Push your boundaries – you won’t be sorry

Push your boundaries – you won’t be sorry

Something we all tend to talk about easily but not always “do it”. It’s easier to tell someone else that they should push their boundaries BUT when it comes to yourself, we struggle…. Well sometimes I do.

The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment.-~Pema Chodron

 These past few months, I’ve been focusing on educating myself more to be able to do my own thing. When I left my full-time job to be with my son, I had this mind set of where I wanted to be and what to do other than must being a stay-at-home mom.  Life happened and things didn’t turn out exactly as I wanted but I’m okay with it, I am happy. I still haven’t educated myself as much as I expected…not at all.

At first this wasn’t so easy, I was scared – I mean, I was in a comfort zone. I had a stable job, stable income and left it for the exact opposite.I left all of this to do what I always dreamed of for a complete unknown territory.  This would be the second time in my life I had this opportunity.

The first time I was too afraid to do something on my own, to step out of my comfort zone, so I said no. It was a year later where the opportunity approached me again, and I realised that I had to step out of my comfort zone. I had to give it a try, or I will regret it for the rest of my life.

After a few weeks passed I realised that, my new “environment” had so much more to offer. AND that yes, this is unknown and completely out of my own comfort zone,  that I might not do everything I planned but that whatever I get done will be good enough.  It was only two weeks until I had enough clients/projects lined up to be more than okay. My son was happy & healthy to be with me at home.

I suspect I didn’t do as well as I wanted to with studying and educating myself because my head wasn’t in the right place.  However, my mentality has since changed, and I now find my success from setting my own boundaries – or to set fewer boundaries.

I found that defining to large goals and targets detracts from what you really set out to do.  The goals I set for myself in this unknown world – to be a full-time mom, to work all day, be a homemaker AND to study – weren’t achievable.

So, today – don’t set “permanent” goals. I have a rough idea in mind, the results to be outstanding. “There are no limits to your potential achievements.”

In my opinion, push the boundaries, by not making any OR if you have them – they need to be flexible in changing circumstance. Just put in all the energy and effort you can without exhausting your other responsibilities. You will create a sense of inner self-satisfaction AND never be too hard on yourself.

You will regret not trying something, but you will never regret doing something out of your comfort zone that can be good for you!

 

How to reduce stress in the workplace with one simple exercise

How to reduce stress in the workplace with one simple exercise

STRESS, wow this is a word that can be easily thrown around in almost every workplace, anywhere in the world. What if I told you that you could reduce this by almost 70% with just one little thing?

Sound too good to be true? What if I told you that you could do it, by simply practicing something your body and mind is so attuned to and it is a perfectly natural action?

In the words of Mark Twain:

“[Humanity] has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug—push it a little—weaken it a little, century by century, but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand”.

 

Laughter has several amazing effects on the body.  It strengthens your immune system, reduces muscle tension and stress. It is good for your ticker and some say it can help you recover faster from injury or illness.

We all know the workplace can be a stressful environment and it may not be easy to get that hearty, healthy chuckle in, so I have compiled a short list of how you can make your day a tad happier.

  1. Use the Word: Check out http://www.wordthink.com/; word of the day, then try to naturally work it into a conversation.
  2. Have some Hula Fun: Hold a hula hoop contest with your desk neighbour or on a zoom call with your colleagues.
  3. Pull Yourself towards yourself: write a letter to yourself about how your stress is ridiculous “dear future me, can you believe how I wasted a day being stressed?”
  4. Jam it up: get up and dance, do it in the elevator, at your desk, in front of a mirror, just wiggle those hips for a minute
  5. Jam it up Together: Even better than a solo elevator jiggle, have a 2pm 30 second dance party with your co workers
  6. Halloween scream: put out a bowl of candy at your desk and offer people a sweet in exchange for a story or a joke.
  7. Employ some dark humour : Get a de-motivational poster for your desk or office.
  8. Glam it up: give any colleague (even the men) a new hairstyle with an online makeover.
  9. Poetry slam: Buy refrigerator magnets for the office kitchen.
  10. Pirate Ahoy: give everyone on your team a Pirate name
  11. Pass Notes: pass a note in the office like you did as a kid, better yet, fold it into a paper plane and see if you can land it on their desk
  12. DON’T laugh: have a don’t laugh don’t smile contest with your co-workers, see who breaks first

 

But remember life can’t always be fun and games, so there are some rules to follow when it comes to humour in the workplace:

Know your audience

Don’t use humour to insult or offend anyone. Anything that includes religion, sexuality, ethnic background, politics, or someone’s personal beliefs, is a no-go-zone.

Don’t forget to laugh at yourself

Life is short, don’t take yourself too seriously.

Include company anecdotes

This can make even the most disparaging audience feel involved.

Use humour to diffuse tension

But not at the cost of a covered insult.

 

There is still work to be done, so don’t go overboard!

The number one quality I look for in anyone, be it my manager, friend or colleague, is a sense of humour.  Life is stressful! Let’s all try and turn our frowns upside down, even if it is just for 5 minutes of the day.

What do I need to explain to new clients?

What do I need to explain to new clients?

Until recently many entrepreneurs and businesses in general have viewed using the services of a Virtual Assistant as a luxury more than a necessity.  However, the outbreak of Covid-19 has changed the way people view working from home and thrust the Virtual Assistant role into the limelight.

 

I am not a ghost

I find that when you start working with a new client there are always a few teething problems, given that you are asking two or more people to work together who in all probability are sitting in different areas of the country or even the world and there are different personalities that need to gel.  It is a tad difficult as you cannot have a chat in the kitchen while you make your first cup of coffee for the day.  A VA is to all intent and purposes a “ghost” employee, and it is important to remember that although I do not physically sit in the office, I am a person.  So many times, I have heard other remote assistants say “My client has no idea who I am.”

It sometimes takes a while for clients to get their head around the fact that you as a VA are an individual who works remotely on tasks and projects that you have been assigned by the client.  Very rarely is there that personal connection.

 

My working hours

Utilising the services of a VA is the best way to move forward.  I find that one of the first issues to address is working times.  Clients sometimes need to be reminded that you are a “free-lance worker” and as such you will normally have more than one client, your priorities will be slightly different to an office-based employee.

 

I need it in writing

Communication is key to a long term, successful working relationship.  I always remind my clients I am not physically in their office and therefore unable to raise concerns face to face.  It is always good to give written instructions. This way I can revert to this document should I need clarity on what you expect from me.  It helps to provide me with a timeline.  It is a way of holding everyone accountable for their actions.  With working from home becoming the new norm, there are plenty of online management tools and apps that one can use to assist with managing both client and VA expectations.  It is a matter of time and trial and error to see which one works best for you.

 

How am I doing?

I have found in the past, that the more detail I am provided with the better my performance will be.  Certain clients that I have worked with have provided specific feedback along the way and this has always been a good way of getting to know one another and addressing areas that might need to be changed.

My theory is simple, I will work hard for my clients, if we keep the lines of communication open and we regularly check in with each other, we will become an awesome team.  I will be able to assist you in the day to day management leaving you free to grow your company and move from strength to strength.

Photo by ThisIsEngineering from Pexels

How to get the most out of hosting online meetings

How to get the most out of hosting online meetings

You might think that online business meetings cannot possibly be as effective as in-person meetings.

Think again!

During this pandemic we have no choice but to meet online.   While a virtual meeting cannot replace personal contact, there are many ways to manage virtual meetings to get better outcomes than you would by sitting around a table.

Have shorter meetings

If your virtual meetings aren’t shorter, they should be.

‘Zoom fatigue’ has entered the lexicon – online meetings are more tiring than in-person.   The most obvious reason is that staring at your mirror image makes one self-conscious.   It takes real strength of mind not to worry about your appearance.   You also cannot shift on your chair without wobbling on video. Extroverts feel that they do not get a chance to interact with their colleagues and introverts don’t enjoy being on camera.

These are a few in-depth articles you could read for more information:

Zoom fatigue is real — here’s why video calls are so draining

‘Zoom fatigue’ is taxing the brain. Here’s why that happens.

Here’s Why You’re Feeling Zoom Fatigue

 

Get great participation

Let’s face it, getting participation during a any meeting can be a challenge – but technology we have at our disposal makes it possible to energize and involve people.  It does mean that the host needs to do more preparation than walking into a room and starting a meeting with an icebreaker, but this can be a good thing to give structure to your meeting.

Here are some of the do’s:

  • Enabling the waiting room and be online five minutes before the meeting starts to allow some socializing among colleagues.
  • Plan an activity to energize participants, particularly during those unavoidable long meetings. Here’s an article which will give your thinking a kickstart:

https://www.sessionlab.com/blog/online-energizers/

  • I nclude opportunities for interaction on the agenda.
  • Collect input with polls and surveys.
  • Your Q & A sessions are livelier and more productive with live chat enabled – more people ask more questions. You have a written record to help you collate topics and give comprehensive answers.   This also means that you can address any unanswered questions later.

 

Take control

You can control participation and eliminate most disruption by setting your preferences for each meeting.

  • If you want everyone’s full attention – disable private chats.
  • To encourage discussion – enable chats.
  • Use opinion polls and surveys to dynamically involve your audience.
  • Control who attends with unique passwords.
  • Prevent disruption in your meeting preferences – you control whether participants can mute their microphone and/or video.
  • And you can avoid those potentially embarrassing moments which go viral on social media too! Simply take what precautions you can to avoid disruption at home and remember that you are on video.

 

Bring in the experts

Do you need a consultant to give a quick insight?  No problem – give them a time slot and they can join online for as long as their time allows.   You will find that it’s much easier and cheaper to have outside experts speak at your events when they don’t need to travel at all.

 

Find the right service for you

The tech giants and the newbies are racing to bring more and better features to market.    Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom Meetings are the biggest names in the news at the moment, but more and more options are available almost every day.

If you are shopping for the best platform for your business, visit technology comparison sites such as G2CrowdPCMag Business Software Index or Capterra  to compare features, benefits and pricing.

These are some features to consider:

  • Which face to face view do you prefer?
  • Do the analytics provide all the information you need?
  • How secure is the software?
  • Does it integrate with all the collaboration tools and software you are already using, or offer new aspects you will benefit from?

Use collaboration tools

You might be content with the collaboration tools built into your software but need additional features.  No problem – you will find technology which integrates with systems you are already using.   Some of the features which I find most useful are:

  • Screen sharing.
  • Whiteboards and parking lots.
  • Live chat (group or private). Chat is your opportunity to increase collaboration and keep everyone on the same page.  Some of the actions you can take are:
    • Link your agenda in chat.
    • Link shared documents.
    • Answer questions as you go, or park them on a whiteboard.
    • Solicit and expand on ideas.

 

Record keeping made simple

Record your meeting with a mouse click and save it to the cloud where you can access it later.    Depending on the software you use, you can even get a transcription within minutes.

 

Analyse and monitor your progress

Use the analytics provided by your software for ongoing improvement.  Find out which topics are popular, view and save poll results and create infographics.

 

Make the paradigm shift

In conclusion, although we have no choice other than meeting online during a pandemic, we can choose to make the most of the options we do have. Whether you are new to video conferencing or an old hand, technology changes provide ongoing opportunities for improvement.

Embrace the benefits, be more effective, and enjoy your meetings!

 

Image by Lynette Coulston from Pixabay

Make a budget to follow your dream

Make a budget to follow your dream

 

You might not think so, but budgeting is one of the most creative things that you can do. Closing your eyes and making a wish is the way we humans dream.  Having a thought, making a plan and working the plan, makes our dreams or thoughts come true!   Budgeting is putting that thought on paper and if you are sticking to that plan, your dreams will come true.

I want to give some tips from my personal experience and years being part of many companies and their budgets.

There is still today a lot of businesses and people that don’t understand the reason why they have to have a budget.   I think it is because the definition for a budget, ”an estimate of income and expenditure for a specific period”, sounds so vague and uncertain.

But implementing a budget can change your whole cash flow issue and can be very rewarding, IF you are doing it correct and IF you are disciplined to stay focused on what you have decided.

 

Estimate your income

The first section of your budget is the income estimate.

Surely you must have something to work on, you can’t decide that I am going to do a budget with an income of R500 000.00 per month and you trust it will be there, no, you need to have previous sales history and projections to back a budget like that.

Whether you are working with actual stock or giving a service it is very important to make sure that what you using as a figure for your budget you can also verify.

A car salesman can’t have a budget of R500 000.00 income, if he has only stock of 20 vehicles and he knows his profit per sales is +/- R20 000.00 which will only give him a R400 000.00 income, IF he sells all of the vehicles.

A service person that is working per hour, can’t use an income of R200 000.00 and his rate per hours is R250.00 p hour. Even if he works 30 days in the month for 24hours a day he is not going to get to R200 000.00 income for the month.  Your budget must have a reason why you say you will be able to get that income.

For example, you work 10 hours a day at a rate of R250.00 p/hour and you know that with all the work you have, you will only be able to rest for 4 days in this month.

  • Days worked 26 days
  • Hours worked 260 hours
  • Total income for hours R65 000.00.

Your budget can’t be more than R65 0000.00 for the month except if you are going to get in another person to help and you can add more hours.

Rather make your income a little bit less, than committing yourself to expenses that is not going to happen at all.  Then you tell your bookkeeper “I told you a budget won’t work”

If your budget income is projected on actuals like stock, hours, capacity, and history of sales and not a thumb suck or wish list, I can assure you, the budget will work.

 

Plan your expenses

The second part of your budget is your expenses and I am sure I don’t need to tell you that if you have in your budget an income of R200 000.00 you can’t have expenses of R300 000.00!

There are different expenses on our budgets.

Monthly expenses:

Items like  telephone bills, internet service, rent, salaries and wages, fuel, printing and stationery, insurance and this can differ from person to person.

 These expenses are usually easy to budget for, because we have history and actual figures on which we can work our budgets.  Keep in mind situations where those expenses might increase for example, now we use more data for Zoom calls than Fuel for driving due to Covid 19.  Just take some time and think through your planning for the month and you will be able to see where there might be changes.

Yearly expenses:

Yearly expenses are expenses like your Licences on vehicles and also programs that we are using.

Instead of going into a panic because you have to have R10 000.00 one month for an accounting license renewal, budget it over 12 months and putting aside R833.33 per month and you don’t need to worry one month!

 

Saving

Now I have touched a very important part of budgeting, and that is the saving part and discipline part.   If you budget for a big expense or taxes or even a yearly fee, you need to keep that money in your bank every month as per budget.  The budget won’t help you, if you have that amount of money budgeted every month, but you are using all the money every month because it is available in your bank and when you need to pay your yearly bill…. the budget did not work.

Budget and saving work hand to hand.  If you are lucky to be in government you budget and they give you that amount of money that you budgeted for, for that month, but if you are in the private sector, you have to make sure that, the money you have budgeted for a certain expense on a certain time, will be available.

I find the best way to make sure you keep to your budget is open a separate savings or money market account.  Do transfers for the amounts that you know, is not this month’s expense, to that separate account, you can also earn some interest on that amount, if you choose the right account and then you know the money is not lying in the current account that you use for daily expenses.

 

Your wish list

The last part of your budget is your wish list.  I always keep a wish list apart from my budget to make sure that when good times are here and I made more profit than expected, that I spend it on the wish list items.  These are items that you know you need to better your work or service but there is no money available now.  For example, I have a printer, but would like to have one of those big printers that can scan and email lots of pages with a touch of a button.

Instead of wasting money on unnecessary stuff, keep to your wish list, and then you will eventually have everything you wished for.

 

As Abraham Lincoln said –   “The best way to predict your future, is to create it”