Hot Tips, Travel

Stress-Free Travel: My Top 10 Tips!

One of my reasons for becoming a Virtual Assistant was to have the freedom to work from anywhere. My family is all over the world (literally!!) and I’m always looking for ways to make my trips more manageable and enjoyable whether I travel for a vacation or business. I don’t enjoy feeling rushed and crazy before a trip, and I’m sure you don’t either. Here are some of my favorite stress-free tips (in no particular order) that will keep you feeling as mellow as you can, while you travel to your next adventure.

happy travel girl

  1. Itinerary Folder: Grab a brightly colored folder (the kind with the little silver brads on the inner spine) and some page protectors. Your flight info, your hotel info, things to do, embassy phone numbers, photocopies of your credit cards (front and back) and passport – it all goes here. Keep this travel folder in your personal item. Include any important phone numbers back home, mobile provider, emergency contacts, etc. Stress-free advantage? Important information is all in one place.
  2. Groupon! Yes, Groupon. Going to Paris? Rome? Dubai? London? They all have Groupon. Try out some interesting restaurants or excursions and don’t pay full price for them! Google Groupon + the city you are traveling to, purchase some Groupons, and put those in your Itinerary folder. One thing about Groupon overseas, they may not accept the mobile app, so print out your coupons before you leave. Stress-free advantage? Save money while sampling the local cuisine.
  3. Global Entry: I cannot tell you how much I LOVE GLOBAL ENTRY. Caveat: You have to be an American to use Global Entry. Added benefit of Global Entry? You also get TSA Precheck. How many hours have I saved by not waiting in long lines? So many! I love, love, love it. Best $100.00 you’ll ever spend if you travel often. TSA Precheck is $85.00, so spring for the extra $15… it’s good for 5 years. Stress-free advantage? Zoom past all those poor souls who don’t have Global Entry when you’re tired and are almost home.
  4. Travel cubes. Travel cubes, where have you been all my life? These are great! Use them! They also keep things a little more compact in your suitcase – not as much as a space bag (the kind you suck all the air out of), but then they also don’t need excessive ironing when you get to your destination. Stress-free advantage? They keep things nice and organized inside your checked bag and the contents don’t end up looking like a mosh pit.
  5. Unpack your suitcase immediately. Hang it up, air it out, put it away. You will be so much happier if you can look for things in a closet or drawer rather than tearing through your suitcase. Stress-free advantage? You can find your stuff.
  6. Contact your mobile phone provider a few days in advance of traveling outside of the US. They will be able to tell you phone, text and data charges for your destination, and whether or not you need to alter any of your phone’s settings in order to use it overseas. It may be worth your while to purchase a global phone plan and then cancel it when you get home – $20 or so could save you a lot of $$$ in the long run. Stress-free advantage? A phone that works when you get where you’re going and no disturbing financial surprises when you get home.
  7. I use a big travel tote and let this be my “purse” or personal item. A typical personal item measures 7x15x16 inches. Large enough to fit my laptop, cords, and a smaller purse that I will use when not on the plane. It has a good strong strap on it, and is big enough to hold the things I will need during my flight. I don’t put my laptop in my roller board because there have been times where for one reason or another I needed to check that. If you’re one of the last groups to board, you always run the risk of them insisting on your roller board being checked. Stress-free advantage? No need to freak out if the flight attendant tells you your roller board must be checked.
  8. Leave your itinerary with a close friend or relative that has hotel phone numbers on it. Stress-free advantage? Knowing loved ones won’t worry about you so much.
  9. Get to the airport early! This is so basic but I’ve seen so many crazy people at the airport having unnecessary meltdowns. Why do that to yourself? If you have bags to check, arrive at the airport a minimum of 90 minutes before your flight is scheduled for domestic flights and 2 hours for international. Emphasis on the word MINIMUM. If you can, give yourself a little extra cushion. Rest comfortably at your gate, catch up with a friend, do a crossword puzzle, whatever. Stress-free advantage? You won’t be the sweaty, crazed last person on the plane, or worse yet, the person who is on the wrong side of the closed gate door.
  10. Keep a pre-printed packing list. Don’t reinvent the wheel every time you travel. And to make life easier, I have a comprehensive free checklist that I would be happy to send you. Complete the info below and it will be on its way to you. Stress-free advantage? You won’t forget anything important!

    Yes! I want a copy of your free Travel Checklist!

Please let me know if you plan on trying out any of these travel ideas and also if you have something that really makes your travel experience less stressful! Bon Voyage!

Empowerment, Facebook Management, Hot Tips, Scams, Solopreneur

New Scam on Facebook to Watch Out For

Apparently there is a new scam happening on Facebook that you may not have noticed yet, but affects small businesses and entrepreneurs.

I discovered the new scam happening on Facebook like this: I got a notification suggesting I add a friend who was my coworker at… my business.  I am a Sole Proprietor, so how can this be? I guarantee there is no Bryan Conner working for my company…

new facebook scam

The first thing I did was take a screen shot.

The second thing I did was attempt to report him – however, this is where it gets tricky. Facebook gives you about 6 options to report a profile. He’s not impersonating me or someone I know. He’s annoying me, but Facebook doesn’t allow me to explain how. I’m not sure if it’s a fake account or not. I don’t know if he’s using a different name he uses in everyday life, and I don’t know if he’s underage.

The last available option is “This profile represents a business or organization”. I clicked that, however there is no option to explain what is going on – which is that this individual is pretending to be an employee of my SOLE PROPRIETORSHIP.

The third thing I did was to ask about this on a Facebook group of Virtual Assistants. Another VA kindly forwarded this link to me from Facebook which basically says, “You can’t do a durned thing about it.”  However, within that “business help” I am able to leave feedback to the developers. I then explained what was going on, with a link to the offenders profile page. I’ll update if Facebook responds on this.

What else can I do? The individual is not currently showing up as a Team Member on my Facebook Business Page. I can’t ban him, because he has never “liked” my page.  He publicly posted his start date on his Facebook page. I publicly called him out on it via a comment. I can block him from my personal Facebook page, which I did.

As to why someone would do this, one VA commented that individuals are doing this to obtain credit or a visa. There were a couple of other VAs that this has happened to. The Facebook users that are doing this have a tendency to be from the Philippines or South Asian countries.

While not devastating to the operation of my business, it is annoying because Mr. Shirtless Wonder is affecting my brand. And Facebook is not being diligent about responding to “fake news”, at least not as far as it affects my business.

If you are a small business owner, you may want to click on your business link from time to time so that you are aware if someone is doing the same thing to you. As far as I can tell, he has no access to my business page other than the link on his profile.

Edited to add: Facebook responded over the weekend and basically said, “Thanks for contacting us but there’s nothing we can do. You can block Bryan if you like.” Then they give you the 5 emoticons to rate their response. I gave them the mad face. At the very least they then offer you an opportunity to explain your dissatisfaction with their response and I was able to vent in more detail. Facebook needs to figure out a better way of handling this, because it is basically turning a blind eye to fraud.

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.

 

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!