Forget What You Give. Remember What You Receive.

I am not sure of the source of this quote. But it’s a very wise one regardless. (If anyone knows, please let me know.)

“Forget what you give. Remember what you receive.”

There’s a lot of wisdom there.

I confess that I don’t always forget what I give. There have been plenty of times that I remember giving something to someone (or a group) and noticing when I didn’t get thanked. In fact, one time years ago at a former workplace, I’d gotten frustrated for not being recognize for a project I’d done–ironically to show appreciation to a particular department.

One of my bosses (who confessed he’d experienced similar struggles) approached me to talk about this tendency I had. I’m glad he did. It was a helpful exhortation which turned me toward a philosophy of not tracking the expressions of recognition I thought I “should” receive. That makes any acknowledgment I may get even more fun!

Here are some ways we forget to “forget what we give.” We tend to remember:
  • the thank you note we never received for the wedding/birthday/holiday gift we gave;

  • the favor our coworker doesn’t seem to want to return after “all we for her when she was swamped with her project;”

  • the lack of a raise or bonus despite all our efforts at work (especially when others seem to get them.)

What would it be like to give something and then put it out of our mind?
  • We could enjoy the “thank you’s” that do come as blessings in an of themselves, not the completion of a checklist we have in our minds regarding how someone else should acknowledge us;

  • We could be surprised by a “return favor” instead of expecting one;

  • We could appreciate the richness we live in each day rather than the dollars we don’t have;
  • We could unclutter our mind from carrying around thoughts of what people owe us.

That leads to the second part: remember what you receive.

How grateful are you for what you receive on a daily basis? Do you focus on noticing your abundant blessings? Here are some ways we can remember the right things:
  • When we experience an inconvenience, be thankful that it was simply that. (Many people are suffering far worse.)

  • Make a point to notice at least one small “love note” a day that you receive from God, friends, coworkers (for example, that coffee someone brought you.)

  • Graciously thank someone who has done a kindness for you recently. Send an email, text, or note or make a phone call. Better yet, thank them just for being your friend!

  • Receive well the kindnesses that others show you. For example, I’ve learned not to say, “You don’t need to do that” when someone offers me a gift (i.e. picking up my tab.) Instead, I’m learning to say, “Thank you for doing that” or “I accept with appreciation!” This also applies to accepting compliments with grace. Please don’t diminish the opinion of others by telling them they shouldn’t have complimented you!

You received without paying; give without pay.  Matthew 10:8b  

Try remembering and forgetting the right things. You may find yourself a little less overwhelmed!

How to Use Canned Email Replies Effectively

How often do you send the same email response repeatedly?

Perhaps it’s to answer to a question about your products or services.

Or there are people who want to guest post on your blog.

You regularly set up appointments and meetings,

Or you initiate a process (such as an intake form for clients.)

Sound familiar? Then you may need some email templates or as Google calls them, “canned responses.”

Canned responses can save you and your team a lot of time, while still serving those interested in your business. But they must be used with wisdom to be effective. Here are five tips to keep in mind when using canned responses:

Write the initial template thoughtfully.

Write and edit (and edit again) so that the tone comes across the way you wish, and not like a robot. Make sure the information to be conveyed is covered and if applicable, approved by your manager.

Don’t be over-dramatic

While you want to convey information in a warm way, going overboard with flowery language can come across as fake.

Personalize when you can.

Use the canned response as a base to also add something personal, like the person’s name, or a reply to something specific they’ve mentioned that may not be covered in the main body of the template.

Edit as needed.

In correlation with the above, remember to edit the template if there is information that doesn’t apply to the situation.

Review templates regularly.

As your business changes and grows, it’s likely your templates will need to be updated from time to time. Make it a regular task to review and update them so that they don’t become stale or inaccurate.

You can use templates and canned responses effectively if you remember that people don’t want to hear from robots even though they are interested in information.

Need to develop some canned responses? Our team can help you out! Contact me for details. 

Don’t Say That! Say This.

See no evil

Sometimes the wrong thing comes out of your mouth.

Some time ago in a business office setting, I was asked a question to which I responded:

“I was never told how to do that.”

The then-coworker replied:

“Remember those instructions from about three weeks ago?”

Me (sheepishly) “Oh, yes. I’m sorry. I totally forgot to apply those instructions. I should have said, ‘I don’t remember.’ “

This situation taught me a lesson.

It’s easy to become defensive if we’ve made a mistake at work, and immediately claim that we were never told we were responsible for a task, or told how to do it. It’s quite possible we weren’t, but somewhere in all the dialogs at work, we very well may have been informed. In other words…gasp…we could be WRONG.

This got me to thinking about things we can say in certain situations that would be more professional than other responses. Here are a few I thought of:

Instead of “I was never told to do that.”
Say, “I’m sorry. I’m don’t recall this. Can you refresh me?”

Instead of, “It’s not my job.”
Say, “I’m not familiar with that responsibility but I’m willing to learn.”

Instead of, “I don’t have time for that.”
Say, “This is not a good time for me to give that the attention it deserves.”

Instead of, “I can’t afford to go to lunch.”
Say, “Thank you, but that’s not going to work for me today.”

Instead of, “She’s really in a mood today,”
Say, “I wonder what I can do to help/bless her today?”

Instead of, “You all need to quiet down.”
Say, “Shut up!”

(Kidding!)

What other “not this, but that” statements can you come up with?

Is it “Already Set Up?”

Table setting

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.

The One Practice that Will Make You Stand Out Among Professionals

“This guy often neglects to answer his email. Once, he told me he deletes anything older than two weeks old.”

These were the words of friend lamenting the communication he has to have with a colleague.

Deleting anything more than two weeks old may sound efficient (after all, who wants an overflowing in-box?) But NOT when you haven’t ANSWERED the emails! (As you might expect, my friend’s workflow was hampered due to the lack of response from his colleague.)

One of the key marks of an outstanding professional as compared to a mediocre one is the level of responsiveness.  It is amazing that with all the tools we have to stay in touch, there are so many people and businesses that do a poor job of answering questions, getting back to customers, or following up on leads.

Granted, each of us has a different level of expectation on ourselves and others, and some expect too much. However, there are steps you can take to develop a reasonable, courteous approach to responding to others, and start standing out from the crowd.

Consider your role.  Depending on the type of industry with which you are involved, your reasonable level of responsiveness may be different than someone else’s. For example, with my work being heavily focused on administration and Virtual Assistance related, I tend to monitor email throughout the day because it’s part of the job. For several of my clients though, it’s better that they check email at scheduled times.

Determine a reasonable level of responsiveness.  Some people answer emails, text messages and calls, immediately, while others never seem to answer them at all. Both responses are extreme. In most cases, answering a business email or call within 24-48 business hours is a helpful guide–(perhaps faster if texting.) If a colleague needs timely information in to move along in their work, then respond as soon as possible.

Share your approach to responsiveness with others.  I have a client that informs others that she checks email at _____ and _______ each day. That’s helpful for the people who interact with her.

I also remember many years ago being advised to communicate with people in a way that best matches what they would respond to (i.e. sending an email over putting something in their mailbox.) At the time, I thought people should grow up and check the places where they receive information, and not expect special treatment, but I’ve softened on this. You can communicate more effectively when you know where people tend to look at first so there’s wisdom in letting people know your pattern as well. (Hint, for me, it’s email.)

Respond for your own good! Responsiveness is a make-or-break characteristic. Have you ever booked a service with a different company because the first company you called didn’t respond? How much business is lost by simply not being available and following up on leads?

These days, simply being available and not making people wait an unreasonable amount of time can make you stand out from the crowd of other overwhelmed professionals. Make it a priority, come up with a good system, and implement it regularly. You’ll find that people will enjoy working with you, recommend you, and possibly seek you out!

Happy Birthday America!

Since this is a week of “vacation mindset” in the United States, and we celebrate Independence Day on July 4, I am taking a break from providing any major content this week. Enjoy your week and I hope you will have some meaningful times of fellowship, celebration, and rest.

 

 

Four Types of Virtual Assistance

...and the One-Hour VA

“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?

Because…

“…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?


The One-Hour VA Membership (Recurring)
I have read and agree to HOPE Unlimited’s Client Policies




*This program utilizes our general administrative specialists. Contact Beth regarding arrangements with specialized service providers (i.e. graphic design, social media strategy, etc.)

 

 

Flexibility: Bend without Breaking

flexibility

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!Be flexible coloring sheet

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Four Ways to Grow as a Pro

development

“I barely have time to get my work done. Who has time to watch a webinar?”

Do you ever feel that way? If so, your point is valid.  Many of us tend to put off our professional development, but there is high value in learning new skills, refreshing our perspective, and as Stephen Covey put it, “sharpening the saw.”

Here are four ways you can incorporate professional development into your busy life:

Harness your commute time. There are multiple podcasts that can help you learn and expand your perspective, with a bonus of not starting your day in a bad mood from listening to the news or talk radio.

Arrange to attend a conference once a year. Make the case that it is valuable for you to get away, even if it’s for a local one-day workshop.  Not only will you gain from the presentations, you will make valuable connections with others.

Create a sustainable book reading goal. Since 2012, I’ve had a practice of finishing one book a month. That doesn’t mean start and finish…it means finish a book I have not yet completed. This plan seems to work for me. Maybe you could read one book a quarter, or a book every two weeks. Shoot for something you know you can sustain over time. Check out my books and others here.

Join a membership site/Become a blog supporter.  I have belonged to Platform University for years because it offers a central place for resources related to building an online business. There are membership sites for almost any industry or interest, and you can drill down with their classes and discussions. Alternatively, you can follow the blog and social media presence of writers you find beneficial. This method is typically free, although some providers use sites such as Patreon to obtain financial support. (At HOPE Unlimited we have “HOPE Helpers.”*)

Use an aggregate app.  Apps such as Feedly or Flipboard help you capture blog posts and articles into a central place to form a type of customized newspaper.  Electronic assistants such as Alexa, Echo, etc. can do the same thing, allowing you to select news and tips that you would like to listen through each day.

Your professional development is your responsibility. Continual learning will keep you sharp, which is of great value in an ever-changing, fast-paced world. Be intentional about your growth.

*Tip: if you benefit regularly from an author/speaker, show your support by purchasing their books and products, or becoming part of their membership community. It matters. 

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Make Your Morning Ritual Work for You

 

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.

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