Blog


A Simple Guide To A Productive Life

How-To Maximize Your Mornings

Comment

How-To Maximize Your Mornings

How many times have you gone through half of the day before realizing that it might have been smart to wake up just a little bit early that morning to ease your schedule? It's not an easy task to wake up and zone into productivity mode — especially if you are not someone who wakes up very easily.

Being a morning person may seem inherent, but it's nothing more than a habit that's built up over time. Going to sleep early and waking up late is programmed into your body clock by practice and maintained through a commitment to your sleep schedule. And the attitude that mornings aren't to be spent dulled away comes only when you realize the productivity that can come from mornings.

Most people in this world aren't morning people. I get it. But you can be and you can maximize your mornings.

The art of productivity often lies in how you construct your schedule. Do it in a way that you can get the most done in the least amount of time.
The art of productivity often lies in how you construct your schedule. Do it in a way that you can get the most done in the least amount of time.

Build a Top-Down Schedule

If there is something that you truly aren't looking forward to doing sometime later in the day, why would you deal with its unpleasantly all the way from the mornings. Get the card things out of the way early on so that the rest of your day is filled with things that are easy on your mind and body. Clean off and check mark those tedious chores when its bright and early so that the rest of the day is spent of things that are less of a bore.

More time to work means allowing yourself a more flexible schedule. Productivity goes down over the course of the day — you probably know that as much as I do — so allotting some time in the morning to work is the best way to tackle that task list.

breakfast

Don't Skip Breakfast

Best meal of the day, right? While food might not seem on top of the productivity charts, food is important to your productivity. Taking some time out in the morning to allow yourself the time to make a healthy and filling breakfast might be worth more than the world.

It's no doubt difficult to concentrate when you're trudging through chores and work thinking about when you make the next pit stop to the cafeteria or fast food joint. It's harder when your body truly has no fuel to function. Reward yourself in advance of your day and give yourself the breakfast you deserve for the day ahead of you.

workout

Exercise To Kickstart Any Morning

Whether exercise is on your daily routine or not, exercise is a great way to kick-start any morning. You will probably have a tendency to scorch more calories in the morning when you have the energy rather than later in the day. And the adrenaline rush is nothing to beat.

Exercise serves a dual purpose. Use exercise as a meditation of sorts. Clear your head and think about the successes that you have ahead of you. Think about things that you generally would not have the time to think about and fill yourself with the positive thoughts you should have. Exercise should be done for you and only for you. If it makes you feel good, then nothing but positivity should precede or succeed it.

Comment

How-To Simplify Your Life

Comment

How-To Simplify Your Life

Complexity causes confusion. It causes a constant stream of stress, a flow of pressure, and  the never ending need to always be "on top." This will eventually deplete your creative juices and cause an overwhelming feeling of burnout.  

In order to fight complexity, you'll have to simplify. Here are just a few simple ways you can truly simplify your life.

KNOW WHAT SIMPLICITY MEANS

Simplicity isn't the same for all of us. Not all of us perceive the same things to constitute a simple lifestyle and what may be complex for you, may just be another hedge in simplicity for someone else. Often knowing what you want to be a part of a simple life and clearly envisioning what you see as simple is enough to attain it.

Know what you want. Whether you want to write it down or ingrain it in your memory is up to you — but the key is to clearly know what you expect from a simple life. Is it less materialism? A happier family? Less work pressure? Document it, know it, and takes steps towards following it.

THINK SIMPLER

Ambition plagues all of us, but sometimes downsizing ambition and setting realistic and more easily achievable goals is one positive step towards simplicity.

Think about it. How much time do you put into constructing your goals? And, how much energy goes into setting high standards for yourself? On top of that, how much energy do you expend when you fail to reach a certain ambition?

Cut yourself some slack. Your ambition does not define you, and to be a simpler person, simpler ambitions can often make you a happier, more content human being.

BRUSH AWAY NEGATIVITY

Negative people, negative things, negative ideas. It's time to put all of that aside. Negativity plagues simplicity in such a way that it puts stress on your being and hampers your happiness. It adds additional worry to your day and takes away your energy from other things on which it could be better expended on.

Instead, look around you and figure out what makes you happy. Find those simple pleasures that make your days more enjoyable, and strive to be made happier by simpler things.

NO ISN'T NEGATIVE

That's right. Learning to say no is never a negative. In fact, it's just another way to put negatives out of your life. Sometimes there are things that are just outside your capabilities or lies outside the constraints of your schedule. Sometimes you just don't want to do something that's being dictated — even forced — upon you. Look out for things that make your life more complicated, and learn to say 'no' to them.

EVALUATE RELATIONSHIPS

As humans, we rely on relationships to get through our days. We need people to lean on for support, occasionally, and it feels good to be able to support someone else. But if a relationship is detrimental to your health and happiness  — regardless of whether it personal or professional — then it requires a second thought.

Don't fight for relationships that can't be fixed. Don't fight to maintain relationships that hurt your simplicity or standard of life. Instead, put that energy into relationships that make your every day even a little bit better.

Comment

How To Make The Best New Year's Resolutions (And Actually Keep It)

Comment

How To Make The Best New Year's Resolutions (And Actually Keep It)

The new year is just around the corner. With a new year comes new goals. And with new goals comes the daunting task of figuring out what exactly you want from the 365 days ahead of you.

Sometimes resolutions are accomplished. Most of the times they're tried and failed. Often, they're left behind with the piece of paper that they were written on and forgotten during throughout the year.

Every year, I make a resolution with a determination unmatched by anything else but fail to realize what is realistically achievable and make resolutions that are practical.

Resolutions are daunting, but not impossible. We can all make resolutions that are not only realistic and within sight, but also stretch our capabilities and challenge us to achieve more. Like with work productivity, resolutions need small goals to attain the bid picture goal. Here's how to make the best resolutions and actually keep them.

Reflect

Here's step one. With any goals — New Year's Resolution or not — reflection plays a vital role. Reflection provides a starting point for formulating your goals. It gives you the anchor you need to create goals that are both ambitious and realistically achievable. It's the key.

Reflecting on the mistakes made last year allow us to make resolutions catered to fixing our weaknesses. It enables us to grow as individuals and realize what we have to strive towards to be better, happier, and more successful individuals. Reflecting also allows us to realize what we really want from the next year. Did we make the wrong resolutions last year? Did we strive towards something but not find any happiness once we reached our goals? Take a step back from the reality and look at 2013 in abstraction to discover what you really need to resolve.

(Source: hongkiat.com)
(Source: hongkiat.com)

Find A Medium

As much as we believe that we can hold on to coherent thoughts in our mind, sometimes the most effective way to make solid resolutions is to put them down. Whether you decide to type you resolutions, write them down with pen & paper, draw them out, tweet it out, post it on Facebook.The key is to have some place to refer to your resolutions throughout the year to keep you accountable.

Keep Visual Reminders

Our memory is hardly reliable. We tend to remember things different each time we try to recall a thought or retrieve a glimpse in the past. If you want to make a resolution that truly sticks, then having a place that you can refer to when trying to remember your resolution can make all the difference in the world. Create a vision board, set calendar reminders, post it on your desk or use and app like Nozbe or Habit List to help you reach your goal.

Set Goals

Resolutions don't necessarily have to run through the 365 days ahead of you. Instead, try breaking your goals up and assigning you own timeline through them. For instance, divide the year into trimesters and resolve to achieve certain tasks by the end of each trimester. If you find tackling a whole list of resolutions through the entire year difficult, this might allow you to achieve more systematically what you want.

Figure Out The Baby Steps

There is nothing wrong with having big goals — but any big goals, it's important to have the right baby steps to go along with it. When drawing up big goals and ambitions, think about what the small things you need to do to achieve that goals to the best of your ability. Is there some specific skill that you need to improve? Do you need any extra resources than what you already have? Think it through.

Sometimes, large vague goals are the most difficult to achieve. Not because the goals were too big to begin with, but because they’re not thought out with a streamlined focus. For each big goal, try to put together an action plan, or a list of steps that you should follow in order to reach that goal with a deadline for each.

Do that, and making resolutions that stick may become all the more easier.

What is your New Years Resolution? How are you planning to stick to it?

Comment

The Secret to Ultimate Productivity

2 Comments

The Secret to Ultimate Productivity

Say "toodles" to old habits and productivity wasting ways. 

There's one habit that does more for productivity than any other: Setting priorities.

It's the foundation, or habit if you will, for people who get stuff done.

It's about setting priorities and daily goals to accomplish the bigger picture. Successful folks are consistent about setting goals, smart about setting the right priorities, and disciplined about following through. (Yep. That's a big part of it...following through.)

Setting priorities is essentials to working more effectively. Here's the secret to ultimate productivity:

1. Define Your Highest Priority

Singling out your most critical goal is the most important thing you can do to be more productive. Why? Because it gives you something to judge against your daily tasks. It'll help you assess whether they are urgent, important, not urgent, or not important at all. 

Without this, you can easily get sucked into the thrill of checking off superficial items on your to-do list. You'll most likely get the easy (and fun) things done before the bigger, much more important tasks. 

To do this, each morning decide on your most important goal, then prioritize tasks that help you move closer to that goal. 

2. Manage the Scope

Trivial tasks are easier to start and fulfill than big ones. That's just life. By breaking down your work into small tasks also forces you to define specific, clear steps to take to achieve your goals. It's easier to start a project and finish it when you know exactly what to do.  

Methods like Lean Startup have changed productivity at work by diminishing scope, breaking down projects into manageable segments, and creating systems that let you work faster and smarter. Go ahead and do the same for your to do list. 

3. Plan More to Spend Less Mental Energy

The more time you invest to planning, the less time you waste during execution. Because you have an outline of how to achieve the big picture goal, you'll spend less time thinking about what needs to get done net. You want to devise your to-do list so clearly that you don't have to do much thinking when tackling any part. 

Invest a couple more minutes when writing items on your to-do list to make sure they concrete actions. For example, "Send email blast" could involve all sorts of tasks. "Send out newsletter to customers about new products: x, y, z . "

4. Just Say "No" 

Throughout the day, plenty of people compete for your time: coworkers, family, friends, people who advertise to you on the street or over the phone. They push their priorities, not yours. Having a top priority is the secret to saying "No." It gives you a backbone. It gives you clarity. In many cases, a socially acceptable excuse to say "no" when you need to.  

Tim Ferriss outlined some other great tips to help you say no and focus on your number one priority:

  • Do not answer calls from unrecognized phone numbers
  • Do not e-mail first thing in the morning or the last thing at night
  • Do not over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers 

5. Commit and Be Consistent

Most productivity methods will work with a bit of tweaking. But choosing a productivity method, find the right tools, and learning the best practices and shortcuts that will help you take advantage of them can be overwhelming. Choose systems and tools that will work best for you and tweak them so that it works for you.

Productivity starts before you cross off tasks on your to-do list.  

Do you have any methods that work?

2 Comments

These Are 8 Productivity Boosting Chrome Extensions You Need To Use

Comment

These Are 8 Productivity Boosting Chrome Extensions You Need To Use

If you're a Chrome user, you're going to love this post.

There are many great extensions that are great for boosting productivity. If you're aGoogle Chrome user, do you take advantage of the extensions out there? I’ve put together a list of some of the best Chrome add-ons to help make you a more productive person.

ADBLOCK

One of the most popular extensions for Chrome is AdBlock, which does exactly as its name suggests: it blocks out the ads on the webpages you click on. It makes surfing the web so much easier because it eliminates all the unnecessary junk that you don’t want to see.

STREAK

If you’re someone who always has a full inbox, check out Streak. It’s a customer relationship management tool that integrates with Gmail and keeps all of your emails nicely organized. Streak also includes the ability to send emails later, “snooze” them until a later time, view tracking, and more.

Evernote Web Clipper

Have you ever been surfing the web and wished you had a quick and easy way to save something you see or have read? Evernote Web Clipper can do this quickly and easily and it stores everything you save right into Evernote.

LastPass

It’s easy to forget or lose track of passwords and other personal information, but LastPass can keep track of all that information for you, and if you add it onto Chrome, you can access it with the click of a mouse. (LastPass also has a great mobile app!)

Google URL Shortener

Google URL Shortener is a great way to condense those down before sharing. Not only can you copy to your clipboard, but you can share the link directly via Facebook or Twitter through the extension. You also can also log into the website to see when each link was created and how many total clicks it’s received.

MailTrack

For someone who would be interested in tracking email, but doesn’t want to use something as elaborate as Streak, MailTrack is a great alternative. It allows you to see when your emails have been opened by the recipient.

url.jpg

Todoist

Todoist for Chrome is a simple extension that allows you to keep a to-do list at your fingertips at all times, keeping you focused on what you need to get done. It gives you the option to add subtasks and you can also add emails as tasks directly from Gmail. If you’re on-the-go, you can view your to-do list from any mobile device.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 12.38.08 PM.png

WEBSITE BLOCKER

This one is specifically for those people who get easily distracted by social media. Website Blocker can help with this. It'll eliminate the temptation to visit to Reddit or Facebook that's keep you distracted from your work. You can even choose to only block access to any websites during certain times of the day. 

There are so many different extensions out there for almost anything. If you’re a Chrome user and you’ve never taken the time to check out the web store, you should give it a try and find some add-ons that work for you.

Do you use any of these extensions? Let us know about some of your favorites.

Comment

20 THINGS YOU CAN HAVE YOUR REMOTE ASSISTANT DO

Comment

20 THINGS YOU CAN HAVE YOUR REMOTE ASSISTANT DO

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.

Comment

How To Deal with Cancelled Flights

Comment

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. 

Whether you find delays, cancellations, or re-booking problems at SFO or elsewhere, 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.

Comment

Comment

How-To Eat on the Job

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

how to eat 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?

Comment

Is Hiring a Virtual Assistant Right For You?

Comment

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.

Comment

25 Tasks to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant

Comment

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!)

Comment