We can be the blame for our own overwhelm. Here are a few ways we sabotage ourselves, which fall into four categories of stress and opportunity, a line of thinking I’ve been considering lately.
H – Habits O – Organization P – People Skills E – Email
We don’t keep up with email. By not using the ADD method (act on, delegate, or delete) on a regular basis, we create a stagnant puddle of information that zaps a little bit of energy every time we look at it. (Email)
We pack too much into a time period. I’m guilty of this. I THINK I know what I should be able to get done in a day, but don’t leave adequate breathing space to think, deal with interruptions, or account for technology issues. (Organization)
We make relationships difficult. I like to say, “We don’t have time to be difficult people.” (Notice I didn’t say “be around” difficult people.) We can easily create energy zapping drama by misconstruing a colleagues words, being too sensitive to other’s tones, or snapping at those getting in the way of our agenda. This can lead to relational issues that take a lot of time to figure out, and may even draw from the energy of other co-workers or bosses that have to step in to get the parties on the same page again. (People skills)
We don’t practice adequate self-care. You can’t pour from an empty pitcher. We need regular rhythms of rest and self-care to be our best for our work. But we cut corners on exercise, nutrition, and rest. Then we wonder why we feel grumpy or fatigued. (Habits)
We don’t utilize good systems. We react to the tasks that come our way based on the urgency of the moment, rather than having an effective system in place to capture the task and assign it a time. I’m working on this myself–responding, not reacting. As an administrative professional, I tend to try to get everything done quickly, because it’s my job to take care of those details. But I can only take care of so many details in a period of time. It’s better to have a system to capture the tasks and plan a proper time to deal with them. (Habits, Organization)
So the next time you say, “I’m overwhelmed” ask yourself, “Am I overwhelming myself?” You may not like the answer, but honest consideration will help you make some changes.
One potential solution to overwhelm is to get some assistance. Our unique model of a virtual service collective puts a team at your disposal without the headaches of managing one, and the freedom to use us on a sporadic or minimal basis. Because of these flexible models, you can retain an assistant even if you don’t own your own business. Click here for more details.
The start of a new school year, even if you don’t have immediate family going to school, creates an atmosphere of new beginnings and a desire to return to routines. This infographic gives you several ideas about self-discipline, which is likely on your mind these days. Enjoy!
It jumped out at me in my daily Scripture reading.
“…say to the owner, “the Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.” Luke 22:11-12 NLT
Already. Set. Up.
I wonder about the owner of this home. Did he host guests often? Was it an inn?
Jesus seemed to know this guest room would be available for one of the most important events of His–and His disciples–lives. Jesus was confident that the person in charge of that house would have a room already set up. We aren’t told whether Jesus made any arrangements with him ahead of time or not.
But what joy for that owner to be prepared enough–to not be taken off guard.
In running a business like HOPE Unlimited, much of our service to others is behind the scenes. I confess, sometimes it feels less important than the “on stage” side of many of my client’s lives. I’ve been on stage before, and sometimes I miss it.
But verses like these, and the ones about servant leadership that I also happened to read that day, remind me that my business is about helping others. We are in the background making sure things are “already set up.”
As I recall a few tasks that we helped clients with so that their initiatives were “already set up” a smile comes to my face:
Seeing the graduation photo of a young man I’ve never met, but for whom I arranged a college visit in his chosen field–and knowing he is heading to pursue that career.
Taking charge of an International Symposium of leadership authors to be held via 26 online posts while my clients were in Southest Asia.
Having a follow up email with bullet points reinforcing a valuable session on brain science ready to send when the list of engineers was sent to us.
Don’t take for granted the role you play if you have a behind-the-scenes job. Much confusion is avoided, and better results can occur, when we give responsible attention to making sure things are “already set up” for our clients, co-workers, and managers.
“Would you register my wife and me for this event?”
That’s one of the tasks I’ve done for one our our client families.
The Virtual Assistant industry is growing (despite the annoying fact of people referring to Alexa, Google Home and Echo as “virtual assistants.”) Major outlets like Entrepreneur and the New York Post are sharing about the concept, and more entrepreneurs, small businesses, and individuals are seeing the value of building a relationship with support staff that many not even live in the same state.
There are a lot of advantages of working with one or more virtual service providers, especially if you are an individual or small business without the funds to commit to a permanent employee. (Side note: be careful about hiring independent contractors and treating them like employees. That’s not the purpose of this post, but here’s an article from the IRS about the distinctions.)
There are at least four different models for VA services (and there may be even more!)
Independent VAs. This is where you build a relationship with one VA who has his/her own business offering these types of services.
Task-specific services. Virtual providers offer very specific, short-term task support (i.e. editing a video) and do this for a large number of people through an online host (i.e. Fiverr.)
Placement companies. Here’s where you will use the connections and skills of an overseeing company to be matched with one (or more, if needed) VAs who can support you in a variety of ways.
Collectives/Networks. This is the model HOPE Unlimited uses, providing a bridge to a network of independent virtual service providers who interact as a team to support HOPE’s clients as needed, or who receive referrals from us, while providing one central contact (i.e. me!)
You don’t have to own a business to benefit from a relationship with a Virtual Assistant. Do you ever wish you could have a Virtual Assistant On-Call for small or short-term tasks like:
Going through your in-box to handle routine emails? (We’ve done that.)
Researching site-seeing for a family trip? (We’ve done that.)
Editing blog posts? (We’ve done that.)
Encouraging you in your writing or other professional goals? (We’ve done that.)
Maintaining your Facebook page? (We’ve done that.)
Researching how to build something special for your cats? (Yes, we’ve done that.)
Finding apartment options for a senior citizen? (We’ve done that.)
Arranging a college visit? (We’ve done that.)
Finding a part online for your dishwasher? (We’ve done that.)
Adding your children’s school calendars to your Google calendar? (We’ve done that.)
Making a flight reservation. (We’ve done that.)
Helping you update your Linked In Profile? (We’ve done that.)
It would be nice, wouldn’t it?
Except that it costs money to retain a VA, especially those who want guaranteed hours. Maybe you don’t want to commit to 5, 10 or 20 hours at a time, or be billed the highest rate just to be invoiced as you go.
We have the solution for you. Welcome to The One-Hour VA.
HOPE Unlimited serves a special niche client. Our average client uses us five or fewer hours a week…sometimes less than one hour! But they ENJOY being part of our client family? Why?
“…I know I can trust you with important work that helps me move my business forward. Also…because I don’t have to deal with all of the emails I get. LOL. :-)” Alison R.
“…Beth and her team are a pleasure to work with. Not only do I get top quality support to grow my business, I get to work with thoughtful and caring people.” Shelley R.
“…Beth keeps me on track, keeps me sane, and keeps me feel confident that what her team promises, her team delivers!” Chris E.
“…Beth and her team are continually looking out for my organization’s best interest. Beth not only presents me with solutions to current needs, but she continually anticipates future needs my organization may encounter. She and her team are not only professional in delivering quality service, but Beth, specifically, is servant-hearted in her approach with clients. Our organization recognizes that as a rare combination these days and we are grateful for Beth and her team.” Stephanie B.
“….then I can focus on what only I can do.” David D.
“…because I trust Beth and her team to complete tasks that support my business in a thorough, efficient and ethical manner. Doing business with Beth and her team members is a pleasure.” Leslie M.
So I got to thinking, what if we could serve others who want to be part of our client family, but aren’t sure they need us as much as other clients? What could we do to welcome them and be available on a regular basis without pressuring them? And I came up with the idea of a membership model that I’m happy to announce to you.
How Does it Work?
The last week of the month, we open a limited number of spots in this membership program. (For July 2017, there are five spots available.) For $40, you reserve your spot for the following month. Your membership automatically renews each month, until you cancel, giving you automatic “first rights” to available memberships.
On or around the first of the month, I will send a personal email to you as an on-call client, to help arrange use of your hour for the month, whether for hand-on administrative tasks, a consultation, or a combination of the two. (Full disclosure: the hour does not roll into future months…whatever you don’t use, you lose. That’s why I contact you to help you use it!)
What’s In It for Me?
One full hour of general VA* assistance by Beth and/or one of our collective VA providers (VAs with similar values and skills)
15% discount on any additional time needed for projects that month (Regular invoicing price of $38.00 is reduced to $32) and you won’t be billed until the following month.
Automatic enrollment as a HOPE Helper, with its own benefits.
2o% off the normal price for a Coffee with Beth Consultation (if you choose to use 30 or 60 minutes toward this service.)
One personal check-in email from me on or around the 1st of the month to arrange the best way to use your hour that month.
Full consideration as a part of the HOPE Unlimited client family and the privilege of having a team on-call.
A portion of redeemed time is put into our Give HOPE Fund.
Ready to enroll?
*This program utilizes our general administrative specialists. Contact Beth regarding arrangements with specialized service providers (i.e. graphic design, social media strategy, etc.)
It was about 2 in the morning when I realized the power had gone off. It was early Monday morning…the day that usually the busiest for HOPE Unlimited. The steady, sometimes heavy, rain continued, and by 5:00, when my day would normally start, the power was still off.
The power came on at 9:35, a full 4.5 hours later than my day would have started. I essentially lost a third of my day already, and on a day that already tended to have a large list.
I could do nothing but be flexible. I admit I wasn’t thrilled, but I survived. Here are a few flexibility tools I drew from.
I took advantage of the opportunity for extra rest. I lazed in the warm bed for longer than I normally would. Maybe I needed the rest.
I used some remaining Internet access. Due to a battery backup on our WiFi, I did have access to the Internet and could engage a bit, check something for a client, contact two other clients, etc. I wasn’t fully functional, but by being prepared with that backup, I wasn’t completely off the grid on a work day.
I finished a book. I have a practice of finishing one book per month (not start and finish, but finish.) I had about 30 minutes left on this month’s book, so I was able to finish it. This was nice, as it was already the last week of the month and I hadn’t finished it yet.
When the power came on, I modified my routine. I decided to still go through some of the “morning motions” that are important foundations for my days. I did shorten or skip some, as appropriate though.
The key to the day was adapting. There are going to be things that happen out of your control. I’m all for making a reasonable plan for the day, using schedules and having lists. But unless we accept that our plans are mainly guidelines, we are going to live in a frustrated state most of the time. Maybe it’s better to start the day with an attitude of holding our plans loosely enough that if we need to adapt, we won’t over-stress about it.
I’ve created a fun coloring sheet to reinforce this concept. Sign up below to get it!
“Time to make the donuts.” This phrase from a classic commercial points out that most of us have some type of morning ritual.
Whether you’ve made it intentional or not, you have a routine you tend to follow when you first get up. It may be haphazard, or very structured. But whatever it is, you DO have a routine.
You can leverage your morning routine to help you get your day started in the right direction to excel for the rest of it. How?
Here are a few tips:
Think: What does my morning routine already look like?
Decide: What would I love my routine to look like?
Adapt: make reasonable, incremental adjustments.
THINK: Ask yourself, on a typical weekday, what does my routine look like? Does it include getting dressed, making breakfast, pouring a cup of coffee, reading the paper? Make a list of what you typically do on a morning.
For example, I have an extended morning routine because I have the flexibility to work from home a lot. Many others have to be somewhere by a certain time. My morning routine contains quite a few elements that pertain to my personal values.
DECIDE: What would you LOVE your morning routine to look like? Do you want to have time for exercise first thing in the morning? Would you love to have 30-60 minutes to pursue a hobby or study? I have a client who decided that writing was important enough to her to get up one hour early daily and make time for it. She now treasures that daily time before her workday begins.
ADAPT: Your morning routine will be a work in progress. You probably can’t suddenly decide to get up an hour earlier each day if you don’t make changes on the other end by going to bed earlier. As my friend did above, she adapted her morning ritual to fit writing time in. You may not be able to adjust by an hour or more, but perhaps you could start by waking up 15 minutes earlier. Make small, incremental changes, perhaps one per week or even one per month, until it turns into a habit.
YOU are the only one who can make your morning routine work for you. Think. Decide. Adapt. You’ll begin to see a difference in how the rest of your day goes!
Bonus tip: If getting up early is hard for you, start your day in bed. If reading inspirational material is important to you, for example, set the book or tablet by the side of the bed and as you wake, do some reading. Sometimes it’s the idea of having to pop out of bed immediately that makes it so hard for us to try to get up earlier. Ease into the day instead.
If you are busy, you may not want to add another task of logging the time you spend on things throughout the day. I confess, I have rarely done this. But I do see that it could be eye-opening, and it may be time for me to try it for a day or two! ~ Beth
(If you receive this by email and cannot see the infographic well, click here.)
Includes a Guest Infographic: How to Be Good at Multitasking
The concept of multi-tasking has gotten a bum rap. Articles such as this one are tell 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 succcessful for me) I am challenged by this new 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? My laundry can be drying while I 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 cooking 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.
Question: What are two tasks that you can do at the same time without misusing the idea of multi-tasking? Join the conversation by commenting!
My thanks to Gisele Navarro (@ichbingisele) for the infographic, originally seen here. (If you receive this by email and cannot read the infographic well, click here.)
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