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What I’ve Learned After 23 Years in Business

Peaceful Treehouse Office

Or should I say what I haven’t learned?!?

I’ve learned that time management doesn’t mean juggling multiple things at once. I’ve discovered that with few exceptions, multi-tasking doesn’t work. When I’m working on a project for a client and have the timer going, I can’t just keep it going when I’m interrupted with another task, or call. It all stops one timer and starts another.

The ONLY exception I know of is to be on hold for a client and working on a task for another client. In that case, that’s a quick multitask since you’re listening for the person on the other end of the phone to come back. The illusion of multitasking drives me crazy. I might sometimes give off the impression I’m multi-tasking but I’m really just moving from one project to another in quick succession.

I’ve learned I have swiss cheese memory and if I don’t write it down, or set a task (and REMINDER) in Todoist, I will completely forget it. I like that set-it-and-forget-it method. I like running through my to do list completeted items and realize how much got done. (Or not!)

I’ve learned to take breaks. Quick trips out of the office for a couple of days at a time are wonderful for a fast recharge. I’ve learned to not deny myself time away from the office. I’ve also learned to pack the laptop in case of client emergencies – which makes them and I feel better about being away. I cherish my time away now as much as I cherish this business I built and nurtured from the infancy of the virtual assisting industry I helped forge, to where it is today.

I’ve learned to cherish my clients as well. I have clients I’ve been working with for nearly twenty years and some that are relative newcomers with only a couple years of time in. My clients are loyal and my client turnover is low. We work together seamlessly and I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for them. When its time to retire – IF I ever decide to! – I will hand them off to trusted professionals I’ve personally trained to do my clients’ work.

But honestly, I can’t see myself retiring for some time. In this business, I can literally be anywhere there is a connection and work. My husband and I can be on vacation and if I schedule in a couple work days here and there I can do both vacation and handle my client needs. For the most part, I still have some who have in person needs (bank deposits, or mail handling) and for those I’ll enlist the help of someone local.

I’ve learned to relish the workday because it gives me purpose. I am a person with chronic illnesses for which working remotely is ideal. Because of this, I’ve learned to tolerate my illnesses, and work through them, and with them. I no longer feel inadequate or that I’m a burden.

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Office Helpers

I’ve learned to appreciate my little ‘helpers’ Mac & Ginger. Their need for little ‘walkies’ has assured me that I have a break – or several – during the day. Rain or shine, Winter or summer, I get to get outside and breath the fresh air.

I’ve learned that freedom is everything. Freedom to work the way I want, and where I want. I can be in the office, at the dining table, sick in bed, or my favorite place in the spring, summer and fall, in the Treehouse Office. Where I live I am surrounded by beauty and tranquility. Yes I can hear my neighbors doing lawn work, but most often its the sounds of nature and breezes through the trees. Its magical.

And one of the last things that I’ve learned, is who I am. It’s only taken a lifetime but now I know I’d never change a thing.

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Website Up-down-around…

How often do you check your website? How often should we be checking our websites? This was brought home to me with a bump recently and it made me realize I don’t check it nearly often enough!

I have a curated newsletter that runs every day and is fed to my website (Social & News Bytes). I’ve had this newsletter for years and have only had issues after major updates on WordPress or when I had to make my site https compatible (Thanks Google). So I don’t often check it…

Well, today, it published as usual and I was notified by a tweet that the site appeared to be broken, and the newsletter had no content. Major heart squeeze – what happened?!? It turned out to be an easy fix but it certainly brought to mind the need to check on the website much more frequently.

My plan, going forward is to set up alerts to let me know when my website is down and when it’s back up. I also plan to check weekly for relevant links, outdated content, spam comments (I get notices when there’s a comment but if I see its spam I just let it go until legit ones come in and take care of them then), bad links, updates, and especially after major updates I plan on checking everything right away!

So, thanks to the person who alerted me – I really appreciated it! And I’m on it!

Have a great rest of your day folks! ~Kathy

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The Password "Book"

The Password “Book” I have this book of passwords, logins and so on, I’ve actually gone through several, and this is my latest one. [caption id="attachment_915" align="alignnone" width="300"]Kathy's 'Book' Kathy’s ‘Book’[/caption] This is also my last book like this one.  I can’t believe its taken me over 20 years to get my logins and passwords all organized.  I mean, the other was ok, just put a rubber band on it and throw it in the safe and you’re good to go. But, ugh!, it was a beast to manage. Every new ‘key’ or login was stuffed in there wherever it would fit. Finding anything was a chore.  I would have to do a task and suddenly realize I don’t remember the password, or it wasn’t in the digital manager yet, so I’d have to wade through pages and pages of logins and passwords to find what I needed – hence all the stickie notes and flags!  It was very frustrating to page through the old book when you’re on the phone trying to get something done with a client. So, over the past few days I have revamped my ‘book’. Its still small enough to fit in the safe, but its now arranged by alphabet, and each client has their own sheet(s).  It works so much better now! Its still the 5.5 x 8.5 size, so it fits where I want it, it has a built in pocket for holding notes I haven’t categorized yet, and I used an old set of contacts tabs from my DayTimer , with notes pages.  I love it, I feel so organized now! For those of you who are yelling at me from afar and saying, “Digital password manager!!!” well, I have one of those too, but, its always a good idea to have a paper backup. wp_20160927_16_11_29_rich wp_20160927_16_12_15_rich I’m so proud of myself – it only took 20+ years!! :-)]]>

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A Change in Perspective

The Treehouse Office[/caption] This week I’ve been blessed to work outside my office. Literally, outside in our lovely forested backyard on the screened in balcony. Everyday I’m treated to a cacophony of birds and other sounds of nature. Enjoying breezes and warmth, the occasional dog barking and squirrels yelling at each other. Its delightful! This morning I saw a brilliant cardinal on my porch rail, so beautiful! Yesterday, two deer walked calmly through the backyard that is carved out of the forest, then back into the trees, pausing to nibble at little green dainties along the way. This is the first time in the lifetime of my business that I’ve had the space and the surroundings to create an outdoor office. Nearly twenty-one years in business and only since 2011 have I had this perfect space with which to work and be productive while taking in nature’s bounty and refreshing my soul.  Sure, its only good in the spring and summer before it gets too hot in the day, and rainstorms drive me indoors. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Thanks to technology such as Splashtop for ‘remoting in’ and VoIP phone systems like my RingCentral, I’m able to do all this and still get everything done I need to. Makes me realize how much I missed before moving to our amazing home in Pennsylvania.  🙂 I hope you’re enjoying your office wherever that may be.  ]]>

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Effortless Collaboration with Shared Folders

Effortless Collaboration with Shared Folders Managing a project that requires a lot of back and forth of files is a harrowing experience. Email works for the first round or maybe two, but after that, it quickly gets out of control. You’re working on version “c” while your client is already on version “e” and soon important revisions and notes are lost. A better way to work from a single document is to simply add files to a shared folder. This way, as you or your client make changes, they’ll appear in real-time, leaving no doubt about which version anyone has, or what changes were made when. There are several players in the folder sharing market, making it easy to find one that will work not only for you but for your clients as well. Dropbox A favorite in the shared folder race is Dropbox. The simple setup and generous amount of free storage space (2GB) make this a top choice for many people even if sharing files isn’t on their minds. If you work from multiple computers, need access to files on your mobile phone or iPad, or just want the extra security of knowing your important documents are backed up in “the cloud” then Dropbox is a good option. The free version includes 2GB of storage space, which is plenty to get you started, but you can earn more space by Tweeting about Dropbox, referring friends, and connecting other applications. You can also upgrade to 100GB for around $10 per month. Google Drive Not surprisingly, Google has its own document sharing system. Formerly Google Docs, Drive now operates similar to Dropbox in that you can view your files in a folder on your computer. However, opening a file requires a web browser and the use of Google Apps. If you want to edit a spreadsheet in Excel, you’ll have to download it first. Google Drive offers more free space than Dropbox does, starting out with 5GB. Upgrades are less expensive as well, with 100GB available for just $5 per month, compared to Dropbox’s $10 fee. One noteworthy difference between Dropbox and Google Drive is how files are stored. With Dropbox, files exist both on your computer and in the cloud, meaning you can work on them without an internet connection. As soon as Dropbox detects a change to a document, it syncs the new version with that on the Dropbox server. If you and your client are both working on a file at the same time, this can result in a “conflicted copy” showing up in your Dropbox. Google Drive is different in that only one copy of each file exists. When you’re working on a file, you’re actually editing that file on Google’s server. You can see this in action if you have a file open that your client is working on – you’ll be able to watch as she makes changes. There are a variety of other file sharing services available as well, and chances are your clients will have their own preferences, so you’ll likely use several in your business. But to start out, Dropbox and Google Drive offer a simple solution for collaborating with others, or just sharing files between computers.]]>

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