How Time Blocking Saved My Life

It’s no secret that 2016 was a big crap storm for me! I wrote about it here, cried to my therapist a.k.a assistant, and close friends, I even posted some of it on social media. The more I talked to people, the more I heard that 2016 was rough for a lot of people. By December 31, I had read more articles, memes, and emails from others saying the same thing!

They wanted to pour some gasoline, light a match and torch the dumpster that was 2016.

Here we are, nearly 6 months past the black hole that was our lives and guess what!! Life doesn’t always get easier! Sure there are peaks along the way, but regardless of the year, shit is going to happen. I’m not a negative nelly! I acknowledge when good things happen, but come on, Pollyanna! Not every day is sunshine and rainbows!

I have experienced highs and lows over the past few months. One thing I’ve come to learn is that life, as much as we want it to, is not predictable. As much as I want to control the actions of others and the outcome of situations, I am not that powerful! (Though I like to think I am!) Instead, I found that time blocking saved my life!

Here’s the deal!

We cannot, nor will ever be able to, control the actions of others. However, we can control our own actions.

Through an insane few months of travel, personal situations and life in general, there is one thing that has kept me from losing my freaking mind. Are you ready for it? It’s probably going to blow your mind! Maybe not blow your mind, so much as make you wonder why you didn’t think of it, too!

It’s called block and tackle. A term I learned from my business coach Todd Herman. In every meeting, training or call I’ve been on, he reminds me that our brains were not made to context switch.

Let’s be real for a minute. How many times have we prided ourselves on our ability to multi-task? Try every conversation you have, trying to impress someone! Something that Todd taught me is that I need to be intentional with my time. That’s where block and tackle comes into play.

If our brains were truly made to multi-task, then we’d have completed every project we start. But how many times have you started a project, only to get distracted and add it to the pile of half-finished projects? My guess is quite often.

So what does block and tackle have to do with difficult days? Simple. If something is on my calendar, I treat it as an appointment. Everything from showering to returning phone calls to reviewing my work for the day. I don’t skip it. I have made a commitment and I need to honor it.

Everything I do in my day is scheduled. I even schedule interruptions. How so? I block time in my calendar to return the unexpected phone call or put out an urgent fire. Want to hear something completely scandalous? I even turn off my notifications! *gasp* In order to succeed, I must, must, must schedule my interruptions. If that means turning off slack, so I can write an email sequence, then so be it.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. I know that things are going to come up, so I plan for them.

Am I able to put out fires while I’m in the shower getting ready for my day? I’m gonna say a hard no on that one! Instead, I know that at a specific time in my day, I will address all of the unexpected things that will come across my desk.

Gone are the anxiety filled days, wondering when I would get to finish x, y, and z. I have a plan and during the hard days, I know that I have to keep the appointments I’ve made with myself. I close my computer at the end of the day feeling proud of myself.

I have a sense of pride knowing that I accomplished what I set out to do. Had it not been for the brilliant mind of Todd Herman, pushing me to capture this mindset, I’d still be spinning my wheels!

Do you want to plan your day using the block and tackle method? I created a sample block and tackle calendar for you. Use this free PDF as a guideline to structure your day.

While this won’t stop the difficult days, it will help you manage life through them.

Click to Download Sample  Block & Tackle Calendar

5 Tools My Team Uses Every Day

We are constantly bombarded with new tools that are guaranteed to make our lives easier. Some live up to the hype, while others sit in our inbox waiting to be used.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like change. I hate change so much that it’s #34 on my strengths finder assessment. On the flip side, I’m married to a man who loves change. He loves to try new programs as soon as they’re released. He’s completely fine to test it and if it works, awesome, if not.. Oh, well, he gave it a shot!

I would rather host a party with 50 preschoolers than to waste part of my day trying to learn something that turns out to be completely useless. That’s how much I despise trying something new and also why I have mad respect for parents that can throw a giant kid party. Both are painful!

Instead of giving you a list of “Hey- try these tools that are extremely complicated, expensive and hard to use, but they’re the latest and greatest”, I thought it would be much more practical to share the top 5 tools I use with my team every day. There may not be a glamorous one in the bunch, but they make my life easier and that is all that matters!

Slack

The number one way to stay on task is communication. While it’s true that you can email to your team about projects and priorities, chances are the emails will be lost, forgotten or even worse, find it’s way into the dreaded spam folder. I’ve had this happen on occasion when I’ve wanted to share a file with someone or simply pass on a new idea. Someway, somehow, it didn’t make it to their inbox.


With Slack, I can copy a link into the appropriate channel and viola! I know that I sent it and it’s easy for my team to access it.

Not only can I share links and documents, but we are on Slack daily. It’s essentially, our way of saying “I’m here for work. Let’s get the day started!”. My team and I converse on our projects, ask questions and have eliminated a good portion of our email clutter.

Teamwork

If I’m being honest, I will have to tell you that this was my least favorite tool to get on board with. I had tried several task management programs with multiple clients, each one hairier than the last. (Programs, not clients!)

Little did I know that with Teamwork, we would become a so much more productive. Dare I say, a well-oiled machine! Teamwork has given us the ability to document SOPs in an efficient manner. Allow us to track time on specific tasks and keep my team and I organized. I thought we would be perfectly fine to grow this business and stay with the same virtual filing system we started with. I’m thankful that I was gently nudged into this change. My team uses Teamwork like pros and it makes our business run smoothly. #teamworkmakesthedreamwork

Lastpass

In the spirit of practicality, let’s talk passwords.

Passwords are the keys to the gate. I need to know that no one is going to jump the fence! This is why I store my passwords in the secure system of Lastpass. I’m able to share passwords with my team and everything stays encrypted. I feel safe knowing that I’m able to share the sensitive information necessary to keep things running smoothly for my team.

The other perk to Lastpass is the price! I’m pretty sure you can afford FREE! My budget loves the price tag! There is an option to upgrade to the premium version, but I love that you can try it at no cost.

Snagit

Working virtually has a different dynamic when training a new team member. Gone are the days of two-week orientations, in person introductions and hours training side by side. Instead, we have to rely on our communication skills to train someone well. I’ve found that it’s better to communicate through video recordings whenever possible. Using SnagIt allows you to record video of your screen, walk through a variety of scenarios and share with your team. Your team will appreciate the chance to hear your tone, watch you walk through a program and the opportunity to replay over and over again until they know it like the back of their hand.

I use videos with new team members and my veteran team. Not only do I feel they are valuable to my team, there are times when it’s just easier to record a three-minute video than to type 3 pages of instructions. Trust me! It’s the best training tool around!

Appointment Core

If you have spent any time at all in administration, you know that one of the biggest time suckers is scheduling calls. The countless emails back and forth offering multiple dates and times, only to learn that one of the parties is out for the week, so back to the drawing board!

Last year, we decided to take the leap and sign up for a scheduling program. I was hesitant because I don’t want robots to take over our jobs. However, this has been such a time saver for my assistant. She is free to work on projects that don’t take multiple email conversations to schedule a call. She is simply able to send the link and the wheels of the meeting are in motion.

Truly, this program works like a charm for us. We are able to set time parameters, so I’m not scheduling meetings when I should be with my family and potential clients don’t have to wait for a response from myself or my team to schedule a call.

While there are countless programs that I find helpful, the five that I just shared with you are practical tools that I use every day in my business. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to run as efficiently as we do. This efficiency allows us to connect more, create more content and work on projects that would otherwise find themselves on the back burner.

I’m always looking for new ways to increase productivity. Do you have a favorite tool or app that you use? Share it with me. I’d love to hear about it!

Let’s All Be Productive

Not so long ago, I was out of state on a business trip. While I was out traveling across the country with my client, my husband was home cooking up a plan!

A plan that was going to make my day!! Curious yet?! Hang on, I’m getting there!

One of my love languages is gifts. Giving gifts, getting gifts… all of it!

My husband knows this, so while I had vacated the premises, he decided to redecorate my office. I’m not talking about a new picture or a nice scented candle. No way! He went all out. He painted, he reorganized and my favorite of all… he bought me a new desk!

Not just any old desk, he bought me a stand up desk!

use this one (1)

I’ve been eyeing the stand up desk for a while now because, let’s face it, my job is sedentary and I need to increase my circulation a whole lot more than I do.

What I discovered after a week with this desk is that not only am I standing more (obviously!), but I’m so much more productive. I’m checking off tasks, answering emails, ending world hunger….well, maybe not that last one, but you get my point! I feel like a ninja!

I began to think of all of the other ways I can increase my productivity.

You may not have access to a stand up desk, but I thought I’d share a few other productivity ideas with you.

 

Take a brain break

Let’s start with something simple. So simple if fact, we’re taking is back to the kindergarten years. Research has shown that children are more productive in school when they take what is called “brain breaks”. The good new is, this isn’t just for children!

Taking a brain break is simply taking a step back and relaxing your brain. If you go full speed for 6 hours straight, you are going to fizzle out. You won’t be nearly as productive as someone that peppers in 10 minute breaks throughout their day. It could be something as small as walking to the mailbox or refilling your coffee cup. Taking brain breaks is sure to increase your productivity.

Eat something

I don’t understand those people that say “Oh, I forgot to eat lunch”. I may forget a few things here and there, but I never forget to eat lunch!

I have recently started a new fitness program. Along with exercise, I’m also focusing on my food intake. I’m sure you’ve heard coaches say that you have to think of food as fuel. It’s so true!

When I neglect to put gas in my car and I’ve been staring at that little orange light like it’s a new accessory, you’ll find me sitting along I-70, wishing that I would have taken the extra five minutes to put fuel in my car.

This rule applies to eating. If you don’t eat, you’ll run out of steam (hopefully, not on the side of the road!) and will slow down productivity. Plus, you’ll be nicer when you aren’t #hangry!

Track your time

This one if fascinating! If you’ve never tracked your time before, I’m going to challenge you to track your time this week.

You may think that you’re the most productive person in the world, but have you stopped to look at where you’re spending your time? Grab a journal and write down everything you do for one week. You’ll be surprised how many times you end up mindlessly browsing Facebook when all you meant to was check your page insights.

Track your time for one week and let me know how many extra hours you managed to find.

Each of these ideas individually will bring you increase your productivity.

The whole gamut and “Look Out World!”.

What are your favorite productivity tools?

Why Taking Time Off Can Be Good For Your Business

I’m sitting on a patio in Ft. Lauderdale Florida watching ocean waves gently roll ashore. It’s 9:00am, and the grandparents are down with the girls at the beach, so I could sleep in. It’s been a glorious few days, off grid and relaxing. Writing this post is the first time I’ve turned on my computer in days. (Shocking, I know!)

Balcony-Inspiration

I don’t do this often enough. This trip has taught me why I should, and I want to share my revelations  with you.

We all know the famous “Work From Wherever” slogan, and while I agree that this is a novel concept, (that makes me want to move to a coast as soon as possible), it’s not quite feasible for all of us. My husband and I have been dreaming about that day for years now, and while still elusive, I know that we will get there one day.

The moniker has had most of us making drastic changes in our businesses to get to that point, we’ll hire the cheapest help we can, to save on expenses, or we’ll take shortcuts to make sales so that we can keep the revenue coming in while saving for the adventure we’ll take one day.

I believe this thinking is flawed. Here’s why:

Taking time off allows you to decompress.

One of the healthiest things I’ve done this trip is NOT think about work. Taking Slack notifications off my phone, turning off Facebook and email reminders for these last few days has been refreshing. I chose to scroll Facebook a few times rather than respond to the endless notifications of being tagged in posts from people needing things. I’ve been able to be fully present with my family and not worry about what’s happening, or not, in my business.

When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s hard to “turn off” work. But taking time off has allowed me to decompress from what can feel like endless stress of being “needed”. We’re all entitled to that, and should schedule time frequently for such off grid extraction from our daily lives.

New Ideas are born when we’re not trying to do a million things at once.

Ever have a brilliant idea in the shower, or in my case, 70ft under water?

The time I’m taking away from my business this week, allows creativity to flow. I’ve been feeling pretty stagnant lately, where I didn’t feel very creative in my business. Working in the 90 Day Year Model, has allowed me to make some amazing strides in our business. I’ve broken the habit of making the same mistakes over and over. I’ve LEARNED from my PAST PERFORMANCE that I need down time in order to get new ideas, and have made changes in my 90 Day Goals to always include down time. I’ve traveled a TON the past couple of months, but it has been mostly for work. As a result, I’ve just been doing the same thing without introducing many new ideas the last few weeks.

The ocean is my happy place, where I can relax, and think. Case in point – I was snorkeling with my family last evening and thought of a new business idea. Not because I was actively thinking about work, but because I was observing my environment (in this case, fish) and thought about their behaviors and how they relate to human behavior.. And BOOM! a new idea flashed into my head and I just giggled through my snorkel at the timing of it all. When we’re able to structure our business and time to not be overwhelmed, our brains are able to process information more fully, which in this case allowed creative ideas to flourish and not get squeezed out by a massive to do list.

The 90 Day Year taught me that the endless amount of goals we could be working on could actually be detrimental to the growth of our business. So, focusing on goals in a different framework, we can stop busting our booties to produce results using a broken model, and actually start accomplish things we want to in our business. Like taking more family trips, creating new revenue streams, or hiring new key players to join our team.

Block and Tackle works for down time, too.

My friend Todd teaches the Block and Tackle method. Because of his training, (which you can find here in his FREE video series on the topic), I’ve been able to structure my work days to focus only on certain activities (Block) and get achieve my goals faster, and with more excellence than before (Tackle). He teaches all about how to do this in the 90 Day Year which he breaks down in the third of his video series, out today.

Applied to down time, the framework looks like this:

Saturday – Travel Day

Sunday – Dive planning, Snorkel Trip and relaxing Beach Day

Monday – Grandparent Day, relationship building and game day

Tuesday – Open No plans to allow for free flow activity

Wednesday  – Adventure Day, Diving and Parasailing
Thursday – Tourist Day; local activities centered around the culture of the area, Fancy Dinner

Friday – Adventure Day, Diving all day

Saturday – Travel Day

Do you see what we did there? We blocked our activities so there aren’t endless switches, from wet bathing suits to dry clothes. We’re not going from diving to dinner parties. We’re keeping our “goals” in chunks, (block) so we’re more likely to have success in achieving them (tackle).
We even allowed for an “open” day, not structured or scheduled so we can do random fun things that pop up (distractions) and not feel overwhelmed that we couldn’t fit them in (or take the call from the client that was not on our schedule previously).

The frameworks I’ve learned and implemented in my business have got me to where I am right now – on the beach, whipping up a blog post, and then offline to spend time with my family. I honestly don’t think I would have gotten here without implementing some important changes in my business.

I wouldn’t have known how to fix what was broken, without Todd. I thought everyone was working and living like I was while trying to build a business. I felt so broken, like I was doing something “wrong” because I was working SO dang hard, but not seeing the results I knew were possible. I had no idea that it wasn’t ME that was broken. It was the SYSTEM I was working in. Changes to that system resulted in changes in my thinking, and in my execution. And now, I have a business that is thriving, a marriage that is in sync and a family that is healing from all my “frantic hustle” that led to lots of frustration.

All because I changed the model.

And you can, too. Check out this video (which is my FAVORITE in the series) and learn how YOU can implement a new framework and implement a new way of looking at an old problem…and perhaps you too will be “off grid” as much as you’d like, with a business that still works while you don’t. You can do this. Todd can show you how.

I’m off to play games with the grandparents. Have a great week!

 

Remembering My Why: A Look Back at Business Basics

I often share a lot about how Priority VA got started, but maybe I haven’t shared the why. It’s easy to spout off the logistics and the process of how I moved from an office in Corporate America to an office in my home. It was a pretty straightforward business decision on my part, but it had a lot more to do with my personal life than my professional one.

Remembering My Why

When my work transition took place, we had just adopted a child who needed a lot of extra TLC. She needed me, her Mommy. I made the decision to be home full-time so I could tend to her and her needs. I started working as an independent contract for a few high-profile clients, and over time, started to become inundated with referrals for new business. I couldn’t be all things to all people, but I could find other people for these potential clients. I also could create a business where other VAs could be home and tend to the needs of their own children or families, too.

My business started out as an answer to another call of motherhood. The fact that I’ve been able to create a working career from home and still be able to be present in the lives of my children is nothing I take for granted.

I’ve found I’m incredibly driven and want nothing more than Priority VA to take on new heights. I look at my kids and see my oldest having six more years before college (and 16 more years for the youngest). I know I’m working for something far bigger than myself.

Sometimes I fail. Whether it be in work, or in being the Mommy I always dreamed of being, I sometimes fall short. I hope, however, my kids see a work ethic in me that translates into a strong character example for them. When we say something, they’ll see we stay true to our word. When we decide to do something, we give it our best – every day.

If I’m creating sales funnels or following up with event planners, and my kids are spelling or solving math problems, everything we’re doing is getting our best attention and effort. Through the work I’m doing, I’m planting seeds of dedication, excellence, and growth in the lives of my children.

I don’t want to paint the picture that work and family are always harmonious, though. Glorious? Sure. But always in sync? Almost never. I’ve worked from Starbucks holding my baby in my lap. I’ve sat in on a webinar while my house was full of squealing 12-year-olds. I’ve worked at 2:00 a.m. after a fussy toddler refused to go down for the night. I’ve had to roll with it as a mom, but it’s taught me so much about rolling with it (even though I’m not, by nature, very adaptable) in my business.

Because I’m so driven in my work and want so much for what I do to pay off for my children, I’ve noticed I can become too focused and work in somewhat of a tunnel. I have to schedule my work time so I don’t get distracted and cut into my family time.

I work on timelines, so scheduling my work time – and time with friends and family, for that matter – is second nature to me. If I don’t have it scheduled, it’s too easy for me to become laser-focused and lose sight of whatever else is going on around me. I don’t want to work over top of my relationships, so I plot my personal and my professional life on my calendar to try to gain some leverage in both.

I frequently have cuddle time with my four littles. At first, admittedly, it took practice to turn my brain from work-mode to mommy-mode, but the joy I’ve found in those precious prayer-time moments, or the times I get to simply walk around the block with them has taught me far more about my why in starting this business than any client call ever could.

I’ve always got to schedule time – make time and commit to it – for my family, and my work. If I’m being completely transparent, there is no “balance”. They’re both always intertwined. My homeschooled 12-year-old might be in my office next to me working on homework, or I might be answering a client call while in line for a ride at an amusement park.

You might remember how my daughters were my employees for “take your child to work day”, sending thank-you notes to my clients and making a video for social media to promote our business. Work is always a part of our family life. The trick is making it fun and creating teachable moments, so no one feels like I’m choosing work over them. It’s not easy, but with consistency and commitment, it’s more than possible.

All those years ago, when I made the switch from leaving home to go to work, to staying home to work, it started as a way to protect and preserve my family. Looking back, I can’t imagine having made any other choice. My why is simple: my family comes first. They’re what built this business, and they’re the reason I’m so passionate about keeping it going.

How to Organize Your Life (At Least At Work)

Some of the questions I’m asked most frequently about our business and working from home in general, have to do with staying organized. As you can probably surmise, it’s sometimes a challenge to keep life and work separate when they’re both taking place under the same roof. Having methods and habits in place that keep you organized and able to focus are essential when working, and especially when working from home.

I’m always  happy to share some insider information on how I keep things running here at Priority VA, so today I’m going to answer some of your questions on how I stay organized.

Organize

How Trivinia Keeps Her (Work) Life Organized

First, I have my workspace completely defined. I have an actual office – a room with a door I can close, with my desk, my computer, my bookshelves, and my most favorite wood word art.

When I walk into my office, my brain and body know it’s time to get some work done. I can close the door to shut out the distractions if I need to, and my physical space becomes my literal work-zone. I have my meetings, calls, and productive time from my comfy office chair.

Yes, I work other places in the house (or other coffee shops in town), but for the most part, I get more work done and am able to think more clearly from my set-aside workspace. If you don’t have an extra room in your house to set up an office, that’s fine – just make sure you can dedicate as thee spot you’re going to do most of your work from.

Second, I have everything I *have* to have in order to work, right at my fingertips. For me, that’s my computer, pens, post-its, and coffee. Do not forget the coffee.

I need you to understand, this is all I have at my workspace. I don’t have it cluttered, I don’t have piles, and I don’t have to search for things. All I keep on my desk are those key essentials: computer, pens, post-its, and coffee. I have to have a clean desktop and tidy work area in general. Virtually and otherwise. My computer desktop isn’t cluttered with files, either.

Everything has its place, and there’s a place for everything. Amy Porterfield taught me a clean workspace is essential for some of us to be creative or productive. I definitely fit into that category. I organize my space by keeping it sacred so I can truly perform when it’s work time.

I’m also very visual, and I cannot live without my whiteboard. I have a wall in my office dedicated to my whiteboards (and these whiteboards are also kept virtually in Asana) and its sole purpose is to organize everything from my brain-dump sessions. I keep track of all the things I want to do in my business, what I’m working on the current week, and what I’m working on the current day. I also have the DONE column where I get to see my favorite post-it notes literally stack up on one another, showing all the tasks I’ve accomplished and completed.

Third, to help me organize my life, I have to communicate how I need to be communicated with. When I hired my assistant, I had to make sure she knew how I best receive information. She manages my calendar in a specific way so I know where I need to be and when. She logs my flights a certain way because I function with snapshot information when I’m traveling. I have to have everything in one spot.

When I have a Zoom meeting, the links to the meeting rooms are in the “location” field of my calendar appointment so I have a quick, easy reference point. It’s little things like this that save me two minutes of head space before I need to switch gears between appointments.

These habit-systems of mine keep my brain organized and are easy for anyone working WITH me to figure out and implement themselves. I don’t like to spend a lot of (or any) time searching for something. I need everything right where I can access it in one fell swoop.

I can take one glance at my calendar, and know who, what, where and why for all of my appointments or arrangements. I can look at my whiteboard and know  exactly what I have going on for the day, week, and what I’ve already taken care of. I can look at my desk and see my coffee, sticky notes, and pens and know I don’ thave to waste precious time sorting through paper piles or clutter to find something I need. I can sit in my office and kick serious tail in productivity, because that’s my space.

I don’t have to have a complicated process in place to organize my life – and that’s kind of the whole point. The simpler my organization systems, the simpler my work life is. The easier it is for me to stay organized, the easier it is for me to pour into the areas of my business that need it most.

What are your favorite organization tips?

On-The-Job Training in a Virtual World

Are you the only person who knows how to do what you do? And are those tasks and responsibilities becoming so great in number, you’re losing sight of why you set out to chase this business dream to begin with?

I hear you, partner. Loud and clear. That was my own struggle with being a VA, and needing VAs of my own to help me grow my business. How would I train them in, and show them everything that was in my head?

On-The-Job Training in a Virtual World

Most of us – if we get hit by a bus tomorrow – will leave those we work with in a big lurch as far as how to carry on the day-to-day. On-the-job training, even and especially in the virtual world, is a MUST. So how can you do it? If you’re not in the same office (or state!) how can you train someone in on the procedures that are floating around in your subconscious?

Have no fear, my friends. I’m going to lay down some on-the-job training techniques you can start using today, to make sure your knowledge vault is safely placed in the brains of your colleagues. Or…something like that.

1. Record It

My favorite training tool is the screen capture. I’m crazy super enthusiastic about creating a learning environment for my team (and my clients) that is kinesthetic. We all learn differently, so creating videos for my team is a great way for me to address several different types of learning. Viewers hear my voice, see my screen and what I’m doing, and then I also document the process with written instructions, so those who need to print off a checklist, can.

Those who just need to “see” me doing a specific task can do that by watching the video. We, as team leaders, need to remember our teams – and therefore, our businesses – are comprised of all kinds of different types of learners. We need to be sure we know how our team members best receive communication, and give them the information in the way they need it (not necessarily in the way we need to get it out there).

2. (Pro-Tip) Put Your Best to the Test

If you’ve built out your team and have a “ninja” (or “unicorn”) on your hands, let them test-drive what you’ve just shown them. They’ll not only document the heck of the system while they’re testing it, but they’ll probably find faster, more efficient ways to implement the workflow you have in mind.

3. Make Time

Be sure to set aside some training time. A 15-minute screen share (that can easily be done through Skype or Zoom) can save you hours of back-and-forth emails. Don’t neglect the value of real time. Working virtually is fantastic, but sometimes there is no replacement for actual face-to-face communication. Hop on a webcam call and talk it out!

4. Incentivize!

Give your team a reason to want to learn. Yes, people – pay your team! If you’re creating a new system, and especially if your team hasn’t ever heard of the process, program, or software, don’t be cheap. Pay them to learn it. They will be more engaged in your training, knowing you care enough to pay them for their time.

If your team doesn’t have time to learn, their implementation of whatever the process is will take far longer. Not to mention, it will cost you more money. If your team doesn’t know how to use the system you’ve implemented, you run the risk of lower productivity, lower engagement (from them trying to self-teach the process), and lower morale from frustration or burnout.

Finally, here’s a tried-and-true method to teaching any new skill or system:

  1. EXPLAIN the expected outcome (what will be learned).
  2. SHOW how something is done.
  3. Trust your team to DO it.
  4. REVIEW how they did it.

What have you done to teach your virtual team your processes and programs?

Exploring The Freelancing Frontier

So much of our life is structured around the corporate world. We school for corporate jobs, we choose our careers from corporate fields, and we plan our day around rush hour traffic.

Until we feel that surge of crazy within us that says, “there’s got to be something different!” and we chase after it. We pursue building our own business. Freelancing. Working on our own terms.

Explore

Being an entrepreneur (freelancer, independent contractor – I’m speaking to all of us, no matter what we call ourselves!) is an adventure like no other. Sometimes we can feel pretty alone, or out there, left to wander and discover what works on our own. We may be the only ones we know of offering certain services or implementing certain tactics, and it’s easy to feel a little lost.

Taking the leap from the known and structured world of the corporate world to start blazing your own trail in the freelancing market can be the scariest move you’ll ever make in your life. But it can also be the most rewarding. You can’t let fear get in the way of your future. Sure, you might fail – but what is failure, really? Just a way to learn new ways that work, right?

Even when you go into the entrepreneurial world knowing what you’re after and how you’re going to get there, sometimes the journey can turn out not at all how we expected.

The other day, I came across this “Freelancer’s Guide to the Galaxy” and you know – it might have helped me remember my “why” when I first got started in the virtual business market. It’s a clever map on the areas you’ll encounter as you start down this freelancing business path, all the way to your finish line at retirement.

I love this guide because along with being cute and creative, it also really hits home. Yes, there ARE times I’m going to panic or second-guess my route. There ARE time I’m going to feel totally disconnected or isolated from the rest of the world because I don’t have to leave my house to get my work done. There have been times I’ve felt the tempting call back into the corporate world! But gee-whiz, I know these are all stages of the process in entrepreneurship. This guide marks it all out beautifully.

I’m happy to share it with you today – along with a special pro-tip. As you’re in the trenches of your work world, you’re doing it to make money. And making money means getting paid by people to do your work. And getting paid by people to do your work needs you should have an invoicing system. Enter Freshbooks.

Check out FreshBooks and see how they can transform your invoicing systems for your business. I’m no accountant, but I feel like if I were, I’d love my clients a little more for having systems like Freshbooks in place.

Share your own galaxy discoveries with us! Let us know what your navigation of this new frontier has taught you.

FreshBooks_GuideToTheGalaxy

3 Ways To Jumpstart Your Week

HAPPY MONDAY! Mondays tend to have a bad reputation. Things that can go wrong do go wrong, it’s hard to get back in the swing of things after a weekend off, and Friday just seems so far away. Ugh. For some, “Happy Monday” may seem more like a taunt than a genuine greeting.

Hang on to your hope! Mondays can actually end up being the best day of your week if you get them started on the right foot. I know, it sounds completely ridiculous and hard to believe. You won’t always be able to avoid Murphy’s Law, but your Monday doesn’t have to be “typical”or dreadful by any means.

I’m going to share three ways you can jumpstart your week, get it off to a running start, and stay ahead of the game rather than lag behind. Here are 3 Ways To Jumpstart Your Week!

3 Ways to Jumpstart Your Week


1. Do the Worst First

I think I need to open with a disclaimer – this is my first tip, but that’s assuming you’ve already done the non-negotiable of supplying yourself with coffee. If you don’t have that warm morning nectar of the work-angels in your hot little hands, that’s your first problem and we might need to stage an intervention. Assuming that’s already covered, however, we’ll move on to cover this first tip: Do the worst first.

You’ve got to use every opportunity to set your stage for the rest of your week. If you don’t want to dread your work, your week, or the rest of your days, you’ve got to get the “yuck” out of the way first thing.

Whatever you’re not looking forward to doing but HAVE to get done, whatever you’ve been putting off for a little too long – get it done first thing.

Whatever it is you’ve been avoiding, you probably don’t want it looming over your head all week. The longer you put it if off, the more you’ll dread it, and the LESS PRODUCTIVE you will end up being as a result. If you knock it off your list first (second, after that coffee) thing, you’ll end up being more productive and you might surprise yourself with how much stress you dump off your plate.

Also, if you tackle the worst first,  you’re more likely to finish it in a shorter amount of time than if you were to wait. There is definitely motivation in wanting to get things over with!

2. Make An Appointment With Your Calendar

Take time every Monday morning to review your calendar for the week. There’s nothing worse than realizing after-the-fact you missed an important meeting, or forgetting to pick your kids up from school. Don’t let dates sneak up on you. Every Monday morning, make an appointment with your calendar and give it a good review. Ask yourself these questions when you’re looking over your calendar for the week:

  • What do the kids (and spouse) have going on this week?
  • What meetings do I need to prepare notes for?
  • Are there any deadlines approaching for projects or tasks?
  • Do I have any out-of-office appointments I need to set reminders or look up driving directions for?
  • Do I need to call and confirm or cancel any appointments this week?
  • Are there any early-morning appointments I can prep for the night before?
  • Are there any appointments I don’t have that I need to schedule this week?
  • Where is the family/quality time in your week? (Yep, make sure you schedule it!)
  • Is there any unnecessary filler I can cut from my schedule this week to make room for what’s more important?

3. Pace Yourself 

This is going to be different for each person, but only you know how you absolutely work your best. And just because you’re getting work done, doesn’t mean you’re working your BEST. Let’s make sure we know that distinction.

You’ve just come off a weekend that was hopefully relaxing and refreshing. Some of us take a little longer to get back into the nitty-gritty of the work-week routine while others of us can’t wait to dive in head-first. Pace yourself according to your best work practices.

If you take a while to get rolling, don’t overwhelm yourself on Monday. You’ll end up burnt out and starting your week further behind rather than ahead. Don’t necessarily give yourself an extra weekend day to ease into the work-world, but allow yourself plenty of time to reacclimate yourself to your schedule and your responsibilities. You can (and should) push yourself, but not beyond your comfort levels or capabilities.

If you’re ready to dive in head-first to your week, I would only caution you to not be too overzealous. You don’t want to use all of your energy up on the very first workday of your week. Make sure you schedule some time for you to just “be”. You don’t have to get everything on your list for the week completed on Monday.

Schedule enough time for the right number of projects, and spread them out over your most productive hours in the week. If you’re a morning person, schedule the thought-process work for morning hours. If you’re a night owl, make sure you give yourself your appropriate tasks during those productive hours.

Finishing ahead of schedule is a wonderful feat – but not if it means you’re completely dog-tired and spent the rest of your days. Pace yourself appropriately – work during the hours you work your best, and allow yourself the flexibility to schedule the most thought-consuming projects during those peak times.


What are some ways you jumpstart your week? Share them with us!

Still having trouble getting your week, calendar, or business under control? Let’s talk about how to get rid of your overwhelm.

5 Ways To Make Working Remotely Work For You

Earlier this year, Neil Patel wrote an article on the booming business of working remotely. There have been several studies and surveys showcasing the benefits of working remotely, and as Neil points out in his article, it’s all about managing remote work and workers effectively. Driving progress is more important than measuring presence, and working remotely can boost productivity if done correctly.

But is trading in the cubicle for the comfort of home in the cards for you? Here are 5 ways to make working remotely work for you.

1. Find A Routine

Just as you might have a morning routine on the way to the office, you need a routine working from home to get your head in the game.

Home isn’t necessarily associated in your mind’s eye as a work-zone, so establishing a routine to work well in will help boost your productivity and keep you focused.

I start my day far earlier than most, brew my coffee, catch up on the news, and get right to work. By the time most are strolling to their first water cooler break in the corporate world, I’ve put in half a day’s work. It’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely the routine that works for me.

What are the perk-points of your day? How can you utilize those for pushing you toward your goals? Set a schedule you’re not only comfortable with, but can maintain, and etch it into your every day. Training your brain to work from home might be challenging at first, but a routine will cement that transition pretty quickly.

2. Stay Connected

It’s easy to hole-up and forget about the rest of the world when you get in the swing of remote work. It’s important to stay in touch with your team on a continual, consistent basis.

I would say working remotely places even greater importance on the art of communication since you have less person-to-person contact.

Use programs like Zoom or Skype for regular check-in conferences. They provide the opportunity for face-to-face contact, genuine conversation, and a sense of connection that’s easily lost through email or instant messaging.

Stay in touch with your team, keep everyone posted on your projects and progress, and don’t assume anyone knows what you’re up to. There’s a lot of space between you and the rest of the world when working remotely, so try to keep it as cinched up as possible.

3. Customize Your Space

Working from home means every comfortable nook and cranny are free for the taking. For some of us, though, that poses an organizational problem.

Just like creating a routine trains your brain to function in work-mode, making the right space for work does the same.

I have my whiteboard(s), computer, notebooks, sticky notes (I can’t survive without them) and markers all within arm’s reach in my workspace at home. Whatever helps you stay focused and productive, make sure it’s in one area, accessible, and you don’t have to waste time searching for it.

Keep in mind you’ll be having those frequent communication calls (see tip #2), so you’ll want your space to be appealing to you and those your webcam will allow into your world.

If you need some ideas for setting up a workspace, check out our Pinterest board and see what we’ve dreamt of so far.

4. Get Equipped

In order to work remotely, you’ll need the right equipment. High-speed internet (the faster, the better) is a MUST. In order to stay connected with the people and places that make your work worthwhile, you’ll need reliable internet you can count on in a hurry.

I’ve got a list of my favorite apps and tools here, and I consider most of them essentials for working remotely.

The trick isn’t just in having the right physical equipment, but in equipping yourself to learn what you need in order to get the job done.

You can check out Lynda.com (this is an affiliate link, but prices have not been modified for personal gain) for training on all sorts of programs, processes, and procedures that will help you get ahead in the virtual world.

Making sure you’re on top of your game by equipping yourself properly, will put you ahead of the pack, and will only benefit your working remotely.

5. Be Disciplined

Working remotely isn’t a cakewalk. It takes focus, drive and discipline. It absolutely has its perks and benefits, but not without cost or sacrifice.

Working remotely for most means having to prove even more you have what it takes to get the work done and drive results. No one wants to pay someone they believe is slacking off watching soap operas instead of completing projects or meeting important deadlines.

Stay focused. Keep your heart in your work, and be disciplined to do what you need to do, before you need to rush to get it done. Build your character and always follow through.

The flexibility that comes with working from home is a definite bonus, but if you’re not careful, it can flex you right out of work. Keep your clients happy by keeping your work up-to-speed and relevant, then enjoy the perks of working remotely.


It may not be for everybody, but I can’t imagine working any other way. In the age of working remotely, I’ve been blessed in discovering the tips and tricks that keep me doing the work I love.

If you’re interested in finding remote team members or becoming one, hop on over to my contact page and let’s get chatting!