What does it mean to be productive? The word productive is often described as a person’s capability to do a lot of work successfully. How can we maximize our productivity in our careers? Nowadays, the most common answer would be through the utilization of a Project Management Tool.
What is the best suited software for you? A popular comparison would be ofAsanaverseMonday.com, which are both powerful Project Management Tools. Asana can be described as a simple, more traditional approach and better suited for small to medium sized businesses, while Monday.com is a more sophisticated, detailed option and better suited for medium sized businesses. By comparing the core features of each tool, it will allow you to select the best option for you and your team.
This can be the ultimate deciding factor and the fuel behind your system of choice; Asana is free for up to fifteen team members per a project and would require an upgrade to a paid plan to make use of certain features. Monday.com offers a free fourteen-day trial and then the option to purchase the basic plan at $39 USD per month. Asana is slightly pricier than Monday.com when comparing the paid plans but it does offer the option of a free plan and not only a trial.
Task Management is achieved by setting tasks with deadlines and then meeting the set deadlines. Asana allows you to create a task, name the task and then assign it either to yourself or a team member, accompanied with a deadline. By clicking on the task, it will expand to show you more detail, you can comment mentioning team members and attach documents or links used to collaborate. Asana displays tasks that are due soon in the ‘Home Section’, and you can see a complete list of all tasks assigned to you by viewing ‘My Tasks’. Monday.com refers to tasks as “Pulses”, you can name the Pulse, assign it to a team member, set its status and make it dependent on other Pulses. Asana has a basic and to the point task management method, while Monday.com has room for customization.
Workflow Management is the optimization of your company’s business processes through automation. This includes mapping, planning and coordinating all parts of your business structure. Workflow in Asana is created through views such as lists, Kanban boards, calendar and timeline formats. Monday.com operates in a similar way, it allows you to see different visualizations for Pulses without having to switch between browser tabs. Monday.com shows a list view of your Pulses with a mini progress bar for each one, it also shows the visualization of your choice in the section above the fold. You can change the Pulse statuses in Monday.com using a drop-down menu in the list section, you can stretch and shrink Pulses in the timeline view or drag-and-drop cards in the Kanban board. Monday.com gives you more freedom to customize your workflow than the traditional approach of Asana.
Communication is a key factor to a successful team; a team must establish communication standards and a shared task management system contributes to those standards. Asana gives you the option to comment at task, project and team levels and Monday.com only lets you comment on tasks. Asana allows communication between your team in various ways, you can comment directly on a task or start a conversation in a dedicated window within a project. If you have a team page, you can host team discussions and post announcements on one dedicated page. The inbox keeps track of all communication, alerting you when a conversation has started, when you are mentioned in a comment or when a team member prompts interaction. Monday.com offers one way to communicate with your team and that is at task level. When you click a task in a project, a window will open, and this is where you can leave update. Here is where you can leave comments, mention other users, add GIFs or attach files and links. Monday.com offers the use of an inbox, that will display all communication on the subscribed boards, even if you are not assigned to an item or mentioned in a comment.
Integration is a method of coordination that allows various software systems to work together. Asana offers over 100 integrations from Dropbox to Slack. Monday.com does not match that number. The the integrations offered by Monday.com are useful, though this feature is dependent on each individual business and will depend on your preference. Asana is a clear leader in integration.
What is the best Project Management Tool for me as a Virtual Assistant? My conclusion and chosen tool of productivity is Asana, simple is better.
So, you have made the decision to leave the world of mono-employment and move out into a new realm, the exciting world of Virtual Assistants – congratulations, you have taken the step towards an exciting and gratifying career. You have your decision made, your big ‘Why’, your ‘What’ and your ‘How’ sorted. You know you have so much to offer as a VA and can’t wait to get started.
In considering your ‘Why’, you would either have come across this career path, personally known someone, or even have been following the career of one who has chosen to be a VA, and his would have struck that chord within you that made you sit up and take notice of this being the path you want to be walking. So, what’s next – have you considered finding a Mentor?
What does it mean?
The word Mentor conjures up different meaning for different folk. A Mentor is basically someone that has more experience, skills beyond those which you currently possess and from whom you can learn and benefit.
During your work career you would have had some Mentorship along the way, even if it was not an officially appointed Mentor as such, there would have been those who were showing you the way, teaching and guiding you in your work career. Perhaps you didn’t perceive them as Mentors at the time, but they were there.
When is the best time?
There is no specific point or level in your career that is ‘best’ in having a Mentor, neither is there any limit to the number of mentors that you may interact with. There will ALWAYS be a benefit in having a Mentor, ALWAYS something to be learnt, shared or emulated. Some will help and strengthen you in one area and others in a completely different area. It is all about the learning, the teaching and sharing of knowledge, the interaction and the paying forward of skills and expertise learned from another.
Choosing a mentor
Mentors come in all forms and do not necessarily need to be in the exact field in which you operate. You will already possess a great toolbox of skills in which you have experience and expertise, however, there is always space for honing them and adding a new sharp edge. Look for someone that displays the same values that you have, possesses some of the skills you would like to add to your own toolbox and is willing to listen to you, guide and direct you, but mostly, someone that you really admire and inspires you to succeed as they have. Approach them. Tell them that about your admiration of their success and ask if they would be willing to act as your Mentor. Many would be honoured to be exactly that.
As VA’s we should be constantly learning and evolving, so, the old saying with a twist here is ‘Learn Smarter, Not Harder’ and what better way than with someone who has already walked the path successfully.
5 Top Tips for All Your No-Fuss Black Friday Shopping
It’s already November, and the ads for the annual Black Friday 2019 specials are displayed everywhere! This day in the annual calendar marks spending of epic proportions and usually kicks off the holiday shopping season even in South Africa. Never one for shopping in malls or overcrowded shops, I’ve always favoured online shopping with delivery. It’s convenient, I’m not frustrated by long queues or afraid that my toddler might get lost, abducted or throw a tantrum for some toy or chocolate that is displayed right by the checkout line. I don’t have to drive so there’s no fight for parking close to the mall entrance or the constant buckling up of children when they must get in and out of their safety seats. Any mom would second me here that it’s a skill and a task best left to days when you are on vacation, relaxed and have absolutely no schedule or deadlines to keep in mind.
Shopping Online is an Acquired Skill
Despite all the benefits online shopping offers South Africans still prefer malls for their biggest shopping spends. I believe it’s because they are still a bit scared of being defrauded when shopping online. A type of fear of the ‘virtual unknown’. So, I decided to shed some light on this topic so that my virtual assistant colleagues who are planning to fill up on their technology during Black Friday can navigate any possible pitfalls successfully. Not to mention my clients shopping for their year-end gifts!
My Top 5 Check Points for Making Sure You Get the Best Deals:
Plan Your Purchases
I probably don’t need to say any more… or do I? You will be surprised how easy it is to overspend when the 60% discount banner is flashing in front of every website and online shop you open. That’s why it’s essential to determine upfront what you are looking for and how much you are willing to spend on the day’s purchases. Especially if your thinking of purchasing expensive items like electronics.
The most important piece of advice when it comes to online shopping? Makes sure to buy only from reputable shops. Ask for recommendations from friends and family and choose well-known brands until you can identify new reputable online retailers for yourself. Avoid the stampedes by registering a profile on your online shop of choice. Try to do this at least a week before the actual day. The reason is that you still need time to search and compare similar products. Not all retailers offer the same discount and it makes no sense to buy the first discounted product you see just to realize afterwards you could have saved an extra R1,000 on that same product.
Make a Wish List
Use the retailer’s online option to put certain items in your checkout basket or if they offer the functionality, create a wish list to store your favourite items in during your week of research. Now remember many retailers only display their discounted merchandise at 12 am when the online shops open so you may not know which of your favourite products are on sale. What I did last year when I wanted to buy some of my favourite expensive sandals was to choose which ones I liked beforehand and I stored them in my checkout basket.
Set the Clock for Eleven Thirty pm
At this point it would be noteworthy to tell you that my husband just raised his eyebrows at me when I told him I would be getting up at 11h30 that night to finalize my purchases. Well needless to say, never has a man under-estimated the powerful attraction of shoes on sale more than at that moment. When my alarm went off, I ran to the kitchen for a strong cup of coffee and by the time the online shops went live at midnight I simply opened my basket to see which of my favourites were on special and which weren’t. The shoes that were still full price were deleted within seconds and my checkout and payment completed within the next 5 min.
Use Comparison Tools
At this point I want to impose a few words of wisdom on those of you not yet comfortable with online shopping. Just because someone flashes an ‘ON SALE’ or ‘MASSIVE DISCOUNT’ sign at you doesn’t mean the item is really a great deal. You need to shop around, know your prices – the normal prices and compare these with the ‘promotional’ price. So, if you’re not a seasoned online shopper, compare prices first. If it’s not a great deal – then don’t buy it! The numbers never lie, and you can eliminate any emotional spending before it rears its head.
Bringing it Together
There are really some amazing deals to be had every year, but the secret is to be a smart shopper. You can use Black Friday deals to purchase your family’s Christmas gifts, your holiday reading list or technology and electronics for your business. What you buy is up to you, but hopefully the ‘how to do it effectively’ is less daunting after reading today’s blog. Happy shopping everyone!
Public holiday, who cares? We can rest….. But every single woman in South Africa needs to care. We need to understand why this is such an important month in the history of our country. Women’s Month in August is a tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women. The Government of South Africa declared August as women’s month and 9 August is celebrated annually as Women’sDay. Women were somewhat regarded as inferior to their male counterparts then. Fast forward 63 years, and women are seen as equal and paid and treated as such.
Women in power in South Africa making a change
Growing up I always imagined being someone that can make a real change, not only to my immediate family but also to people around me. Especially during August I have seen articles about women doing just that. It all started with a heart, to be understanding and empathetic towards others. And let`s face it, women are good at seeing the need of others. Salute ladies, and let us go on this journey of getting to know my top four inspirational women:
Saray is an award-winning mountaineer, a Mandela libraries ambassador, a social entrepreneur, a mother of two boys and also an executive for one of the distinguished financial institutions in South Africa. Over time she has demonstrated her commitment to making a difference in her environment through mountaineering. Through her climbing with a purpose initiative, Saray has organized and been part of the following initiatives:
Climbing Kilimanjaro with a purpose (self-funded climb) which built an outdoor gym for Kids Havenworth R200,000 and also converted a room into a library.
Climbing Everest in 2014 raised funds forThe Lunch Box Fund to feed over 60,000 children.
Climbing Everst in 2015 raised funds for The Mandela Library Projects and built a library for Isiziba Primary School in Thembisa, Johannesburg.
Climbing Everest in 2018 raised funds of over R800,000for The Mandela Library Projects and built four libraries across South Africa. She continues to campaign for more libraries as she takes steps towards the seven highest peaks on the seven continents around the world.
Following her victory at the 2009 World Championships, it was announced that she had been subjected to sex testing. She was withdrawn from international competition until 6 July 2010 when the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) cleared her to return to competition. In 2010, the British magazine New Statesman included her in a list of “50 People That Matter 2010”.”
Semenya is not allowed to participate in this year’s World Championships in Doha, as her testosterone levels need to be reduced as ruled by the IAAF. Luckily the South African Cabinet fully supports Semenya as she appeals and fights for her fundamental human rights. Like all other athletes, she is entitled to compete without being obliged to alter her body by any medical means. And following Semenya`s very public career over the last nine years, I am sure she will still be fighting for many years to come.
# Tracey Chambers and Tracey Gillmore, educating and clothing the underprivileged
These two women realized they can make a difference in the lives of women, and people in general, by letting their empathy grow into a business. They started the ClothingBank of South Africa, by clothing and educating people. In their own words: “We believe that becoming a self-employed business owner is something everyone can do, irrespective of their education levels and resources, as long as they are self-motivated and well supported (mentally and emotionally). We have developed a holistic eco-system, which successfully engages families living in poverty to chart a path out of poverty. Our projects have been changing lives for the last eight years.” Visit their website for more information: https://theclothingbank.org.za/
How can I make a difference
Following these wonderful women did make me feel unmotivated for a second, before I was left amazed. I wanted to be them, and here I am 37 years old, not summiting mountains, un-athletic and unentrepreneurial. I voiced this to my friend and very small business partner (who is really unprivileged, sleeping on someone’s kitchen floor, cleaning houses for a living). She said that you should never think something is unimportant to the person next to you. We can always, as women, have an empathetic heart and ear to our sisters. Sometimes, without even realizing it, by listening you can show love and affection. For too many years, sisters in South Africa were not heard, until they gathered, mobilized and moved. And because they did, my heroes are out in the open, voicing their concerns and making changes without needing to stand back.
Secondly, we should remember to never quite. Even if we feel we do not have the capacity or mental ability to do something, just keep going. All of the women mentioned above must have felt deflated and wanting to quite somewhere down the line, but they pushed through and always educated and kept training in their areas of specialities.
In bringing it together I thought it would be best to share this poem by Maya Angelou:
How is that 2019 goal list looking? A 6 month check in with…myself!
What?? It is July already??
Well that was unexpected – seems like just the other day I was getting my kid ready for his first day at big school and now we are 6 and bit months down, 2 terms into school and a talking, almost 2 year old, into 2019!
So I thought it fitting to do somewhat of a check in with myself – have you done something similar?
Now I will admit – this year really has challenged me a fair deal, but in a good way (if there is such a thing) because challenges mean we are learning or have been given an opportunity to learn, take a step back and reassess situations that may not be all that great for us and have the chance to make a change.
One of my big challenges was balance this year – and funny how it was also something that was on my list, my new year’s resolutions if you want. Balance in life and work. Finding more time for me (which still eludes me it would seem) and because of this, I found myself on the brink of mental meltdown.
In this blog, I will share how I plan to get back on the proverbial horse and put me first in order to be there for everyone else who needs me. Because if you do not take care of you, no one will!
How am I going to reach my goal in the last half of 2019?
Now, I had a few things on my list of resolutions, goals that I wanted to achieve for 2019 but one of my main ones was finding balance in my life, family and work. But the main thing I knew I needed to do was put me first!
If I am not at my peak when it comes to health and mental wellbeing, how can I possibly be there for my family? How can I possibly be there for my clients? How can I possibly be there for me?
After my personal hurdle knocking me on my behind for a few days – I decided to sit, take a breather, have a mini digital detox and reassess the situation and how I was going to overcome the madness.
This is what I came up with (these were on my original list):
ME FIRST – I have to take time for me. Whether that be a morning out on my own for breakfast or meeting with a friend or my mom or sister for a coffee then so be it. Perhaps even just having a bit of time to pamper at home is what I will do – set aside an hour or so to do nails, have a spa bath or get a foot massage.
BE MORE PRESENT – Being a working mom, working at home and still trying to be present with the boys can be challenging, especially when deadlines and tasks are at the forefront of my mind most of the time. But I have noticed remarkable changes in my kid’s behaviour when I spend, even 10 minutes, of time just with them, fully present and participating in whatever silly little game they want to play. So I know that I have sort of checked this one off the list – but will continue to have this on all lists going forward.
EAT BETTER – Seems like something that should be easily done – but this is possibly the one goal that has eluded me the most. Convenience is king and most times that results in take-outs and snacks and so on. But after re-looking my list and realizing that I definitely need to make the change – I am prepping meals and making sure that not only my kids are well fed and eating their veggies but that mommy is too … after all, we lead by example.
GET QUALITY SLEEP – I have also had serious trouble with getting more than 4 hours of sleep in every night and something that I am trying to get around.
And this brings me to – how this relates to me as a VA….
All these things make for a better me, and a better more balanced home life and therefore a more quiet and focused brain when it comes to working and providing clients with the best and more.
I would say that this would be the same for anyone whether working from home or at an office, freeing your mind of the clutter and madness and having balance can definitely help you achieve your goals. It can make a serious difference when it comes to completing tasks and learning new things and taking on more challenges with a positive outlook.
I have complete faith that all of the above – as well as a few extra things – will be achieved before midnight chimes at the end of 2019!
How far have you come this year? Did you reach any or all of your goals?