Streamlining your life not just in work, but in life, too.


Ways to Stay Creative

It can be hard to keep those juices flowing. Oftentimes, spontaneous creative can seem like the most impossible thing in the world, and sometimes those ideas thought up in the middle of the night are forgotten in the morning. Creativity is anything but formulaic, but there are always small things you can do to keep the creativity flowing in you throughout the day. We've got 29 here. Do you have anymore?

Source: DailyInfographic



How To Deal with Cancelled Flights

It's the first Monday in November. This means that it's almost the holidays. And, this only means that the holiday stress of travel will be looming over us. 

Dealing with cancelled flights and airline re-bookings can be a headache. Long lines at customer service desks. Never-ending phone wait times can make your seemingly-easy journey impossible to handle. And, unfortunately, we can't help you avoid this, but we can offer some advice on how to minimize the stress. 

(Source: We Heart It)
(Source: We Heart It)

Whether you find delays, cancellations, or re-booking problems at SFO or else where, here are some simple tips to make you travel more manageable. Strive for efficiency!

Think about it: if you were the customer service representative service hundreds of people in quick successions at the line, would you care about one person more than another? Maybe yes, maybe no, but better to not take the chance. Instead, if you've got some time at the airport to figure out your next option after a delay or a cancellation, go find the customer service or ticketing line with the least number of people. Oftentimes, this will be in another terminal and will warrant you passing security once again after you get rebooked. However, this may be faster than waiting in the line that you are told to wait in.

Also, check-in counters are usually faster moving and better staffed than customer service desks. All the staff — regardless of which counter they are working at — should be able to direct you to the next possible option.

Figure out several back-up plans.

Airlines are unpredictable, but the way to beat the unpredictability is to be aware of your backups. Come up with several alternatives that you can take to get to your destination. Are there buses and trains available? Can you carpool with someone who might be driving? Is your destination close enough to rent a car and drive yourself? Weigh out your options and be ready to go with any of them at any point.

Airlines also often offer several alternatives for passengers with canceled flights. While they will likely be willing to find you another booking on another flight in the same airline, in urgent situations they may also book you on another airline for no additional cost. If you are in a transit city, they will likely have partners in the airport hotels to find you cheap night stay options, and if you no longer want to take a flight back to your destination, they can refund you. Find out which alternatives are available for you and see what might be your best bet.

Get comfortable

Patience is difficult. I've never been one to be able to sit back and relax when chaos surmounts around me. But sometimes, patience is the solution to it all. In times are crazy cancellations and unpredictable weather delays, airlines are truly backed up and they may not be able to immediately find you another reservation. But airlines are liable to finding you an alternative, and that means all they need is some time.

Grab a book. Download a new album. Sit back, and get comfortable. Be confident of the fact that the airline will eventually get to you. If there is something urgent, such as a meeting or an interview, that you need to get to, try to reschedule or conduct it via technology. If there is an important event that you wish you attend, let the airline attendants know and trust them when they said that they will try their best.

Sometimes, it's the best you can do.


Is Hiring a Virtual Assistant Right For You?


Is Hiring a Virtual Assistant Right For You?

It’s easy to ignore fingerprints and dust specks when staring at a single computer screen, but frequent screen cleaning can ease your eyes
It’s easy to ignore fingerprints and dust specks when staring at a single computer screen, but frequent screen cleaning can ease your eyes

Running a small business is a dream come true for many people, but as business starts booming, burgeoning entrepreneurs find themselves face to face with a nightmare: the overwhelming volume of administrative tasks involved in working for yourself. To cope with this reality, many of our clients have hired Valerie Assistants a virtual basis to help manage some of the day-to-day operations of their business.

However, there’s still much confusion about what a virtual assistant is and what he or she does for business professionals. To answer some of the questions you might and figure out if hiring a virtual assistant might be the best for you, check out the handy guide below.

Who should think about hiring a virtual assistant?

Running a business involves a lot of administrative tasks – preparing paperwork, answering emails and phone calls, keeping up a website. Many small business owners find this stuff to be unpleasant and become frustrated when it begins to interfere with other, more important facets of running a business. If you find yourself increasingly bogged down with phone and computer-based work that you could easily train someone else to do, it might be time to consider hiring a virtual assistant.

What sorts of tasks can a virtual assistant help me with?

A virtual assistant, as the term implies, is an office professional that works remotely. While this means virtual assistants are not physically present in your business, given the increasingly web-based world we work in, they often don’t have to be. Virtual assistants do the same tasks as traditional assistants, such as:

  • Manage your calendar and schedule meetings
  • Find and order products and services
  • Keep your contacts list up to date
  • Deal with customer service, utilities, airlines, etc.
  • Handwrite personal notes and cards
  • Organize your photo library
  • Create digital photo books
  • Order gifts online and have them shipped
  • Order lunch for you and your colleagues
  • Answer emails and phone calls
  • Prepare paperwork (invoices, payroll, etc.)
  • Create employee schedules
  • Interface with clients over the phone or using Skype
  • Create and maintain a company’s website
  • Keep up with a company’s social media sites (Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc.)

How do I hire a virtual assistant? Business owners and busy professionals have many options when it comes to finding a virtual assistant, but before beginning the search, it is important to figure out exactly which tasks you plan on having your assistant complete; it is probably also helpful to estimate how many hours you think this will amount to each week. This way, you’ll be able to give the VAs you interview a clear picture of your expectations.

Hiring a virtual assistant is a great way to keep your business running smoothly – keep these tips in mind when considering whether a virtual assistant is right for you.





virtual personal assistant

What if I told you that hiring a virtual personal assistant can help you streamline your success in work and life? By hanging off your To-Do List of menial tasks, your productivity will be supercharged. You'll be able to focus on things at work and in your everyday life. For example, your virtual personal assistant can check your calendar and send your wife flowers on her birthday, or make sure you aren't double booking yourself.

A virtual personal assistant can also check out travel packages for you, and book your next vacation. She can buy basic necessities on Amazon and have them shipped to your door. What about finding a dog walker to take Fido out for a walk when you’re busy at work? Yep! Virtual assistants can handle that as well.

In fact, I can think of 20 things you can have your remote personal assistant do:

  1. Sort your email so you can finally try to reach the elusive Inbox 0!
  2. Answer your phone and deal with telemarketers for you.
  3. Take messages while you’re away from your desk.
  4. Coordinate team projects to ensure milestones are being met.
  5. Search travel sites to find your next vacatio.
  6. Help find a hire a dog walker.
  7. Handle your calendar to ensure you don’t overbook yourself.
  8. Order birthday/anniversary gifts for your wife/husband/mom so you don’t look like an overly busy jerk that forgets important dates.
  9. Find a reputable dog walker to take your puppy out during late nights at the office.
  10. Schedule fun Facebook posts for your personal profile, so it looks like you are doing things outside the office!
  11. Schedule Facebook posts for your business so you can stay top-of-mind with customers and leads.
  12. Tweet on your behalf so you can become a respected online influencer.
  13. Make reservations for two at a nice restaurant and send you an email reminder so you don’t miss dinner with your better half.
  14. Order things you need on Amazon so they arrive at your doorstep like magic.
  15. Finding NY Times best seller books on Audible so that you can listen to them in the car and tell people you always make time for reading.
  16. Provide support to your customers at all hours of the day and night so you can get some sleep.
  17. Make sure all information is entered into your CRM, so you don’t miss out on sales.
  18. Handle small data entry tasks so you can stop beating your head on the desk knowing there are a million other things you need to do.
  19. Reach out to mommy bloggers to help promote your new product/service.
  20. Manage your Airbnb listing.


25 Tasks to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant


25 Tasks to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant

One of the biggest reasons why entrepreneurs these days struggle to expand their businesses is because they are merely wearing too many hats.They do everything in their business.They ARE the business! It’s a slippery, downward spiral that most entrepreneurs are suffering from, what I frequently refer to as ‘Superhero Syndrome,' will ultimately face – if they don’t change the way they are doing things. Fast!

Hiring a Virtual Assistant to off load the low hanging tasks that burn up your mental time an energy will allow you to focus on the things that matter most - the growth of your business. By hiring the right people, this will allow you to build an amazing product or service. 

Virtual Assistants help you ‘buy more time’ in your work day, alleviating entrepreneurial stress and allowing you to start working on your business, instead of being trapped, working in it, instead.

25 Tasks to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant

1.    Email Management/Filtering
2.    Setting up Autoresponders (Aweber, Mailchimp)
3.    Booking appointments with clients
4.    Following up with clients/customers (sending thank you and happy birthday emails)
5.    Receptionist duties (answering occasional calls)
6.    Calendar Management
7.    File Management (organizing files using Dropbox etc)
8.    Database building (eg. updating email or contact lists on your CRM)
9.    Research on certain topics for blogposts, newsletters or others
10.  Personal errands (purchasing gifts for loved ones / family members online)
11.  Hotel and Flight Booking
12.  Transcription (transcribing voicemail, video or audio, podcasts etc.)
13.  Taking down minutes of meetings
14.  Creating basic reports (reports on weekly tasks, deliverables, sales)
15.  Preparing Slideshows (Powerpoint Presentations)
16.  Liaison between you and other team members
17.  Recruitment (source for other team members like writers or graphic artists)
18.  Set-up Social Media Accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube)
19.  Manage and update Social Media Accounts
20.  Manage your Blog (Basic WordPress Skills)
21.  Publish posts on your Blog (content you provided)
22.  Filter  and reply to comments on your blog
23.  Answering support tickets (with the use of Zendesk)
24.  Blog commenting (to increase links to your site)
25.  Participating in discussion forums or message boards (more promotion!)



How-To Manage E-mails More Effectively

Take a step back and think about how much time you spend in a day checking e-mails, trying to get in touch with people.

Believe it or not, having good e-mail management skills can be equated to being productive. With the large amount of time e-mails take up in most of our lives, learning how to optimize the way you deal with e-mails can greatly influence the  way you balance between productive and free time in your day.

(Source: We Heart It)
(Source: We Heart It)

For another, being glued to your e-mail server for hours at a stretch is often a way of avoiding the fact that you have work to do by passively talking and communicating about it. It's important to not mistake laziness for productivity when you spend less time actually doing work than e-mailing about it.

Using the three simple steps below, dealing with e-mails might be less of a task and more of an accomplishment. Have any more suggestions? Be sure to share it with us in the comments section below!

Stick to a Schedule

While it might seem ridiculous to incorporate blocked time slots to check e-mail into your daily schedule, if you spend an excessive amount of time waiting for and responding to e-mails, then this might be the way to go. Think about it—very rarely do you need to respond to a note less than a few hours from when you receive it.

E-mails often contains lists of tasks you need to accomplish. They serve as a reminder of things you forgot to do or need to add onto your agenda. And more likely than not, they are a source of stress. If this is the case, reduce the burden on your day by allotting yourself only specific times when you will let yourself be bogged down by e-mails.

Reduce the burden on your day by allotting yourself only specific times when you will let yourself be bogged down by e-mails.
Reduce the burden on your day by allotting yourself only specific times when you will let yourself be bogged down by e-mails.

There are several mail servers which have options that let you choose the times in the day when you receive mails. Using these services might bring you one step closer to freeing up your day!

Work those Folders and Archives

Being disorganized reaches its peak when it comes to e-mails. Very few of us (including myself!) take the time to sort e-mails based on urgency or subject matter. Just think about the sheer amount of time it takes to dig through hundreds of e-mails to find an important message from months ago: all of which can be avoided from being organized from the start.

Utilizing apps like Mailbox app can help you stay productive and manage your email inbox for efficiently. This nifty app allows you to archive e-mails that you don't need in the forefront of your mailbox, push away e-mails that you don't want to deal with until a later period in time, and sort messages according to their topic. Let this app enhances your productivity and time management for the better.

Avoiding E-mails All Together

While it's easier said than done, avoiding e-mails might in fact enhance your level of productivity rather than impair it. Just think about it: how many times have you ignored an e-mail just because of the sheer number of people CC'ed on the communication? And how many times do you procrastinate on replying to a message, only to forget about it all together?

Don't be afraid to pick up your phone and make a call if needed: E-mails aren't always the most effective way to communicate.
Don't be afraid to pick up your phone and make a call if needed: E-mails aren't always the most effective way to communicate.

It's easy to loose an e-mail among the stream that comes pouring into your mailbox each day. What's worse is sending someone an important electronic message, only to wonder if they will end up seeing the message at all. Having a computer on you at all times does not mean you need to boycott other modes of communication. Don't be afraid to pick up the phone and leave someone a voice call when you need to get a note across—fast.



How-To Perfectly Customize Your Work Space

The way you work is personal. Think about it — the way you place the things that matter around you, the stationary that you use regularly to boost productivity, and the pictures and momentums that you intersperse in your surrounding, all play a role in making your work feel like home.

Your workspace — whether it be an open community office, a cubicle, or your personal study — can go miles towards becoming your personal sanctuary with just a few simple steps.

Workspace via Pintrest

Workspace via Pintrest

1. Light it up

Light is as personal as it gets. We all perceive different levels of light to be pleasant, and the way you choose to light up your living space says plenty about your personality. Do you like colored lamps, or bright, fluorescent lights? Do you like a space with more natural light, or some place that's a bit more dim?

Look at the way you light up your house to make it comfortable, and try to mimic that in your workspace. By using similar bulb tones and colors, you will bring comfort straight from your home to your work, and create a more comforting and relaxing work environment.

2. Plug in some sounds

Look around you. We live in an era where it's impossible to not stay plugged in and connected to music. If music is something that improves your productivity and your ability to work creatively and inspirationally, then adding music to your environment could be the trick.

Find a playlist that fits your style. Do you like classical, or is something heavier more suited to your approach to work? Do you like more natural sounds or white noise as compared to actual music?

While music isn't generally considered a large part of workspace customization, if it impacts the way you feel about work, it's important to take into consideration.

3. Au Naturale

While adding a plant to your work space may seem like a clichéd approach to customization and decoration, some flora never did any hard. Plants proven to add optimism and positivity to a work environment.

Whether you choose to stick to keeping a small lucky bamboo or potted plant on the corner of your desk or choose to adorn your work space with plants is up to you. At the end of the day, giving yourself a break from your work tasks by caring for a plant can go miles towards improving the levels of heartiness you have towards your work.

4. Bring along home

Is there a coffee mug you drink from at home that you can't feel at home without? Do you hang a calendar by the door that you absolutely live by?

You may try to avoid bringing your work back home, but that's no reason why not to bring your home to work. To make your work into your second home and to enjoy being at work as much (or almost as much) as you enjoy being home, work needs to feel like home. And the best way to truly create that feeling is to bring things to work that remind you of home.



How-To Eat on the Job

how to eat on the job

Do you pay attention to what you eat while on the job?

Certain foods boost productivity. And others, they impair the same.

Your food has a direct impact on the efficiency of your day and the food that you intake in the middle of you day affects how the rest of your day will turn out. Similarly, if you're providing food to your employees and hoping to create a more productive workforce, then carefully planning out the plate might be one step towards boosting work ethic on a daily basis.

Did you know that worker's who ate healthy had a 25% boost in job productivity? And a regular intake of fruit and vegetables lead to a 20% increase in job performance?

It's not an uncommon feeling -- feeling lethargic, or unwilling to work, after a heavy, carb-filled meal. However, it's an avoidable feeling.

Sugary foods. Soda or candy, can make you feel spaced-out, weak, confused, or nervous once the glucose in your brain drops, known as a sugar crash.

Heavy, calorie-ridden foods. Foods like hamburgers and fries will make you sleepy and slow you down at work.

Eating too little can make you process information more slowly, take longer to react and have more trouble remembering sequences.

While sugary carbohydrates are often eaten as a reward for a "job well done" at work, a the real reward may lie in a healthier collection of foods like almonds, carrots, berries, and bananas. Companies like Graze and NatureBox offer great, healthy snacks on a subscription basis, which makes it easier to provide healthy snack options. 


What type of snacks do you reach for to keep productive?


5 Tips for Better Work-Life Balance

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5 Tips for Better Work-Life Balance

If you’re feeling overworked and finding it more challenging than ever to juggle the demands of your job and the rest of your life, you’re not alone. In today’s society, many of us find it more and more difficult finding balance in our daily lives. Feeling more burnout in discovering ways to devote more time to the activities and people that matter. Here are five ways to bring a little more balance to your daily routine:

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How-To Maintain Motivation

Build momentum and maintain that momentum to boost motivation
Build momentum and maintain that momentum to boost motivation

So many of us do things not out of personal pleasure or enjoyment, but because we just need to. In that case, how do we convince ourselves to successfully finish the task at hand? Moreover, how do we make ourselves put in our best effort?

Maintaining motivation is the trade to be learned. Here are some simple ways to hold up that motivation for the long-run.

Be Forward-Looking

If something is tedious and difficult to do, there's absolutely no reason why you should spend your effort thinking more about it than you need to. The key is to keep reminding yourself to look past the present, and concentrate on the future.

Whether it be fitness or work, the difficulty in completing todays task will amount to something better later on. It's all about acknowledging a trade-off. By constantly thinking about your goals and what you want your ideal future to entail, you might find it a tad bit easier to work through your task list.

Work a To-Do List

A To-Do List can be daunting, as it acts as a reminder of all the things that you need to complete through the course of your day. But, do you remember that feeling you got that day when you managed to check every last bullet off that list?

Remember that feeling.

Success is addicting. There is nothing wrong with being greedy with your potential. As long as you can maintain a sense of thirst of success, working through even the most difficult of chores becomes a way for you to get one step closer to meeting your potential.

For the Loved Ones

When things get tough and motivation falters, sometimes it gets easier to do things for others rather than to do them for yourself.

It doesn't matter who it is. All that it matters is realizing that there is a person out there that is either directly or indirectly going to benefit from you completing that one difficult task at hand. There might be someone depending on you for it. Maybe there is someone who might be pleasantly surprised by your accomplishment!

All that matters is that you finish your work with the realization that you made someone else a little bit happier.

Everything's a +

You've heard people say it before — having a positive attitude makes everything more enjoyable. It's clichéd, but nothing could be closer to the truth.

It's easier said than done. It's easy to plaster pseudo-optimism and smiles over long-withstanding bitterness. But motivation is about convincing yourself that what you're doing is worth the extra effort. And then, it's about maintaining that belief.

Build Momentum

It's like athletics. When you've built up that adrenaline rush, its hard to put down.

Sometimes going through the struggle of maintaining motivation through the initial stress pays off. Build up the momentum and let your productivity take you farther. Put yourself on  a roll so that backing off becomes the bigger challenge.