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

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

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.

I Didn’t Tell Her I Got it for a Dollar

How and Why to Accept a Compliment

Accept a compliment


“I like your necklace. That’s unique.”

She was referring to a painted wood necklace I was wearing that had been trimmed with a piece of lace. It WAS unique. And a bargain.

I’d gotten that necklace for $1 at a small town shop that featured items from a variey of sellers–a sort of upscale flea market.

But I didn’t tell her that.

I was tempted to. After all, aren’t we inclined to downplay a compliment?

For the way you handled the client: “Oh that? It was no big deal.”

For the project you turned in early: “I’m usually not that good at this sort of thing.”

Regarding the new accessory in your business outfit: “I got this for only a dollar!”

For your overall contribution by being a “rock star:”  “Well, I try.”

Why do we have such a hard time just accepting and enjoying recognition or appreciation?  Maybe we feel like it’s arrogant to smile and say “thanks” rather than dismiss it.  Or maybe we don’t have the confidence to believe the person giving the compliment may be right!

Overwhelmed professionals are often too busy flying through their day to pay much attention to compliments. They are always on a quest to do more, be more, accomplish more. They often feel like they don’t measure up. I know I struggle regularly with whether I’m contributing enough–whether my business is healthy enough. But compliments are a grace that can energize you and remind you of your valuable contributions to life and work. (Even if you are complimented on your haircut or outfit, it means you’ve done something to brighten the environment or to put your best foot forward!)

I challenge you to react differently the next time you are paid a compliment. Remember, a compliment is a gift from a person who didn’t have to bother to give it.  Don’t discount their wisdom and opinion by refusing to accept it well. Instead, smile, say “Thank you, I really appreciate your kind words” and carry that gift of grace in your bank of happy memories.

Your turn: What’s a compliment you received that still warms your heart?

Are You Drinking Enough?

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