Setting Goals? or Forming Habits?

Which one will move you down the road faster?

Hope down the road

A few times a year, we start to feel the urge to do some goal setting. There’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I think we focus on the wrong thing.

Maybe instead of setting goals, (or perhaps in cooperation with that practice) we should focus our energy and efforts on forming habits. So it would look more like:

Instead of a goal to lose 10 pounds, developing a habit of exercising 30 minutes a day most days of the week.

Instead of getting a big project done by the end of the month, working steadily on it daily for 30 minutes and let it be finished when it is finished well.

Instead of setting a number of books to read in a year, forming a habit of reading at least 30 minutes a week…or making a habit of finishing one book per month (not necessarily STARTING and finishing one, but finishing one in progress.)

Instead of reaching in-box zero, setting firm appointments with yourself to go through your email. (This one was hard for me to write–I’m a huge fan of in-box zero. But for some, this idea may work better and be less overwhelming.)

Other good habits to consider are

  • Regularly investing in certain relationships (i.e. getting together with friends the third Saturday of the month, etc.)
  • Eating certain healthy foods on a scheduled basis (i.e. pre-plan and repeat your snacks–have the same healthy one planned for each Monday mid-morning, for example.)
  • Using timers to keep your morning or after-dinner routines on track
  • Doing one small chore a day to bless your house/family

Even if you don’t set a specific goal, good habits will generally lead to the kinds of positive outcomes you often shoot for with a goal. They may also be easier to sustain. While it’s great to dream big, it’s the daily actions that will move the needle. Keep your goals in sight, but concentrate on becoming a positive habit forming person. Habits are the fuel that will keep you moving toward your destination.


Copyright: convisum / 123RF Stock Photo

What You Should Do When Meetings Don’t Meet Your Expectations

A guest post from

If you’ve got a job, then you’ve probably got one thing that’s guaranteed: meetings.  And if you’ve got meetings, there’s another thing that’s guaranteed: people complaining about having meetings. They take time, of course, and time equals money. And too many people—about one quarter—say that meetings are unnecessary.

But you don’t have to let meetings go out of control, and you can make that time trapped together productive and efficient. An agenda helps, as does an invitation list that doesn’t include any extraneous people. Set a goal from the outset, and include follow-up as part of the meeting wrap-up too.

Want more ideas to love your meetings more? Use this graphic.

What you should do when meetings don’t meet expectationsWhat you should do when meetings don’t meet expectationsInfographic by Quill

Multi-tasking isn’t Always Bad

multi tasking

The concept of multi-tasking gets a bum rap. Articles such as this one are telling us that we are not as effective when we multi-task. We are being told to slow down, focus on one thing at a time, and not over-commit ourselves. That’s great advice–but it’s harder for some to implement than you think. What if your personality is one that thrives on having several things going at once and being fast paced? 

As a seasoned multi-tasker (seasoned meaning I’ve been doing it for a long time, not that it is always successful for me) I am challenged by this wave of thinking (some call it “uni-tasking.”) However, I have my doubts that swinging the time management pendulum from one extreme to the other is the best way to go. I think there is a middle-ground that can be a healthy place.

The idea of multi-tasking is to have several things going on at once. The idea of single, or uni, tasking is to focus on one thing at a time. Let me pitch to you a compromise: complementary multi-tasking. This approach embraces doing two (or possibly more) things at once, but being intentional that they complement each other, not distract from one another. Common sense and safety are key components of this idea.

When you are planning your “to-do” list, ask yourself the following questions to see if you can apply complementary multi-tasking to your list. (For the sake of simplicity, we will consider planning two complementary tasks, although sometimes you could plan three or more.)

1. Are there two tasks that can be done in the same general vicinity? For example, making sandwiches for tomorrow’s lunch while waiting for water to boil for tonight’s spaghetti works better than leaving the kitchen to check email in another room.

2. Is one task relatively hands-off and one hands-on?  While a new software program is downloading, I can organize one drawer in my desk.

3. Can two things be going simultaneously, safely? Your copier can be producing a large print run while you work on a blog post.

4. Could I mix a mindless “task” opportunity with a “people” opportunity?  With the help of a phone earpiece, I can fold laundry while talking to a friend, which would be better than trying to answer email while also talking with her on the phone.

5. Will doing these two tasks at the same time add cause more mental fatigue or less?  Listening to a podcast or some music while commuting may help pass the time nicely, while trying to help your child with homework while also preparing a meal can become frustrating for both of you.

So before jumping on the bandwagon that all multi-tasking is ineffective or wrong, consider that complementary multi-tasking may be the way to accomplish two important tasks without driving yourself crazy.


Facebook Live Replay: Let’s Take a Moment to Breathe

You do not have to be on Facebook to enjoy these videos. If you receive posts by email and can’t see the video, you can click here.

Let’s take a moment to breathe…

Posted by Beth LeMay Beutler on Tuesday, January 3, 2017

You do not have to be on Facebook to enjoy these videos. If you receive posts by email and can’t see the video, you can click here.

Let’s take a moment to breathe…

Posted by Beth LeMay Beutler on Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Client Spotlight: Alison Ryan

Literary Specialist and Consultant

Alison Ryan

Hi! I’m Alison Ryan and I love getting kids excited about reading and writing. I also love getting teachers excited about teaching literacy!

I share ideas and tools to help teachers simplify their planning and create engaging lessons. I believe that teachers should have access to materials that are both easy to use and written around best instructional practices.

I work with young children and their families, and I present professional development sessions for teachers.  I have a master’s degree in literacy leadership, experience as a classroom teacher in Pre-K through 2nd grade (general education, bilingual, and dual language), and experience as a reading specialist.

How HOPE Unlimited supports Alison:

  • Assisting with email management
  • Selecting and scheduling pins for Pinterest
  • Video production needs

What Alison says about HOPE:

Starting work with Beth and her team was one of the best decisions I made in 2016. Beth helps manage my email, so I have more time to connect with other teachers and create teaching materials. She helps with a task that I never imagined asking for help with – but I am so glad that I did! I feel less overwhelmed when tackling my inbox each day. Plus, Beth is so professional and fun to work with! She’s also connected me with some other fantastic members of the HOPE team for social media and other media tasks. I love working with Beth and the HOPE team!

What HOPE says about Alison:

Alison is a top-notch client–we love her! She’s organized and clear in communicating how we can best be of help to her. She has a good sense of humor, and the materials she produces are very highly regarded in the educational world. We enjoy helping her help teachers and children develop the very important life skill of reading well.

Learn more at

35 Healthier Snack Ideas from People Like You

Substitutes for the not-so-good stuff


Most of us like to enjoy a snack during our work day, but it’s easy to get into a rut and go to the same–sometimes unhealthy–items for a pick me up. I asked my Facebook friends to chime in on some healthy options…enjoy this list and comment with ideas of your own!

John S.:   Almonds

Allison C.: cheese/dried fruit/nut combo

Javela S.:  Yogurt with nuts and/or fruit

Lee M.:  Apple; carrot; vegetable and/or fruit smoothie; boiled egg; piece of meat

Paula K.:  Edamame with a little salt

Wendy W.: peanut butter filled celery sticks

Hillary K.  Clementine orange

Patrick V.:  Almonds; yogurt; jerky; protein bars; water; peanut M&Ms as a treat

Kristen M.: Hummus and pita chips/veggies; trail mix

Larry E.: Triple Zero yogurt with frozen blueberries

Steve.: Craze box

Lynda M.: cashews or raisins

Unique H.: Amonds, cashews or fruit medley

Amy H.: walnuts; Cutie clementines

Elisa R.: Watermelon; cut up cucumber, sometimes with a little salt

Rebecca K.: nuts, cheese, hummus

Christopher R.: almonds

Richard G.: water

Mariah W.: Cheese or avacado spread on Ezekiel toast with fruit; apply with peanut butter; yougurt, berries, homemade granola; carrots and hummus

Chris E.: Kind bars, Think Thin bars, almonds

Bucky B.: Natures Bakery bars; mixed nuts

Sheila H.: two slices of deli meat wrapped around a piece of string cheese; banana

Toni K.: apples with peanut butter; carrots with vegetable dip

Dave C.: almonds, carrots, grapes

Bobby T.: wasabi almonds

Cindy H.: Laughing Cow cheese wedge with lLight Rye Wasa crackers; slice of turkey; slices of cucumber

Kim R.: strawberries; Sahale snacks

Ricky H.: beef jerkey

Richard H.: peanuts and raisins with dried cranberries

Sue M.: apple

Sherry B: almonds; sliced apple; yogurt with chopped nuts

Brenda B.: Halo clementine

Dana H.: Greek yogurt with honey & Oats bar crushed on top

Beth B.(me!): cottage cheese with nuts, seeds, microgreens sprinkled on top; smoothie

Keith B:.  Fruit, Clif bars

Your turn: What’s your favorite healthy snack to enjoy at work?

A Fun Announcement!

First for Women Magazine Appearance

I had the privilege of appearing in First for Women magazine, and the copies were on stands around the country in early January 2017. It was fun to talk about virtual assisting. My thanks to Millie Lewis Greenville for the styling, Spill the Beans, Greenville for the location, Fisheye Studios for the photography, Julie Revelant who interviewed me and wrote the article, and Amy from AT Your Design for assisting and taking additional photos.

Here are photos from the photo shoot in October, and a photo of the article that came out December 29!



Coffee and More: The Most popular posts of 2016

And a one-question survey

005-rest-and-be-thankfulHello readers! THANK YOU for reading the blog here at HOPE Unlimited.  Be sure to read to the end to get the link to the Super Short Survey.

As we finish up the year, I thought it would be fun to look back and see what some of the most popular posts were for 2016.  There are a couple of different ways to measure this, including Google Analytics, and Mail Chimp reports (I use Mail Chimp to mail out the weekly post.)

Mail Chimp

According to Mail Chimp, the three most popular posts for 2016 (based on emails being opened) were:

Erasing a Mistake

I’m Back…Sort Of  

Introducing our New Logo! 

Google Analytics

When I checked Google Analytics, I found a fascinating fact.

Three of my most popular posts for the year (visits to the site) were actually posts I wrote in previous years! That means people are visiting pages from the past. So here they are:

An A t0 Z List of Important Characteristics for the Workplace

Should I Accept Your Coffee Invitation?

Five Cautions about Facebook

For 2016, the coffee theme stood out once again, so I am re-running the most popular site-visit post for this year below.

Enjoy, and I’ll see you again next year! I’ve got some ideas for the blog for the new year and look forward to continuing to bring you helpful, encouraging information.  Don’t forget to share your opinion via our Super Short Survey.

Why I’ve Cut Back on Coffee Shop Work


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.

Photo taken at Spill the Beans.

SUPER SHORT SURVEY: Please click here to help me know what types of blog posts you are most interested in. Thank you!