Tips in 10: Tips to Keep Facebook from Driving You Crazy

In this week’s Tips in 10 I talk about ways to navigate Facebook so that your stream has more of what you like, and less of what you don’t. And I give myself a grade for how I did one a week of trying to cut back on Facebook. As always, you do not need to be on Facebook to enjoy this video.



How to Make the Most of Remote Work at Coffee Shops

It can be productive--here's how

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In another post, I shared that my attitude toward working at coffee shops had changed. But I don’t want to throw the idea completely under the bus. There are good things about working away from your normal office, such as

  • A fresh perspective.
  • The energy of people.
  • A stimulating environment.
  • Coffee.

But coffee shop work can be distracting, too, so if you work at a coffee shop regularly, here are some tips to help the time be more productive.

  1. Plan ahead. Block off times in your week for working out of your normal office. Pick a specific task or two you will be focusing on during that block of time, and perhaps even add notes to your calendar appointment to remind you of those tasks.
  2. Pick appropriate tasks.  Decide ahead of time what kinds of tasks best match the coffee shop atmosphere. Do you do design work well? Does writing come more easily? Are there tedious tasks that are best? For example,  I find that adding or preparing material (i.e. social media images) to client social media libraries works well as a coffee shop task, while appointment setting and email communication may not.
  3. Expect to be distracted. Whether by conversations around you or just the normal hustle/bustle of a popular coffee shop, you are not going to have the quiet you might get at a library or your home office. This may be fine, depending on the type of work you are doing. Just don’t walk in there expecting everything to be quiet and perfect for your work.
  4. Create your atmosphere. My coffee shop bag includes ear phones, an inspiring pouch, a coaster, a fake candle, and a large scarf that can act as a shawl or lap blanket. These don’t take much space but help me create a mini oasis of inspiration for the time I will be there, which often is two hours or more. 20160908_072656
  5. Allow yourself time to ease in. Hopefully you are planning to purchase something to eat or drink (don’t be a coffee shop squatter.) It gets a little cumbersome to type, sip coffee, eat a bagel, etc all at once. So allow yourself time to enjoy your snack while you do something such as reading to ease into work mode.
  6.  Jot a schedule or use a timer to keep yourself on track. It’s easy to fritter away time scanning social media, watching videos, or even reading helpful material. Use a timer app to keeping you on track, working in segments on writing, researching, or interacting.
  7. Enjoy the unexpected. You may run into a friend or business colleague at a coffee shop, or strike up a conversation with a stranger. Maybe you’ll notice someone who needs a little encouragement or decide to discreetly pay for the meal of the next person in line. Don’t miss out on the little serendipitous opportunities that may spring up. Productivity is great–but people are important.

Over to you. What tips do you have for working in a coffee shop?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

You do NOT have to be on Facebook to enjoy these videos. If you can’t see the video in your email or feed, you can click here.

Replay of our Facebook Live Tips in 10 about successfully returning from a vacation!

Tips in 10: How to Say No Graciously

You do NOT have to be on Facebook to enjoy these videos!  If you can’t see the video, you can click on this link to see it.


Big, or Solid?

What's the best type of platform?



If they don’t know who you are, then you have been given the gift of obscurity. Let this not be offensive. Let this be a relief. – from the book Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman

One of those thoughts that make you go “Wow.”

I am a platform builder.
I work with/for platform builders (among other things.)

I am a charter member of Platform University, a professional education website that helps me grow in various topics related to entrepreneurship, marketing, and managing a lifestyle business.

But the quote above from Simply Tuesday reminds me that having a large platform is not the end goal. Obviously the author hopes her book gets “out there.” But she’s learned and observed that being well-known or “famous” (even if not like a Hollywood celebrity, but within your own region or industry) is not all it’s cracked up to be. It can remove your privacy. Change who you are. Make you too concerned about what people will think.

“What others may think” has been a stumbling block in my life. This may be why my own “platform” has only grown in small increments. God knows what I can and cannot handle well so perhaps I’ve been protected from what can come when you are known nationwide.

I recently had an experience where a casual conversation could have led to me revealing something that would not have been wise. It would not have been an earthshaking mistake, but it was better to act with discretion.

A wise person (Person A) that I’m close to did not reveal too much of their opinion about a certain local situation. Person A knows I have a “platform” in social media and in our hometown.  In a totally different environment, I had a conversation with Person B who asked me if I knew what Person A thought about the situation. The question was innocent and not intended to be gossip–they knew Person A was involved in a particular industry–but the situation revealed to me how easy it could be for well-connected people to share too much.

This is a danger of having a sizable platform. You begin to be familiar with so many people that you have to try to steward information well so that it is not shared indiscriminately.  You can also lose the personal touch or meaningful interaction with people. I’ve recently been listening to a podcast that was all about how to become less accessible as your platform grows. I admit it’s great information from a practical standpoint, and quite understandable, but it’s also a little sad.

I don’t intend to stop trying to work with–and on–my platform, and part of my job is to help my clients in managing theirs. But I think I’m going to re-frame my thinking to focus less on “building” platforms and more on “stewarding” them…managing them well.

Because solid is often better than big.


Tips in 10: Making Mistakes, Enjoying Pets and an Email Attachment Tip

If you cannot see the video, you can click this link to get to it.



One Key Quality, One Great Tool

Catch up on our first Facebook Live presentations

A few weeks ago, I started doing a Facebook live once a week, discussing a topic of interest to overwhelmed professionals, and have been pleased to see how many people are viewing these.

I’m also delighted to have discovered a way to embed these into my site. So for this week’s post, I’m including the first three Facebook live presentations so you can catch up. Hereafter, on the weeks I do one, I will post it on the site on Thursdays. Those who subscribe should get the video along with the weekly blog post on Mondays.

To join us live or directly on Facebook, friend or follow me here.  I post an announcement the morning of the day I will do it. The presentation is 10 minutes or shorter (hence, Tips in 10) and often done at lunch time as a lunch and learn. But it’s always available to watch later as well!


From 9/8/16: How to Have a Successful Re-entry After Vacation

From 8/31/16: One of my favorite desk tools

From 8/24/16:  One of the Most Important Qualities of a Professional

For some reason, I cannot embed this one onto the post. But you can click here for it.

Question: What topics would you like to see in future Tips in 10? You can leave a comment by clicking here.






Do You Really Need to Do Your Best?

Making Sense of a Subjective Measure

6-be careful about how you define

“1st Olympics–4th Olympic medal (3 gold and 1 bronze) Y’all aight out there? bc Im more than happy!”  – Simone Biles tweet

Leave it to a young person to remind us all what “doing your best” is all about. The girl who America hoped would come home with five medals–did–but not all gold. Yet, a golden attitude.  She would probably say she “did her best” and I–for one–am proud of her.

“All I expect is for your to do your best.”

Did you ever hear that growing up? Do you hear it now from bosses and clients?

How do you know if you’ve really done your best on that project? How do you measure effort? By sales figures? Time spent? Money made? A grade received? Top awards in your industry?

One of the challenges I’ve faced in my small business is determining what “doing my best” means. In more concrete terms, since one of the primary goals of being in a business is to make a living, what level of financial success I should be shooting for?

In this season of life and for the foreseeable future, we have chosen for me to pursue my own business exclusively, without supplemental employment elsewhere (unless a clear opportunity presents itself.) In part, this is a lifestyle decision, not just a financial one. The fact is–pursuing other forms of employment could actually mean a better “bottom line” for us, but it would come at the cost of reduced flexibility, less time to pursue non-business goals, and a possible level of stress that doesn’t align with our current season as early empty-nesters.

But being an achiever type, it’s hard for me to just flow with my business and not have some type of goal. Are there ways achievers and goal setters can keep from driving themselves crazy or getting disheartened by less-than-hoped-for results? I think so.  It means thinking less about “doing my best” and more about establishing reasonable goals as baseline minimums to meet the needs of the lifestyle we’ve chosen.

Now (especially clients) don’t panic–this doesn’t mean I intend to “slide” in my work. It does mean that instead of the conventional wisdom of having stretch goals, I am choosing to plan time to serve clients well and to reach a sensible income goal each month, while also hoping that over time, my steady investment into my business income streams will naturally bring additional increase.

Working toward a balanced perspective is really a form of doing your best. “Best” is subjective. It’s important to understand what “best” truly means to you, your clients, and your boss (even if your boss is yourself.) You may be surprised what you uncover by taking some time to think this through and discuss it with those close to you who may be affected (i.e. business partner or team, spouse, kids.)

For some, “best” might be a certain amount of revenue. For others, a certain amount of time each week spent on the job while also having time for other interests. Some customers may think your best is to be available to them 24/7, while others may respect that your best has boundaries. Be careful about how you define what “doing your best” means. Make sure it aligns with your values, capabilities, and personal/family needs. And above all, remember that doing your best is not just about money.

Why I’ve Cut Back on Working at Coffee Shops

Pros and Cons of Working Outside Your Office

Beth at coffee shop

Since I spend many hours by myself, I sometimes work at a coffee shop as a way to get out among the “land of the living.” Being in the presence of other people in a unique environment expands my perspective, supports my creativity, and gives me lingering time to think and create.

But it’s not always the most effective way to run my business.

I still make time for a coffee shop work session (sometimes referred to on my calendar as a “Writer’s Block”) almost every week. But recently, I have made it less of a priority as my hands-on commitments to clients have increased. I’ve had to ask myself if this practice was really a good fit for my current business responsibilities, and have discovered that it sometimes is not.  Here are some reasons I’ve made the change. When I’m at a coffee shop, I find that:

  1. I don’t accomplish as much billable time. HOPE serves VA clients via a pre-purchase bank system. Our typical client usually has a few random tasks per week, so I don’t always work a straight 2-3 hours at a time. By the time I add in travel time, purchasing and consuming my snack or food (unless it’s JUST a cup of coffee), I really don’t accomplish much billable time in a coffee shop session.
  2. I can’t guarantee an effective environment. I’ll admit it. I’m kind of picky when it comes to what environment I want to have when working. I have my favorite spots at various coffee shops, and I feel out of sorts if one of those tables aren’t free. In my home office, I am in control of where I sit or stand to work!
  3. It costs money. I believe that if you are going to camp out at someone’s business, you should at least make a small purchase. Thus, every time I go to a coffee shop, I am spending $3 to $10 depending on what time I go and what I get. This adds up. I have the same access to coffee and snacks at home.
  4. It can be distracting. I must have earphones and music ready because it’s too easy for me to pick up on conversations around me. This is easily avoided at my home office.
  5. I have less freedom. At home, I can sing or process out loud, walk around, or even scream at my computer. (Hypothetical of course.) At a coffee shop? Not so much unless I want weird looks.
  6. I can effectively multi-task. Yeah, I know. Multi-tasking is taboo now. But there are some things that can be done in the background at home that can’t be done at a coffee shop. Laundry, for example.
  7. I’m limited in the types of tasks I can do. My trusty Chromebook doesn’t owe me a dime. However, it just doesn’t replace the ease of my desktop set up for all kinds of tasks. There are certain ones I can pull off at a coffee shop, but not the quick administrative things that a VA often has to do such as set appointments, screen email, organize calendars, etc.

Now there ARE pluses to working at a coffee shop. A fresh perspective. The opportunity to have a casual conversation when crossing paths with someone. A change of pace. I’ll probably blog about that at another time because I still do visit coffee shops regularly. But for now, the thoughts above help me decide when and where it’s best to utilize them.

Over to you:  Do you work at coffee shops regularly? Why or why not? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Photo taken at Spill the Beans.