would love to hear what you can’t live without as you roam around while working. Thanks for reading and see you on the other side of the Atlantic!

Anxiety, Comfort Zone, Empowerment, Hot Tips, Procrastination, Wellness

5 Hacks to Escape Procrastination

Jim-hunt-procrastination
Procrastination has the power to keep you from enjoying and succeeding in your life and career.

It robs you of positive self-esteem. Left unchecked, it can derail your intentions and aspirations.

Here are 5 easy hacks to overcome excessive procrastination in your life that you can start using today.

1. It’s OK to be OK.

Many folks who endulge in procrastination (myself included) get hung up on “I can’t do it unless I can do it perfectly.” Liken this to taking a test in school – the student may think to herself, “I can’t get an A on this test, so I refuse to do it.” This choice results in an F on the test. On the other hand, she might more rationally think to herself, “I know I’m not going to do well on this test but I’ll give it my best shot.” This decision usually results in being average. Would you rather have a C or an F on that test? Sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to give a C performance.

Megan Bruneau, writing for Forbes Magazine says, “Because we have unrealistically, inflexibly high expectations for ourselves, we feel overwhelmed and paralyzed. We don’t want to make a mistake or screw up. One of the easiest ways to prevent perfectionism-related procrastination is to aim for “good enough”–75% or 80%. You know that saying “Perfect is the enemy of good?” Truth: If every time I sat down to write an article, I tried to write THE BEST article I’ve ever written, I’d never produce a thing. Aiming for “good enough” empowers me to actually press the Publish button. “ 

“Done is better than perfect.” — Sheryl Sandberg

2. Schedule deadline reminders.

If you know something is due on Friday, plug several reminders during the week into your smart phone or planner. This will remind you to get started, or to schedule time to work on it.

If necessary, schedule several reminders for each day leading up to the deadline. Tell yourself in advance you’re only allowed to ignore one of those reminders.  Then hold yourself accountable to act on the rest. You may surprise yourself and actually finish ahead of schedule.

Wouldn’t finishing early feel great?

3. Get some fresh air.

Often the culprits at the heart of procrastination are that we’re mentally fatigued, bored or unmotivated to continue working — or even to start a difficult task. Research shows us that taking a walk outdoors, looking at plants and trees, breathing deeply, listening to birds, or even children playing in the playground has the power to help us regain alertness and mental clarity. It enables us to regain focus when we get back to our office. According to a University of Michigan study, psychology researchers “found memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent after people spent an hour interacting with nature.”

Lifehack.org states that “Science has shown that going out into the wild and enjoying nature can double or even triple your brain activity and get your creative juices flowing. Set work aside when you feel overwhelmed with a task and get something like a twenty minute walk or so outdoors. It will do you a lot of good, boost your fitness levels, and strengthen your willpower to get stalled projects moving again.”

4. The Old-Fashioned Pros and Cons List.

You already know how to do this.

What are the pros to my procrastinating this activity? I can watch more TV. I can surf Facebook longer.

What are the cons? I will feel more anxiety. I may sleep poorly tonight  worrying about it.

What are the pros to getting it done? I will feel like a burden has been lifted from my shoulders. I will feel better about myself.

Cons of getting this done? That’s funny – I can’t think of any cons for getting it done.

5. Reward your successes.

Procrastinators often don’t allow themselves rewards. This ties into the perfectionism trap – “If I didn’t do something perfectly, why should I deserve a reward?”

Throw that idea out the window! Just getting through a challenging activity, no matter how small, is a big win. Treat it as such – whether writing it in a journal, or on your whiteboard or on a steno pad, make a list of all your accomplishments during the week. Sort of a post-to-do list. Give yourself a pat on the back, or a bubble bath or treat yourself to whatever activity makes you really happy. Indulge yourself when you accomplish something you really didn’t want to do.

Dale Carnegie said,

“Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”

Be kind to yourself – give yourself some credit!

By approaching tough and/or dreaded tasks a little differently, you can change negative behaviors into good habits that will serve you in positive ways and put you on the path to success in all that you do.

Thank you for reading and I would love to hear any tips and tricks you may have to share for overcoming the urge to procrastinate.

One more alternative to getting past unwanted but necessary tasks is to delegate them to a competent Virtual Assistant. Find out more about the services and packages I can assist you with here.

 

Comfort Zone, Solopreneur, Travel

A Solopreneur Needs a Travel-Savvy Virtual Assistant

Are you a solopreneur who is on the road a lot?

When you’re a solopreneur, who takes care of your customers and clients when you’re traveling?

woman-in-airport

Getting Help

Do you need someone to hold down the fort while you’re away? You would likely feel more comfortable with a seasoned admin professional who:

  • Has worked in the airline and travel industry
  • Has been heavily involved in travel arrangement, event prep and registration
  • Delivers highly rated Customer Service (see my LinkedIn profile!)
  • Is an experienced long-haul flight traveler, with lots of tips and tricks up her sleeve to make  your flight more pleasant!

I am that person. Allow me to help you affordably with:

  • Travel research. Finding you the most convenient flights and lodging with your budget in mind. Whether you’re looking for a high-end hotel, a comfortable AirBNB room or something in between, I can assist with that.
  • Make sure your shuttle arrangements to and from your destination are in order.
  • Reserve your rental car with or without GPS.
  • I help with little details like researching cellphone requirements, weather reports, and local attractions at your destination as well as local restaurants and internet cafes. Need reservations made? I can do that.

While you’re away, I can:

  • Take your calls and messages. Follow up with clients. Engage on your social media.
  • Take care of other important administrative tasks that need doing while you’re away from your desk.

man-and-taxi

Don’t go it alone!

A solopreneur does not have to do everything themselves. You’re not alone! Put your mind at ease by delegating travel arrangement and client care to a capable Virtual Assistant. That’s me!

Wellness

Are Freelancers at Risk for Heart Disease?

woman at desk 9.10.17Back in the day, they called it “secretarial spread” – that lovely condition where your rear end grows in proportion to the level of sedentary job you have.

Even so, in a corporate setting one can run up and down stairs, cross the campus and move from building to building or department to department. If you’re lucky, it’s a small hike to the copier, and with effort you can pretty mindlessly add steps to your step-counter.

Not so much in your home office. 

According to Prevention Magazine here’s what sitting all day does for you: “First, chairs and couches lead to trouble for the simple reason that they support your body weight. With a chair holding you up, your ankles, knees, and hips stiffen; your muscles weaken; your shoulders round forward; and your back hunches. Even worse, your circulation slows, which depresses your metabolism.”

It gets worse.

The Harvard Heart Letter states that, The health hazards of not moving much are wide ranging, says Dr. Joanne Foody, who directs the Cardiovascular Wellness Center at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “While we often think of the dangers of inactivity in terms of worsening cardiovascular health, there are a myriad of negative effects,” she says. The current study documented higher rates of type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cancer-related deaths in very sedentary people. An unrelated study has linked more sitting and less activity with an increased risk of developing dementia.”

If you’re a freelancer, how do you get more movement in your day and avoid the pitfalls of a sedentary occupation? It’s a bit of a challenge, but it can be done. Try these activities on for size:

Walk or run early in the day. By getting out early, you eliminate the excuse to procrastinate about exercise. You increase your heart rate, get the body and mind primed and invigorated for your day. You increase your level of alertness, and endorphins kick in to set the tone for positive well-being. By the time you are ready to sit down at the computer, your mind is firing on all cylinders and you can think and react quickly to whatever is on your desk.

Set some Pomodoros throughout your day. What is a Pomodoro? Besides being the Italian word for tomato, the Pomodoro Technique was a simple time management system developed by a college student where he set a timer (shaped like a tomato) for 25 minute increments with a 5 minute break at the end. During that 25 minutes he intensely focused on one thing at a time and did not allow any distraction to interrupt his focus.

After completing your 25 minute Pomodoro, get up, use the restroom or grab a glass of water. With regards to movement, the key for a freelancer is not to allow hours to go by without moving from your chair. Use your 5 minute break to do some house-walking – yes, house-walking is a thing. Do 10 laps around your kitchen/dining area before sitting down again or a few marches up and down the stairs. Use a step counter and keep track of your movement. Set a realistic step goal for yourself and do what it takes to reach it.

Use those Pomodoro breaks for some simple stretching. Prevention Magazine has 6 easy stretches for someone to perform in a home office – no need to do them all at once, but try incorporating them throughout your day.  Do you like Yoga? Cobra and Cat Lift/Cat Arch are good stretches for your back, which can tend to hunch at a sedentary job. A good leg stretch can be done by getting your butt as close to the wall as possible with your back flat on the floor and your legs straight up against the wall. Sit there for a minute or so and feel the stretch.

Virtual Assistants, Online Marketers, Web Developers or anybody who spends long hours in their home office will benefit by frequent movement and allowing yourself an exit strategy from “being in the zone”. Your brain and your rear end will thank you for it!

Thanks for reading and I’d love you to share your ideas about how you incorporate more movement in your day, in my comments section.

Facebook Management, Hair Salons, Hot Tips

Hair Salon Facebook Package

Busy Salon Owners and Stylists know that Facebook is a key component of their marketing strategy and don’t want to fall behind the curve. Facebook is on the verge of having Two Billion users, therefore your customers are definitely using Facebook! Don’t miss out on maximizing Facebook for your benefit!

blond beachy sample
Sample Custom Graphic with your branding added

I am offering an affordable monthly Facebook Management Package that includes the following awesomeness:

1. Free initial 30-minute consultation to discuss branding, color and font choices. Can be via Skype or in person.

2. Monthly 15-minute conversation to review the previous month and ideas for the upcoming month.

3. Create an initial digital graphic/flyer for you to engage your customers in store. This encourages your customers to like your page, leave reviews, or post selfies of their new look, therefore increasing the traffic on your Facebook business page!

Monthly package includes:

• Posting Monday through Friday for a total of 20-23 days per month, starting on the first Monday of the month.

• 1 post per day for each of the weekdays
     Monday – Graphic
     Tuesday – Article
     Wednesday – Graphic
     Thursday – Article
     Friday – Graphic

• I will engage with audience by providing questions/polls for them to answer and in addition, will interact with and alert you if you need to follow up.

• I will create 4 customized and uniquely branded graphics per month for your Facebook page and apply hashtags. These are yours to keep – you can use these graphics on other forms of social media such as Instagram or Twitter.

• You will provide 8-10 photographs per month of customer hairstyles, nail designs and / or makeup designs (and provide preferred wording – simple description of what is being featured, possibly customer first name) and I will edit if necessary and apply hashtags. Customers will enjoy being featured on your site, and will likely share with their friends!

• I will curate 8-10 articles (or post articles or product reviews that you provide) and apply hashtags. It may mean more product sales for you if customers can read about the products that you offer in your shop.

Promotion for your salon/services for only $89.00 per month!

Contact me today so that we can get you started on making your Facebook business page SHINE!

 

 

Empowerment, Introvert, Networking

In-Person Networking for Beginners… Especially for Introverts! Part 2

One of the things you can do as a “new networker” is explore different kinds of networking groups. A good place to start is on Facebook or Meetup.com. Do a search on Facebook for “(insert your city here) entrepreneur”. Many networking groups maintain a Facebook page, and if what you find isn’t necessarily a group that meets, you can certainly make a general post asking people about local networking groups.

Same with Meetup.com – search in business, entrepreneurs or even women empowerment.

There are some high level, well organized networking groups such as Le Tip or BNI. These have a somewhat steep membership fee, a weekly fee around $20.00, and they lock out competition, meaning if they accept you, you will be the only one in your field or occupation to be in that group. They also require you to bring and share leads. There is quite a lot of pressure to do this – it is a requirement of joining the group. Also, you are expected to attend every week. If you can’t attend, you are expected to find a substitute. For that reason, I am not ready for that kind of a networking group, because I don’t think my still small network would be of value to that group, nor do I want to spend that kind of money to join. However if someone invites you to tag along as a guest, go for it! You can go to two meetings as a guest, and in the case of BNI, you can go as a substitute for a member. That’s what I did.

I have found a couple of groups here in Las Vegas that are more low-key than the BNI-type groups, and much less expensive. You can certainly share leads and you might be the vehicle to introduce someone to someone else as a referral, but it is not mandatory – it is just a naturally occurring aspect of what networking really is.

Remember, the people you meet may not become your client, but they become a connection, and connections are who connect you to the people who will eventually become your client.

mingling

Try to remind yourself that everybody you see as you enter into the networking group was a newbie once, just like you. Be prepared, bring lots of business cards, SMILE, practice your elevator pitch in the car before you get there and look for the person who looks lost and you will be able to settle right in.

Here are some sites to help you with your elevator pitch if it needs some work:

From The Balance
YouTube Video from Michael Hyatt
From Sabre

If you are a new networker like me, I would love to hear about your networking experiences in the comments section. I hope you will take a deep breath and put yourself out there. It’s an opportunity to learn a lot about being an entrepreneur, to meet like-minded people, hear about products and services you might not have otherwise thought about or known where to find, as well as developing relationships with your future customers and clients.

Comfort Zone, Empowerment, Introvert, Networking

In-Person Networking for Beginners… especially for Introverts! Part One

One of the best ways to find new clients is to attend networking events in your local area. Sounds easy enough, right? You find a Meetup.com event, you sign up, you attend. No big deal. What if you are an introvert who struggles in social settings, especially when you don’t know a soul? For me, the anticipation of stepping into a room with lots of vivacious, chatty people makes my chest feel tight, makes my awkward meter feels like it’s going to go through the roof, and for some crazy reason I feel like cotton-mouth sets in and that I’m going to trip all over my tongue. So why do I put myself through this?

Let me tell you why.

One, the obvious. The more eyeballs I can get in front of and the more people I can connect with, the better chance I have of finding that person who is interested in what I have to offer. Facebook is great, reaching out to people online is a viable option, but connecting with someone face to face is a great start to developing a relationship with somebody. You can get a much better feel as to whether or not you “click” with this person – and whether or not it’s someone you’d like to get to know better , even if they don’t become one of your customers. They may never become a client, but they may become a friend.

Another reason – these people get “it”. They understand all about this crazy thing we do when we quit a reliable job and a steady income. Instead of looking at you with a raised eyebrow, they can be your biggest cheerleaders. Verbal high fives and encouraging comments flow freely in these meetings. It’s like you’ve just discovered your new tribe, that until now, hadn’t realized was out there. In my brief experience of attending networking meetings, people are universally supportive of new entrepreneurs who have made the leap from full-time employment to becoming our own bosses.

So back to my tight chest, cotton-mouth and awkward meter… how do I get around that?

So far my drive to these events have been a minimum of 20 minutes – that car drive is my own private little locker room where I give myself my own pep talk. I turn the radio off, I practice my elevator pitch, I repeat affirmations, whatever it takes to get myself in a more self-confident frame of mind. For some this comes naturally, and for others, like me – it requires some effort but self-confidence can be learned!

Another thing I have found is when I get there a bit early, only a few people have arrived. I feel a little less overwhelmed when the group is small and the atmosphere is calmer and less noisy. I can settle in a little better, and get over those initial butterflies (and they do dissipate, I promise!) than when I show up late and arrive to a deafening chattiness level.

Something else that has really helped is inevitably, there is always somebody who is standing alone, and often it’s somebody who is there for the first time. I muster the courage to approach that person first. More often than not, they are new and I think they’re relieved that somebody else made the first move. When I focus on others, it helps me to forget about my own self-consciousness.

As far as the cotton-mouth problem, I solved that after my first couple of events by making sure I ALWAYS have my water bottle with me. I’m sure it’s just nerves, but by bringing my own drink, it’s one less thing I have to worry about.  And when I do give my elevator pitch, I’ve learned if I slow down just a little, I’m less likely to trip over my words. I try to remember that if I do stumble, my own impression of my flub is magnified x 100 compared to the people who are listening. I promise you they are not sitting there criticizing every verbal morsel that leaves your lips. I know this because a girl I was sitting next to lamented on how badly she did and I honestly thought she did fine. I didn’t pick up on any of the things she was so worried about. If nothing else, this helped me to see that we can over-inflate our shortcomings in our minds.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of In-Person Networking for Beginners… especially for Introverts!

Comfort Zone, Empowerment

Empowerment in doing Guy Stuff

As a wife and a mom of 3 sons, I have rarely had to concern myself with mechanical things.

There was usually an available male to take care of that for me.

Fast forward to my empty nest and a husband who is currently 8,000+ miles away and it’s time to get my left brain on and build myself an office chair.
new chair parts_Fotor
No big deal, right? For someone with my lack of mechanical talent, it’s very empowering to be able to do this myself. Not to mention that my $10.00, 40-pound behemoth scavenged from Deseret Industries was giving me severe NBS (Numb-Butt-Syndrome) and attacking the backs of my calves with that big metal ring… they may be semi-permanently bruised…

Anyway, building my Amazon Basics Low-Back Office Chair was relatively painless. In less than 30 minutes I had opened the box and built the chair. I’d been kind of procrastinating and staring at the carton for the past week and now I feel kind of silly about that. It’s really comfortable, my butt isn’t falling asleep anymore (Yay!) and it has 4.5 stars on Amazon Prime (522 reviews) so I’m pretty confident it’s going to be a great chair. It’s lightweight and spins really smoothly. No tools necessary – it includes the hex wrench which is the only tool you need.

Not to go quietly, Big Behemoth gave me one last little poke right in the shin as I was dragging him down the stairs to the curb. Hopefully he can induce buttock numbness on someone else for awhile.

old chair_Fotor

Just a little leap out of the comfort zone today but it almost always feels good once it’s finished. I’d love to hear about your comfort zone off-ramp experiences!

Anxiety

How I am plowing through Startup Anxiety

This little blog post is going out into the universe today; probably not to be read by anyone but me for a while, but the first post can’t be written until fingers actually hit the keyboard, so ready or not, here I come.  Why might the first post I write be about anxiety? Well, let’s face it – I quit a decent, but unfulfilling job 2 weeks ago and I am technically unemployed. Unemployment has a tendency to make one anxious. It wasn’t an impulsive decision, but one I’ve rolled around in my brain for years… and frankly many months ago I couldn’t see myself doing what I was doing in the long term. So I planned for the change. I got up early and went to bed late in and around work; preparing and planning. I tried to squirrel away cash when I could and am super grateful for a supportive husband who believes in this aspiration of mine to be my own boss. Before I knew it, my last day arrived. And now my safety net is has a big hole in it, and I am fairly nervous about this!
nail biting

That being said, I have been researching strategies for calming myself off the ledge that seem to be working – and lots of intrepid souls have paved the way before me, so there is lots of good information out there to help quell those moments of overwhelm. First and foremost, I need to remind myself that worst case scenarios HAVEN’T HAPPENED YET. That’s the beauty of starting your startup! Dan Zadra said, “Worry is a misuse of imagination.” It is kind of freeing to still be blissfully unaware of difficulties that will probably eventually crop up, but haven’t yet. My imagination can be put to better use with the other tasks at hand.

“Worry is a misuse of imagination.” – Dan Zedra

Something else that has been helpful is to give myself permission to be “Good Enough”. I don’t know if it’s because I’m an oldest child, or motivated by praise, but I am pretty good at raking myself over the coals when I don’t do everything perfectly.  Lisa Evans, writer for Entrepreneur Magazine, says “While there’s nothing wrong with aiming high, perfectionism causes you to look at the world in all-or-nothing, black-or-white terms. This kind of thinking results in exacerbated stress levels and can be debilitating in our working lives. Imagine if you expect your product to be absolutely perfect. It may never make it to market.”

Another strategy that has been positive for me is just deciding to do something, even if it doesn’t feel perfect yet. Blogger Erik Barker writes about this. He says that people who are anxious have a need to control everything in order to reduce stress, “So when you make a decision, your brain feels you have control. And, as I’ve talked about before, a feeling of control reduces stress. But here’s what’s really fascinating: Deciding also boosts pleasure.” Deciding something early on in my business to have in place is way better for me than stressing out about having it perfect before I can move forward to something else. Get it in place and if I want to improve or upgrade, there’s plenty of time for that later.

Lastly, writing down “the thing” that has been freaking me out and examining it closely instead of avoiding it has been super helpful. It almost requires a split personality – I have to look at “the thing” and step out of myself and think about how I would tell one of my kids to handle it. All of the sudden I get all logical on myself and can see things more clearly as they are and not how I imagine them to be.

So to recap –
1. Worst case scenarios haven’t happened yet.
2. It’s ok to be good enough. Don’t wait for perfection in order to start where you are.
3. Make decisions. Circumstances don’t need to be perfect, just decide something, then do it.
4. That thing that is freaking you out? Name it. Look at it. Don’t run away from it. How would you tell a loved one to handle that thing? Tell it to yourself the same way.

Starting a business has been nerve-wracking and exhilarating at the same time, but I keep remembering my why, I take lots of deep breathing breaks; I pick something to work on and don’t allow myself to be paralyzed. Lots of things are new to me, but I’ve done hard things before. This is just a new hard thing with lots of blessings and benefits that being someone else’s employee can’t provide.

If you are reading this today, I would love to hear your strategies or tips for overcoming startup anxiety. Thanks for reading my first blog post!