Tag Archives: time management

3 Must-Haves That Make Business Email & Blog Posts More Readable

Are you ready to broaden your audience and save yourself the tedium of repeating info you’ve previously sent in an email?

Here are the three format rules you must follow to improve the value of your writing:

    1. strategically place bold print
    2. section off larger messages/posts with headers
    3. put key points into bullet points and numbered lists

*See bottom of this post for link to learn more about bullet points.

Save the Client’s Time on Project Updates

I have a long-standing client who used to call me up and she would never fail to ask questions that I had answered in a recent email. At first I thought she was just forgetful because she has so much going on in her business. After working with her for a few months I knew that the “forgetful” theory was not true. She is an amazing business woman and she has an great memory. One day I asked her about it and she said to me:

“Amber, you have been making so many wonderful improvements for my business, but I don’t really understand half of what you are talking about in your project updates. I just skim them for highlights and then prepare to be amazed by your results.”

See how she did that? With a bit of criticism followed by a great compliment she gave me some vital e-business advice.

All informative writing must be skim-able.

Clearly Separate the “Good Stuff”

The good stuff is the part of your message that the reader needs to hear the most and see first while skimming it.

Let’s face it: EVERYONE SKIMS. We have to skim. Can you image trying to read every single document, email, posted message, or terms of usage agreement thrown at you? If you actually read every privacy agreement and terms of usage policy for every piece of software or electronic device you ever used then you wouldn’t have a chance to use it until it was obsolete!

Streamline your communication.

skim emailsMaking documents skim-able or scan-able is very easy with bullet points and section headers. (If we can learn to write volumes within a 140 character limit, we can learn anything in communication!)

Be careful not to overuse bold print. That might have been the toughest one for me to work on.

The number one reason for hiring a virtual assistant is to save the clients’ time. It doesn’t matter if it’s for tedious work or work that requires a special skill set we must make time saving a top priority.

So remember! Paragraphs are dead. Long live bullet points, strategically bolded print, and clear sectioned headers for all informative writing.

Side note for bullet points: Check out How to Write Powerful Bullet Points if you are not familiar with using them. Follow their advice, it’s all very good.

Success-Driven Inner Dialogue

mind processes Fact: You are talking to yourself… all the time.
During these silent, internal conversations you tell yourself to do something, ask yourself why you did something, or ask hypothetical questions like: “Did that cheesy commercial have anything to do with insurance?”

Question: Does what you are saying to yourself matter?
According to a section in “The Now Habit at Work” by Neil Fiore, Ph.D. what you say and how you say it matters very much. The book includes an interesting look at inner dialogue and how it can very easily lead to procrastination.
How? – By causing either a “stress” or “depress” response toward the idea of working any given task or project.

Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. – William James

Procrastination Begins by ‘Depressing Motivation’

Using “I should to begin a self-statement is an attempt to motivate yourself to do something to make your situation better. Instead, it actually just establishes that your current situation is not OK because you ‘should’ be doing something else. Processing a lack of well-being has a tendency to depress motivation.

Using “should do” infers a lack of self-confidence or a lack of necessity. It can also imply that the statement is optional. (E.G. ‘We should all be nice to other people.’ – And we all know this is completely unrealistic and becomes mute after a bad day in nightmare traffic when that idiot in the stinky car cuts you off!) :)

Statements beginning with “I will…” or “I plan to…” or “I will enjoy the benefits of doing…” support confidence and do not hinder your current state of well-being.

To change habitual, inner dialogue:
Try choosing alternative statements with what comes most naturally and committing to practice as often as you can remember to or write them down.

Procrastination Begins By ‘Activating Stress’ From Self Talk

Using “I have to” as the precursor for a self-statement attempts to motivate with pressure, but really just successfully activates a stress response.

As a human being it is natural for us to want to avoid stress. In this modern society, we have pressure coming at us from all directions. Thus it is an act of self-preservation to use an escape key like procrastination to avoid tasks that have already been associated with stress. Unfortunately, procrastination is no real escape at all is it.

I admit, I start thoughts with this stress activating forerunner all the time…

  • I have to remember to…!
  • I have to figure out a faster way to do this…next time!
  • I have to do better on…!

Dr. Fiore recommends replacing “I have to” with “I choose to”. Saying: “I choose to work on…” does not sound natural to myself, but it may to you. I would transition easily to use “I am going to” or even “I like to”. I would acclimate better saying something like, “I like to be as efficient as possible with my email responses to spent minimal time on non-income producing tasks.”

Like I said before, we have pressure coming at us from all directions and learning how we can learn to treat ourselves regardless of the outside influence is crucial for a balanced life. It is healthy to accept human limits and more fulfilling work with success rather than forever working toward it.

talk to yourself

What Time Is It On Your Body Clock?

So apparently (before environmental, psychological, or ecological interventions) we all have similar preset “settings” that regulate the body’s daily biological clock.

Does that mean there are more efficient times of the day to do certain tasks? Check out the information I came across this last week and judge for yourself…

(Referencing some info from the creative commons image found at the bottom of this post. The image can be found on wiki’s Circadian rhythm page.)

An Example of Your Circadian Rhythm Schedule

10:00AM High alertness (A good time to schedule work that must be done with extra precision?)

2:30PM Best coordination (The best time of day to do 4 things at once? If so, I wonder how long this period lasts! :D)

3:30PM Fastest reaction time (Best time of day to get a high score on Doodle Jump?)

5:00PM Greatest cardiovascular efficiency and muscle strength. (Hmmm… Anyone for some lite cardio before dinner? Why not ride your bike or take a brisk walk when your heart is already working at it’s highest efficiency?)

6:30PM Highest blood pressure

7:00PM Highest body temperature

9:00PM Melatonin secretion starts (Meaning: Your body starts getting the signals to start getting tired. Maybe we should start trying to listen to that message. I am preaching to myself of course, I am a recovering insomniac. :D The sad thing is, I am sort of serious.)

10PM or 11PM (A good time for Bed?)

2:00AM Deepest sleep
6am or 7am (A good time to wake up? Hopefully after you’ve had 8 hours right? ;) Who does that? Oh, wait… I actually do strive to. See my beating insomnia plan.)

7:30AM Melatonin secretion stops
Biological clock human

You Have 3 Minutes!

I am tired of hearing that old saying “Time is money”.
But here’s the real truth: Time is way more valuable than money.

Money can be earned, but time can only be saved. (And no, I didn’t get that from the book, I figured that one out on my very own. :) )

This week I read:

You Have 3 Minutes!

Learn the Secret of the Pitch from Trump’s Original Apprentice
Written by Richardo Bellino

Is it really possible to sell anything in 3 minutes?

“My answer is not only is it possible, but it is also the only effective way to sell an idea.”

- Ricardo R. Bellino, Founder, TRUMP REALTY BRAZIL

Set the Limit

A forward from Donald J. Trump precedes the content of this book. I read Donald’s carefully assembled opinion of Ricardo Bellino and how he decided to make him a partner during those first three minutes of meeting him.

More than anything else, it was his following statement in the forward that stood out:

“It’s surprising what people can do with a deadline.”

- Donald Trump

So simple in it’s structure and yet so complex in its meaning. Don’t you think? Well, maybe it was my state of mind when I read it that made it more profound that it actually was. You now how it is. Sometimes we are just more “inspire-able” than other times.

I was motivated to save myself even more time during my business day because summer seems like the most difficult time to stay on track. Maybe it’s because the kids are out of school or because it’s just so nice outside that I make any excuse I can to get out there.

How many amazing things could you have already accomplished in your lifetime if you always given yourself realistic deadlines and then been disciplined enough to stick to them?

Would you have started that business venture? or written that best seller? or broken that bad habit? or mastered that vital skill? or learned that foreign language? or permanently dropped those few extra pounds?

Optimize the Time Given

Read this book. Buy it. Borrow it. Whatever. It’s worth reading the tips on image (Are people buying your image?), negotiation (When should you listen to intuition? How should you make snap decisions?), and effective communication throughout a business venture.

It’s all there plus a lot more.

What Does the Last Quarter of 2010 Look Like for YOU?

Not to short change you or anything, but we only have three more months left in 2010. Some people might see that as a bad thing, but you know what? The end of the year is here. It’s not time to be shocked about how fast this year has flown by; it’s time start making sure that your 2010 goals are to be met or even exceeded!
Quarters Add Up
My goals for year 2010 were/are to:

  1. Finish college: This is my very last week. I am 90% finished with my final project! (YES!!!)
  2. Send my son to a good preschool: He loves it, but he doesn’t have to be there 45+ hours every week thanks to my virtual job.
  3. Take care of business while juggling work, school, and family: Now that goals one and two are being met, from now on I am going to be able to focus on Virtual IT Assistants! Before the new year, I am definitely going to overhaul a lot of my web presence and get to accept new clients. I am SO excited about my plans!! It’s going to be awesome!!
  4. Post on Work at Home Life every Monday: I have done this, and some of the posts have turned out to be some of my favorites. Your responses let me and the girls know that we are helping you and our message is coming across well. We have loved all the feedback. So, thank you. :)

Well, that’s enough about me. What about you? There are lots of holidays and school functions coming up soon, but what are you going to do to grow your business? Three months doesn’t seem like much time, but all of those quarters add up.

“If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality.”

- Benjamin Franklin

How Do You Track Time?

I know there are several different programs available to use, but how do you track your hours?  I use to only accept retainer clients so this wasn’t an issue.  Within the last two months I’ve begun to take on hourly clients, so tracking billable hours correctly is very important for me as well the client.

I created an excel spreadsheet with client info, date, hours worked and tasked performed that I keep open all day and record as I go.  This has made time tracking much easier.  Then I transfer the specific details to the particular client’s invoice each billing period.

Just a few examples of time tracking software:

Would love to hear your comments and feedback on how you track time.

Happy Friday!