Ensure You Get The Holiday You Deserve

Ensure You Get The Holiday You Deserve

When you run your own business going away on holiday is a big deal. A very big deal.

 

On the one hand you have worked hard, harder than you ever thought you would have to and you deserve a break. However, you have built up this business and nurtured it, how can you possibly leave it unattended for two weeks?

 

If the thought of taking some time off is filling you with impending down-time doom now’s the time to plan some cover and hire a Virtual Assistant.

 

 

Tasks your VA could cover in your absence:

 

Call answering or voicemail checks. Some VA’s offer a full call answering service and others can pick up your voicemails at regular intervals. You will need to decide how often you want a summary of the calls sent through or whether you are happy for just the exceptionallyurgent to be forwarded. Depending on your relationship with your VA and how much she knows about your business you may be happy for her to follow-up on some of the calls.

 

Email monitoring. However tempting it is to stick on your Out-Of-Office message if you receive new client queries and orders via email you may prefer to have your VA to monitor your inbox. Set expectations before you leave on what should be flagged, forwarded or answered to ‘keep warm’. Create a template email your VA can use if need be.

 

Invoices. Depending on how long you are going to be away you may want invoices to raised and sent in your absence. You may also prefer that your suppliers’ invoices are paid on time rather than left for your return.

 

Social media. Having built up a good following on your Twitter, Facebook or Instagram accounts the last thing you want is to leave it unattended for days on end. By all means tell your readers you will be away and maybe post some personal photos and updates from your holiday if you wish but spend some time beforehand scheduling posts. Your VA can help you with this and also be on hand to check your accounts and ensure the scheduled posts have gone live and that nothing has happened in the news that would suddenly make your post insensitive! If you prefer not to use scheduling tools then provide your VA with your intended posts and she can upload. A VA can also monitor comments and messages and approve new members

 

Post. Businesses do still receive post. If you are going away for a while a local VA can pop in and sort out the junk from the important mail and action if required.

 

House-check. Finding a local VA you trust means you may also have somebody who can pop round to your house or office once or twice and just check everything is safe and secure. Some VAs will drop off and collect dry cleaning, get an essentials shop in for your return or wait for deliveries.

 

Pets. Cats, goldfish, rabbits. As well as checking your premises or home is safe you may find your local VA would be happy to feed your pet.

 

How much you outsource and how often you choose to ‘check-in’ is up to you but finding a good Virtual Assistant you can trust and rely on will go some way to ensuring you enjoy your holiday and even manage to switch off. Well at least some of the time!

 

If you would benefit from some support while you are away do drop me a message or email me on trudie@takealettervirtualadmin.com and ensure your holiday dates are in my diary.

 

How to get a grip on your inbox

How to get a grip on your inbox

If you dread opening your emails and one of your recurring task list items is an inbox detox you are in good company. Many of us have inbox overload nightmares but here are a few ways you can take back control:

Delete!

Email is designed to be a timely way of communicating. That’s not to say you should be a slave to it (see below) but if you have emails that are showing as unread and are over a few weeks old ask yourself why you are keeping them. The chances are the pertinent reason for the email has passed so delete.

Empty your junk folder. There is a reason you have put stuff there, either manually or automatically. You might not ever intend to read those 4,237 (if you are lucky) unread emails but you still know they are there!

Delete the earlier versions of current email threads. Only the latest really needs to be kept. And while you’re at it do the same with the ones in your sent folder.

Unsubscribe!

How many of us thought that post GDPR deadline day we would magically see far less newsletters, promotions and junk? I admit, maybe for a month or so mine did go down, a little, but as it write this mid December I am being bombarded with retail emails promising me huge discounts and Christmas Eve delivery!

There are programmes such as Unroll.me that can do this for you but if you prefer a little more say in the matter (you still have to promise to be ruthless) put aside time during a quieter period to manually unsubscribe to everything you do not read regularly.

Don’t be a slave!

Fix specific times through the day to open your emails. First thing, last thing and maybe a couple of other times mid morning and mid afternoon.

Close your email programme down. Yes really! If you have work to do hearing that ping and seeing the preview of an email pop up in the corner is distracting and you will be tempted away from the task you are working on. Unless you are waiting for an urgent response most email can wait a few hours.

Simply file!

There has been lots written about the best way to file your emails and I have seen some good and some very bad. The worst filing system will take longer time to maintain and use than it saves so think about it carefully. If your’s is not working well for you change it.

I find it best not to use subjects or senders as a filing system. Email programmes have great search functions and you can find most emails you need by searching using the senders name or the topic. These type of folder systems can end up very long and unwieldy.

Try using a simple ‘to do list’ type folder system with your overall inbox then file within that under when it needs to be dealt with:

‘Today’

‘This Week’

‘This month’

‘For information only’ (but don’t use this as another storage system for junk you never read!)

Get help!

Having a tidy and efficient inbox is vital. It is good for your wellbeing, one less thing to be thinking about and will ensure vital business is not lost through missing information or orders that have just disappeared in amongst the clutter.

However, if even the thought of doing the above housekeeping on your emails is bringing you out in sweats many virtual assistants, including myself, offer an inbox detox service, either as a one-off to get you in a good place or as an on-going maintenance or email management service.

Drop me a message and find out how easy it can be to get control of your inbox.

 

Are You a Grumpy Business Superhero?

Are You a Grumpy Business Superhero?

Whatever type of business you run there are times when you just need a little assistance. It may be a one-off to get back control or maybe just an hour a week to update your Facebook page. You may need proper business support.

*  Just because you run your own business doesn’t mean you have to be a superhero and do it all.

*  Just because you are a whizz with a drill, pen, wrench or pair of tweezers doesn’t mean you love hanging out on social media even though you know it’s where your clients are.

*  Just because you chose to go self-employed doesn’t mean you can’t spend time with the family at weekends.

*  Just because you love your work doesn’t mean you don’t worry at night about getting behind with the paperwork.

* Just because you can (after a fashion) ‘do the admin’ doesn’t mean you should have to.

 

There’s no point being a superhero if you are a tired, grumpy, resentful one!

 

Why not message me today and find out how I can help you.

 

School Holidays for the Self-employed

School Holidays for the Self-employed

What advantages did you write down when you decided to be self-employed in the first place? Better work-life balance? More quality time with your family? If you are a self-employed parent chances are working during the school holidays probably featured near the top of the disadvantage column. However, with some forethought, you should be able to combine spending time with your children and your business without too much guilt!

 

You will know the dates of the school holidays well in advance so make a plan

  • The ratio of parent/business owner hat you will be need to wear will depend on the age of your kids but, even if you don’t already, you may choose to work from home at least some of the time.
  • Get ahead of your workload if you can to allow some breathing space when you need it.
  • Teenagers can be left to their own devices (mostly) and they often very helpfully don’t get up too early meaning you can make the most of the peace and quiet first thing.
  • Sports clubs and social activities are great resources even if you have to check emails while waiting for them in the car or nearby café.
  • Take up any offers of help from relatives – grandparents, other family members – you get a few hours (or days) to work and they have some quality time together.
  • Share with other parents – schedule in swaps with others who need to work.
  • Plan ahead with your clients – be honest! Tell them you are not working that week or only working on specific days, or if only working late or early. Warn them you will be working but might not be contactable on the phone or immediately on the email and use your out of office for down time.
  • Don’t take on work that is very important or time specific, even if you are sure you can manage. Chances are something will happen to upset your plan just when you have promised a tight deadline.
  • Spend the time on your own business housekeeping. You won’t feel so bad having to break off from writing a blog post or tidying up your accounts to sort something out.
  • Make packed lunches and snacks up just as you would on a school day. It will save time later on.
  • Take time out each morning to get everyone outside for a walk or a visit to the playground. You won’t feel as guilty later when they are left with their screens.

Don’t forget those advantages you wrote down at the beginning of your self-employed journey!

If you were employed you would get annual leave. Make sure you take some time out and enjoy the flexibility you promised yourself and your family.

 

What great strategies have you put in place for the school holidays? Do you have a plan or do you wing it and hope for the best? Please drop a comment below and let us know what works for you.

Why not message me and find out how to outsource some of your admin even just to give you more flexibility over school holidays. Hourly rates available.

Mindfulness – Easy Ways to Build some into Your Working Day

Mindfulness – Easy Ways to Build some into Your Working Day

I took part in a short mindfulness course recently and, having gone in a bit curious and a touch uncertain, I now understand the main principle of being present, aware and in the moment rather than worrying about what has gone or what might happen. I’ve started incorporating some easy mindfulness exercises into my day which I thought I would share.

How can we build mindfulness into our working day?

Think about your drive to work this morning, or if you work from home think about your morning routine. Do you come the same way each day or eat the same thing for breakfast? Do you notice what’s going on around you? Do you wonder sometimes if the lights you just went through were actually on green? Do you think about each tooth as you brush?

Chances are you don’t really think about these actions much. They are almost automatic. We do these things so often they are in our muscle memory and often we can carry out these tasks while thinking about something entirely unconnected. Training our brain to stick to one task, one thought, isn’t easy though. We all have busy lives where we often have to multi-task and juggle. Mindfulness takes practise but it can help with stress, anxiety, productivity and creativity.

Learn how to breathe

Take the time to concentrate on your breathing for a few minutes. Try this at various times during the day – before you start work, before a particularly vital meeting perhaps. Set a notification alarm on your phone to remind you.

Sit on a chair with your back straight, your feet on the floor and your hands in your lap. Close your eyes if you want to and start to become aware of your body and how it feels against the chair and the floor, whether you are warm or cold, let your body become heavy.

Breathe in through your nose for a count of 3 then out through your mouth for 3. On each inhalation imagine the breath flooding into your lungs and then, on breathing out, consciously follow the path of the breath around your body. Imagine it flooding down to the tips of the toes and fingers. If your mind starts to wander just acknowledge the thought and gently bring it back to your breathing.

Single-tasking

We have long been told that the ability to multi-task is the key to productivity. However with so many external distractions now in our high-tech lives actually this often isn’t the case.

Being mindful about a task means to take away distractions and concentrate the mind on the job in hand. If you’re working on a computer close down the windows you don’t need and put your phone on silent. Log off from emails and social media – don’t just close them down as you will still get notifications popping up on your screen. Set a timer and work on the task for the time you have allowed yourself. If your mind wanders gently bring it back the task. It may not be practical to do this all of the time at work but try where possible to complete one task before starting another.

Pay attention

How often do you ask a colleague or the postman how they are or if they had a good weekend? Now how often do you really listen to what they say?

When you have a conversation make a point of doing it mindfully. Look at the person you are talking to, watch their mouth form the words, listen to each sentence they say. Keep your mind actively engaged on the conversation, think about what they are saying, not just the words but their voice, tone and body language. Ask questions and give the other person your undivided attention for those few minutes.

Get outdoors

Take a lunchtime walk if you can. Being outdoors, taking the time to practise your breathing again, and walking mindfully will help with that afternoon slump time.

When you walk use your senses to look around you. This sounds easy but often we look without really noticing. Concentrate on the weather, the temperature, what’s around you. Are there any noises? Can you hear birds, how many different songs? Or the traffic, is it just cars you can hear or is there a lorry or an ambulance? Does the grass make a noise as you walk on it? Are the trees moving or can you smell someone’s lunch? How does your body feel? Are your legs tired or are you feeling energetic? Can you feel the cold in your nose as you breath?

Try not to think about work, what has happened so far that day or what you have left to do. If your mind wanders acknowledge that you will think about work again when you get back to your desk. Bring your mind back to the present.

Take ownership

In the workplace this can mean accepting mistakes you may make. Own up, even if you are only accountable to yourself, and accept it. If you can change something or learn from the mistake do so. If you can’t action the error just take some time to acknowledge it and how you are feeling and then let it go.

Also acknowledge when you have something tricky coming up and you need a little extra time. Plan your time in your diary – not just a meeting, set aside the time to write and go over your notes, to travel without rushing, to take a few minutes beforehand to breath mindfully and to settle your mind. Ask for help if you need it and also take any compliments mindfully too.

Practise

As I said at the beginning mindfulness takes practise and there are many routes you can take to learn more including apps, books and courses.

Throughout your day remember the principle of mindfulness is about immersing yourself in the present moment –

“ If you worry too much about what might be, and wonder too long about what might have been, you will ignore and completely miss what is.”                                                                                                               (1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently, Marc & Angel Chernoff)