When working as a Virtual Assistant, the different online and digital tools that you use are really important. You make use of various different tools and you depend on them a lot as well, to make your work environment better and easier. I use quite a few myself, I depend on them to help me get my work done. If I think back, to before I started working as a VA, I did not even know about 20% of the online tools that are out there. And I still come across many that are new to me.
If I can name and compare two of these tools, it would be Miro and Smartsheet. If you look at the general opinion of users on the internet, it seems like Miro is a bit more popular than Smartsheet.
Let’s look at a few pro’s and con’s of these two tools.
Miro is a whiteboard platform where the whole team can come together simultaneously on the same ‘page’ and work on one project at the same time. It is an online, visual collaboration white boarding platform to create, collaborate, and centralize communication across your company on a single online whiteboard.
“It enables distributed teams to work effectively together, from brainstorming with digital sticky notes to planning and managing agile workflows.”
The team can add spreadsheets and start discussions while they are working.
Just like sitting around the table in a virtual boardroom, the app is really easy to use.
You can use different apps, like Dropbox and Google drive directly from within the Miro platform,
Can sign up for free, it is more cost effective
I was not able to find a lot of con’s, which gives me an overall good impression of Miro.
The mobile version performs smooth, but works only for visualization
Nothing comes to mind, if there was one thing it would be that the export viewport thing is a bit hard to get
It is a cloud based platform, that enables teams and organisations to plan, capture, manage and automate and report on work.
Reporting is another important capability of Smartsheet. The reports of the software are very flexible and can be focused on the tasks per member, such as overdue tasks, and others.
Smartsheet has a good file storage system. You are able to store files without leaving the app to access another app.
Team members can collaborate and report on what they are working on in real-time, manage their tasks, and automate their workflows.
It is pricey
There is a lack of a time tracking feature
There is a lack of a practical activity stream
When you are looking for an online tool to use, the best option would be to do your research first, before choosing one. There are so many out there, and they all have really good features and benefits. Look at a few and decide on the one that would work the best for the specific needs you have.
Healthy body = Healthy mind. Healthy mind = Healthy body.
Seems so simple doesn’t it? And yet keeping a balance between body and mind can be quite challenging. Bring in the third element – soul – and we find ourselves in a whole new ball game. Our mind, bodies and souls are the 3 cornerstones of our existence. One cannot exist without the other and if these are not in harmony, we find ourselves unbalanced. I like to visualize them in a circle, so that I see a rolling, continuous cycle, all interleading into each other. One will always be on the top whilst you give your time and energy to it, and then will move onto the next and the next, picking up the energy and momentum and keeping it flowing, filtering energy and positivity into each one. If positivity is what you choose.
We live in an era where stress is a huge part of our daily routines, especially now in this new world we live in. The pressure of simple daily tasks can seem unsurmountable, leaving us nowhere near a healthy mind, body, or soul, especially if the situation is the same day in and day out, with no definitive end.
Finding your balance
You can change this by completing the mind-body-soul circle. Make a concerted effort to change, starting with one of these three areas. Maybe you only need to work on one. Now is a good time to start and carry through into our lives once we go back to whatever the new normal is going to be.
Be kind to yourself. Remember that you might not get it right every day, that is not the victory. The victory is that you keep trying and don’t give up. This is a journey you will be on for the rest of your life and every small win is a win!
The mind is incredibly powerful! One has to be so careful on what you allow it to do. This all depends what you feed it. As powerful as it is, you are still in control. Unless you are consciously aware of this, it could control you. There have been thousands of case studies and theories on the power of the mind. To uncomplicate things, keep it simple. Don’t consume all your energy on negative thoughts, especially those you are not able to control. If you are consumed by something, ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do to change the situation? If not, let it go. This takes practice. When we practice noticing our thoughts and letting go, we engage in a powerful habit, leading to peace and ultimately a better-balanced life.
I am trying a new technique, which may work for you too. When I find my thoughts racing and out of control, I force my mind to envision a bright ball of energy. (This is used in Qigong Yoga) and nothing else. I imagine this to be my safe zone, my go to place, and I try and feed my mind off this positive space. You could also try a happy place – a special place in your mind that you love being in and sit there quietly. Calming your thoughts and taking back control of your mind.
Taking control of your mind one step at a time can be incredibly liberating! If you do not like what you are thinking you need to change what you are planting.
An old Chinese proverb captures the power of our thinking in shaping our lives:
Sow a thought and reap an act
Sow an act and reap a habit
Sow a habit and reap a character
Sow a character and reap a destiny
Exercise for some may be hard, for others it is easy, and they can’t imagine their lives without it. They may have an advantage here, as the benefits of exercise have been proven time and time again. For those not on their side of the fence, what I am suggesting is that you start off slow, no pressure, don’t even set a target. Just experiment and find what you enjoy. Experiment with Yoga, with Pilates, with Qigong, Zumba, Barre (ballet-inspired fitness class) boxing, the list is endless, or the more traditional running, walking, swimming, or cycling. Due to health reasons I have had to stop running and focus more on strengthening. I miss the runners high but am now enjoying the feeling of being stronger and this has opened my eyes to another world connecting me to focused breathing, control, and the power of the mind, interlinking the mind, body, and soul trinity.
A good diet is essential, I’m sure you can all attest to the fact that over the past few weeks working from home has not helped the diet, this is where having a healthy mind is going to come in – willpower. We really are what we eat. We are all aware of the benefits of healthy food. Try and remember them.
Feed your soul
When I pray for my 4-year-old son, I pray for protection of his mind, body, and soul as I think of his future and what may lie ahead in all 3 of these aspects. Whoever you may or not pray to, believe, or not believe in, guard your heart and soul. Feed it to grow and prosper whatever this may mean to you. There is no one rule fits all here, only you know what your soul needs and what makes it happy. Know your worth. If you need coaching or counselling in areas where you think you need this, reach out and get the help to be the perfect version of you.
A happy version. A healthy version. The best version!
Mother’s Day is a celebration and honouring the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world. Personally, I celebrated my biological mom, sister, mother in law, and my spiritual mom, as all 4 form a very integral part of who I am today. I feel lucky to have these women in my life with ages ranging from 30 years to 75 years.
How it started
Did you know Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. St Andrew’s Methodist Church now holds the International Mother’s Day Shrine. Her campaign to make Mother’s Day a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna Jarvis wanted to honour her mother by continuing the work she started and to set aside a day to honour all mothers because she believed a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”. Wikipedia
Moms as health workers
Now that is something to celebrate, woman fighting and trying to improve public health issues. Just this morning my 6 year-old said that her teacher is very clever but only mommy knows when I am getting sick. Maybe it is more a woman thing, let us call it instinct to want to care for and help children and others. Not that I am taking any of it away from our men. But looking at my own life it is the woman becoming nurses, teachers, stay at home parents etc. And yes, none of them have these big, million-dollar companies. What they do have are homes where we as children feel safe, important, and loved. And thank you to the men in our lives giving us the opportunity to be who we need and want to be. I will let you step into my life for a minute to see who I celebrate this month of May, especially during this year.
My youngest sister is a theatre nurse at a private hospital. And yes, always these days on the background is the talk about Covid-19. At first, we were very blasé about what is coming, then afraid for her working in a hospital. And now we are just proud. The nurses are making TikTok dance videos to keep themselves uplifted and motivated, and sharing these with friends and family. And that is what we do as woman, when the though gets going, the going gets though. My sister makes me angry, makes me laugh, makes me cry and makes me feel loved, all in the space of 1 second. Only she understands me fully.
All my mothers
My mother, one of 6 children, never finished high school and was thought to be doing the only thing she could think of doing, being a mother and housewife. Today she has her own bakery, supplying all sorts of sweet and wonderful eatery to her local town. And it all started in her kitchen when she was a stay at home mom. We are all married now, but regularly goes back to mom for some “mom time” like only she can give us.
My work mom is this old lady that mentored me when I started working. She was also a teacher for 20 years at a “boys only” school, teaching science. She has this big heart for people that struggles and has it tough in life. She taught me that you can rise above your circumstance and be of value. And always have respect. Today she is 78 years old and is the most respectful person I know.
My mother in law is not like the normal mother in law. I do not even call her mom. She told me on my wedding day: “I am not your mother; you have a mother that loves you. But what I want to be is your friend”. I thought it very strange, but also realised she stepped in as a friend, giving guidance and structure where it was needed when my children were born.
Teach the children
When I am teaching my children about Mother’s Day, I teach them it is only a little bit about me, and so much more about woman of the world. I want to teach them about woman making a difference. The teachers at the school that helps every child grow and learn, the auntie at the local shop giving out lollypops, the doctor in the hospital making sure you are comfortable before she leaves for her home, the old lady on the sidewalk selling beautiful flowers and many more woman should be celebrated. Let us teach children to honour a person and be respectful, regardless of age, race, and circumstance. Because every person you see walking around has a mother that has her own story.
The ever-looming word Lockdown has become a daily subject in every household across the world. Many countries have different rules and regulations; however, the end goal is ultimately the same.
Lockdown has forced humanity to change and develop new habits and ways of life. It is said, that on average a new habit takes approximately 21 days to form and integrate into our daily lives. Lockdown for most of us, has resulted in us being confined to our living quarters and has made us readjust our daily routines. Those in essential services are still braving the outside world and the rest of us are staying home and learning to navigate this current lifestyle.
Maintaining an optimum level of wellness
We have now seen that we don’t have to physically drive to the gym or sign up for a gym membership to actively exercise. Now we have no reason for excuses. There are many South Africans participating in the Mzansi Lockdown Marathon Challenge, running a total of 42 kilometers in 21 days in their gardens. Friends and family are having virtual exercise sessions together and many are learning new exercise regimes like Yoga.
The bottom line is it should not have taken a worldwide pandemic for some to add exercise to their daily routines. Exercise is vital in achieving an optimum level of wellness. All of a sudden, we find ourselves taken notice of what we eat and consuming copious amounts of vitamins. Eating healthy and making up for nutrients we are lacking in our daily diet is necessary, embrace this new healthy lifestyle and make it your new way of life. Skip the crash diets we all only start because there is a special occasion around the corner. A healthy body results in a healthy mind, so yes add achieving an optimum wellness to your list of new habits to keep.
Regular communication with loved ones
We should all ask ourselves why has it taken a pandemic to force so many of us to regularly interact with family and friends? The answer may be one regulation of Lockdown: Social Distancing.
Why is human interaction so important? It is important for our mental health. Social contact helps humans to cope with stress and major life changes. Yes, life gets busy, loved ones move abroad and there isn’t enough time in a day to do all things we want to achieve. Family and friends are our support structure throughout life, and we should ultimately interact and ‘check in’ on one another on a regular basis, regardless if life is looking up or down.
Nowadays, technology offers us so many exciting options to have virtual group interactive sessions like Zoom, Houseparty or WhatsApp. Recent social media trends have shown many of us uploading screenshots of group chats and participants are shown to be sporting big smiles. Make a pact with your family and friends to maintain regular communication after Lockdown, this will strengthen your support structure. Yes, this is added to the list of new habits to keep.
Increased cleaning and sanitization standards
Yes, of course we all washed our hands and cleaned our houses before the pandemic. However, the pandemic has once again forced us to increase the extent of any task. I’m sure most of us feel our sanity is slightly questionable, when we are singing Happy Birthday to ourselves in the bathroom mirror for 20 seconds, each time we wash our hands.
The fact of the matter is that our hygiene standards have obviously changed, we shower and launder our clothes excessively. We find ourselves sanitizing doorknobs and light switches on a daily basis and stock piling anti-bacterial detergents each time we see it on the shelf in the Supermarket (admit it, we are all doing it). Is heightened cleaning and sanitization standards an item we should add to the list of new habits we are going to keep? Add it to the list and adapt it to fit your new way of life after Lockdown. Create a weekly cleaning schedule, helping you to keep your home beaming with pride and destroying the pile of laundry you have been dreading all week. A cleaning routine will assist in achieving a peaceful home.
Be more sustainable
Lockdown trends have shown so many of us planting our own fruit and vegetables. Being stainable is the future, it is showing our planet how much we care. So, the answer is – absolutely yes, add being more sustainable to our list of new habits we are going to keep. Develop a recycling routine that works for you and your household inhabitants, recycle your fruit and vegetable peels, you can repurpose them as compost. Purchase the extra garbage bins and implement separating and recycling your garbage. Mother nature will thank you!
The art of Self-love
What does self-love mean? Self-love is taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others. Not settling for less than you deserve. Loving yourself does not mean you think you are the smartest or most beautiful person in the world. Self-love is defined as “love of self” or “regard for one’s own happiness”. Many of us now find we have the extra time on hands to do things we don’t normally have the time or energy for. Many of us are searching for hobbies and skills we can develop to keep us busy or better yet sane. Going forward let us make the time to love ourselves, we only get one life. Yes, we are adding this to our list of new habits to keep. Start out small and progress, schedule that weekly pamper session and wipe the dust off your Grandmother’s sewing machines you have always wanted to learn how to use. Take advantage of this opportunity and make the time to love yourself and develop your portfolio of skills.
Why should we continue these new habits even after Lockdown is over and this pandemic has ended? We only have one life and we should give it everything we have! Make the time, make the effort, life is short. Appreciate the small things in life, like freedom, you never know when it might be taken away, even if it is just temporarily. Adapt your new habits to life after Lockdown and be the person you have always strived to be, but never had the time to become, your time is now!
Covid-19, the most discussed and disputed pandemic of our generation and the reason toilet paper has become a precious commodity in 2020!
Jokes aside, I have to start by saying how proud I am of how our President Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa has handled the Covid-19 prevention strategy in South Africa. He has made some tough decisions like implementing and now extending the national lockdown, that unfortunately has had some less than ideal impact on businesses and individuals BUT the consequences of not doing so would be far greater.
The positive side of Lockdown
There is always a silver lining in every situation, you just need to look for it sometimes. Lockdown has been amazing in so many different ways, individuals have been given the opportunity to take the time to slow down and have some time for self-care, families are actually spending time together and where they are not able to do so, the appreciation for one another has grown tremendously. Parents have been forced to be present in their kids lives and appreciate the amazing work our teachers/nanny’s do on a daily basis and businesses have realised the opportunities and possibilities of increases their productivity and expanding their market through going digital.
Without realising it, many of us have been given such an amazing gift through all of this – the gift of time! Time to relook at what is important to us, time to practice gratitude for what we have, time to tackle better ourselves and work on reaching or adapting our goals. I personally have decided to use the time I have between the cooking, cleaning and looking after my boys (Lets be real, lockdown has also brought some chaos into our households) to focus on upskilling myself in areas that I feel would benefit my business and clients.
There some amazing institutions running specials on various courses but there are also some awesome FREE courses that can be done on platforms like Udemy, LinkedIn Learning and Google. I will actually be focusing on some of the google courses that are available.
Growth through learning
Irrespective of what sector or role you are in, learning a new skill is always a win. The reason I will be focusing on the courses available on Google is because they have some amazing online courses that are practical, up to date and won’t take more than a take than a couple of hours of your time. Learndigital.withgoogle has over 126 courses to choose from, these four are on my current to do list:
Search Engine Optimization Fundamentals:
Gain an understanding of search engine algorithms and how they affect organic search results and websites. Building on this knowledge, you’ll learn the key elements for creating an effective SEO strategy, including how to select keywords and perform keyword research; consumer psychology and search behaviour; and how to conduct on-page SEO analysis to identify opportunities to improve a website’s search optimisation.
Course time: 13 hours
Marketing in a Digital World:
This course examines how digital tools, such as the Internet, smartphones, and 3D printing, are revolutionizing the world of marketing by shifting the balance of power from firms to consumers. Course time: 30 hours
Understand Customers’ Needs and Online Behaviours:
With just some basic web analytics skills, businesses can easily measure how well their online marketing is working and get even better results. Start our free course to find out how you can easily measure your activity and understand customer needs and their online behaviours.
Course time: 1 hour
Business writing is any written communication used in a professional setting. It could be an email, memo, presentation or report. In this free course, you’ll learn some tips and guides to help you make your business communication direct, clear, and designed to be read quickly.
Course time: 1 hour
I hope you find these interesting and helpful but if not whether you find something of interest to learn or even read about on the various platforms available online make a decision to step outside your comfort zone during lockdown and learn something new, make the most of this time, you will thank yourself later!
Most of all please stay home, stay safe and stay grateful!