Happy Thanksgiving Week

Take Time to Refresh

Just a simple message as we launch into a holiday week. I hope you take some time to refresh, reflect and renew yourself. Take time to breathe and be grateful and I’ll be back again next week with more to help overwhelmed professionals excel!



Introducing HOPE Academy

HOPE Academy, an online school to help overwhelmed professionals excel, has launched a soft opening with its first course–and it’s free! More courses are planned on topics such as digging out from an overflowing email box, making your calendar work for you, and more.  Courses will be designed to be easy to enjoy in small segments–our free course should only take you about 30 minutes.

We’re using this season between now and the end of 2016 to get your feedback and grow excitement for this community. So, during the soft launch, anyone who enrolls and completes the first free course (including adding feedback in the discussion forum) will receive a free downloadable from our Conquer Your Calendar course–information normally available for a fee.

Click here and let us know what you think!


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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.


Make Easy Work of Alphabetizing

The Divide and Conquer Method

CA-paper stack
My client sent me a box of hundreds of 8.5 x 11 personalized sheets of paper in random order, along with imprinted labels. He needed these sheets sorted, labeled and mailed.

90% or more of my work for clients is done using technology. But on occasion, there are times to still do an “old fashioned” project like stuff a mailing.  Despite claims for paperless offices that were predicted years ago, we still handle a lot of snail mail and paper files.

So, when you have a project like this and need to alphabetize it, what are the quickest ways to do it? Here is a method I’ve been using:

First: I divide sheets into two piles based on first letters of last name

A to K and L to Z.

CA-A to K

CA-L to Z.jpg





The benefit of this is that it does not require a lot of thought to sort. I don’t want to get hung up in specific detailed alphabetizing yet.

Second: I divide the two piles into four, again using first letters of last names:

A-E / F-K / L-Q / R-Z  

CA-A to E.jpg

CA-F to K.jpgCA-L to Q.jpg

CA-R to Z





Notice that these divisions complement the first one of A-K and L-Z.

Third: Now taking one pile at a time, I further divide it by individual letter







A  B  C  D  Etc.

In this project, there were many recipients who were getting more than one sheet, but there was no need to match them exactly quite yet.

Fourth: Now working with each smaller pile, I sort and match everyone appropriately. If necessary, I move to further divisions using second letters of last name using vowels or common consonants, depending on what I feel will sort it fastest.






Now I can find the mailing label that matches the name.

The key to this divide and conquer method is to keep the number of piles to a minimum initially. The more spread out your project becomes, the more unwieldy it can get. Keeping divisions simple in the beginning, and then progressively more detailed, saves space and does not feel as overwhelming.

*The above scenario is partially fictional, to provide a helpful demonstration. However, it is based on a real-life project HOPE helped a client with. Contact us for your administrative support needs. Our pre-pay 5 or 10 hour package system allows for short term projects or long term relationships.

Are You Drinking Enough?

Hydration Motivation

The US is currently experiencing a heat wave, so I welcome this timely information as a special guest post from Quill (with an infographic designed by Ghergich & Co. )

When you think of all the necessities for your employees to do their jobs well, you probably think about the basics like desks and computers. But what about a more basic need—water?

Of course, everyone knows that we all need water; it’s what the body is mostly made up of. But what many don’t realize is that even sitting at an office job, you’re likely to lose water—it just happens. When you lose water and don’t replace it, you’re inhibiting your brain function, which also inhibits cognitive skills like clarity and focus. All of that can happen to every employee at work, which means their output is likely to suffer, too.

There are things you can do at your workplace to help your employees hydrate more each and every day. Use this graphic to figure out how you can make your workplace a better, more hydrated environment.

Water to the Rescue: Is Dehydration Draining Your Employees?
Infographic by Quill